More Than the Next Big Thing

Predictive analytics in teacher hiring.

GUEST COLUMN | by Donald J. Fraynd

CREDIT TeacherMatchWith hundreds of resumes for a handful of teaching positions, school district hiring managers face an immense challenge. Getting the right teacher in students’ classrooms for the first day of school is the most important job of school and district leadership. Yet teacher selection processes in schools consistently use informal or personal preferences to screen and identify the top teachers who will generate massive student learning. Objective assessments of the factors that predict teacher performance may improve the quality of teaching and reduce the burden for hiring managers.

Education and improving student achievement is a much more complicated mission than using predictive analytics to hire call-center employees at Xerox or fill positions at Google.

When many of us think of predictive analytics, we visualize data and graphs that sum up past metrics to gain insight on how an organization should perform in the future. However, predictive analytics has advanced and is much more than a generic pattern of data. It is being used to solve complicated problems, make decisions and identify opportunities. One major opportunity is the use of predictive analytics in the hiring process.

Within the hiring process, predictive analytics help identify top talent by connecting candidate data to a set of key measurable factors. As a result, organizations are able to process and manage candidates coming through the job-posting pipeline, select candidates that are a best fit, and hire individuals that will lead their organization to success. According to a Wall Street Journal article, “For more and more companies, the hiring boss is an algorithm.”

Who is using predictive analytics in hiring?

Top organizations are increasingly using data to improve hiring practices. Xerox Corporation had previously relied on candidate experience, only hiring applicants who had done the job before. Yet data showed that new hires quit Xerox before the company recovered its $5,000 investment per employee in call-center training. The company’s hiring managers realized their hiring techniques were based on untested assumptions, therefore, Xerox invested in predictive analytics to evaluate characteristics and skillsets of top, call-center employees. Today, Xerox uses talent data to hire candidates in all of its 48,000 call-center jobs.

Google also eliminated components of its hiring process based on data. The brainteaser component of the interview process had little correlation with success of the overall organization. So they removed it. Google’s interview methods have become much more data-driven and the company uses hiring tools to help identify candidates that have the ‘Googliness’ they’re looking for as well as drive business growth. Additionally, candidate data helps them hire talented individuals faster – an important factor since speed is essential for Google when hiring recent graduates. 

How does data-driven hiring relate to education?

The use of predictive analytics by corporate giants, such as Xerox and Google, has clear corollaries to education. Like Xerox, the traditional hiring process for teacher positions uses a candidate’s work history, credentials and in-person interview. However, education and improving student achievement is a much more complicated mission than using predictive analytics to hire call-center employees at Xerox or fill positions at Google. Therefore, while some high performing districts require demonstration lessons, teacher impact on student achievement cannot be directly measured during the traditional hiring process. So school districts have begun to identify indicators that are predictive of teacher performance for use in the hiring process.

TeacherMatch EPI (Educators Professional Inventory) is an instrument designed exactly for the purpose of informing hiring. Districts using it trust the EPI to predict the impact teacher candidates will have on student achievement through four core success indicators: teaching skills, cognitive ability, attitudinal factors, and qualifications.

Within the EPI, teaching skills analyze success planning attributes, ability to create a learning environment, and a candidate’s analyzing and adjusting characteristics. Cognitive ability addresses candidate’s awareness and perception by evaluating analytical reasoning and problem solving skills. Attitudinal factors looks at teacher candidate’s motivation to succeed and maintain a positive attitude, and lastly, qualifications considers candidates’ education background and professional fieldwork.

Consequently, school districts adopting predictive analytics, such as TeacherMatch EPI, are improving student achievement by identifying teachers that are the strongest candidates from day one.

Who is behind the research?

TeacherMatch EPI came from years of internal research as well as professionals that have deep experience and understanding of the industry. It was developed alongside the Northwest Evaluation Association’s research specialists and psychometricians, and researchers from The University of Chicago and the Value-Added Research Center of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Using real teachers and value-added model scores, a TeacherMatch validation study found that the EPI predicted student learning. Teachers with higher scores on the EPI were also teachers whose students learned more (controlling for demographics and initial proficiency).

Hiring any individual in any organization is an important decision, especially in the education environment. Therefore, as school districts integrate predictive analytics into their hiring processes, the validity of the analytics are critical. This particular solution has been validated and one prediction is clear: school districts’ will have the necessary data to identify a quality teacher that will improve student achievement.

Sources: 

Halzack, Sarah (2013, September 4). An inside look at Google’s data-driven job interview process. The Washington Post.

RAND’s Center for the Study of the Teaching Profession. (1987). Effective Teacher Selection From Recruitment to Retention. Santa Monica, California: Wise, Arthur E., Darling-Hammond, Linda, Berry, Barnett, Berliner, David, Haller, Emil, Praskac, Amy, & Schlechty, Phillip

Walker, Joseph (2012, September 20). Meet the New Boss: Big Data. The Wall Street Journal.

Donald J. Fraynd, Ph.D., is CEO of TeacherMatch, a data-driven, people-powered formula for success for K-12 education talent management. As a principal in Chicago Public Schools, his school was rated in the top 100 by US News & World Report and was the first Blue Ribbon School ever for a CPS high school. He is part of a team that spearheaded the design and implementation of a comprehensive hiring and professional development plan involving thousands of teachers and used by the US Department of Education to shape their multi-billion dollar school improvement program. Contact him through TeacherMatch.

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Cool Tool | LearnBop

CREDIT LearnBopThis fall, personalized learning solutions provider, Fuel Education (FuelEd), will make LearnBop, an automated math tutoring and assessment tool for students in grades 5–9, available through its Personalized Learning Platform, PEAK™. This partnership offers schools more robust options for personalizing learning during the crucial years when a student’s math performance has a significant impact on future academic success. LearnBop simulates a one-to-one tutoring experience by guiding students through problems step-by-step, learning fundamental math concepts at their own pace. Using adaptive learning technology, LearnBop provides students dynamic math problems to teach concepts critical to achieving Common Core State Standards and other rigorous state standards. As students complete problems, teachers use dashboards to analyze learning behavior by concept and by student and then address common learning gaps with the class, group students by need, or personalize playlists for individual students. LearnBop is used in 350 schools in 17 states, where students are seeing big gains. After one year, 96 percent of students who used LearnBop on a weekly basis at a Brooklyn middle school passed the state math exam – up from 25 percent in 2013. To learn about the school’s experience with LearnBop, view the video.

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All Points Managed

‘Back-to-School’ IT strategies earn high grades.

GUEST COLUMN | by Bill Odell

CREDIT Dell SoftwareAs students around the country head back to class, they’re probably unaware that dedicated IT support teams started their school year long before the first bell rang.

Just as teachers and students need plans to best succeed in their schoolwork, IT must be equipped with the right set of “back-to-school” strategies to keep pace with critical initiatives, including personalized learning efforts, 1:1 student/computer programs and ever-increasing mobility demands as well as the need to manage complex environments with limited resources.

For K-12 school districts, the 2014-2015 school year also will serve as the litmus test for their readiness to meet Common Core Standards. Preparation will require IT strategies for identifying and determining the effectiveness of current technology infrastructures while determining what is needed to support this critical, next generation of student assessments.

By automating systems management, the district was able to save more than 7,000 hours a year on computer configuration management.

To ensure smoother, more cost-effective transitions to the latest learning programs and testing methodologies while easing support for existing systems, IT teams increasingly are embracing Endpoint Systems Management (ESM) solutions. The opportunity to simplify the management of assorted endpoints—servers, desktops, laptops, tablets; any devices connected to the school’s network—gives IT an opportunity to provide faculty, staff and students with improved service while mitigating security risks.

For that reason, many IT teams spend a good portion of the summer break reimaging hundreds or even thousands of student-assigned laptops and tablets in preparation for the new school year. They also rely on systems management to automatically discover, inventory, configure, update and secure “any points” throughout their environments to improve IT service and support.

At Academy School District 20, a public school system serving almost 24,000 K-12 students in 30 schools throughout the northern portion of Colorado Springs, Colo., the one-two punch of a fast-growing student population and increasing reliance on the latest technology programs resulted in seriously overworked IT resources that were struggling long after school was over each day to keep up with some 8,000 endpoint devices.

By automating systems management, the district was able to save more than 7,000 hours a year on computer configuration management. And when it came time for the requisite inventory and audit of its diverse technology assets, District 20 was able to reduce the time required by more than 75 percent. Not only were there significant time and dollar savings, the district were able to redirect their IT team to focus on more strategic projects.

The IT staff at Ackerman Charter School District also found effective endpoint systems management was the best strategy for providing new software to teachers and students without security risks. The automated system makes new software available within a day, which is a big improvement over the weeks it used to take due to cumbersome, manual processes. Additionally, critical software updates can be installed in minutes instead of the days or weeks.

Ensuring that much-used software is kept current—to guard against security vulnerabilities—is a major concern that educational institutions need to address continually throughout the school year. For the 5,000 faculty and administrative staff at Princeton University, having the most up-to-date software on their computers plays a big part in ensuring the best classroom experience possible.

Another critical strategy is providing faculty with increased support for Windows PCs along with the ever-increasing population of Macs. As the team lacked time and resources to do every software update and ensure that Java updates were completed on time to reduce the risk of malware, they deployed a solution to automate software updates, patching and distribution. Additionally, the ability to perform regular inventory and asset management, configuration management and custom reporting was attained—all of which provide a much more accurate picture of the university’s Windows and Mac environments.

With tighter control over their desktop environment, Princeton is well positioned to improve software deployments while ensuring the highest levels of security across an IT infrastructure with rapidly expanding endpoints. Chino Valley Unified School District already understood the merits of using endpoint systems management to manage nearly 7,000 endpoints consisting of desktops and laptops as well as a growing number of mobile devices.

When the San Bernardino County, Calif.-based district took on the growing need for tablets and smartphones to further facilitate learning, ESM helped ensure that systems are always available and protected from viruses and malware. Chino Valley, with 35 schools and some 30,000 students, also found efficient ESM produces accurate, up-to-date device inventories, which simplify its Common Core State Standards reporting requirements.

As an all-encompassing “back to school” strategy, ESM is beginning to take on a new role of “any point” management across multi-OS, multi-device educational environments. In the future, these multi-faceted, robust solutions will play an ever-increasing role in helping schools produce superior educational outcomes by improving system uptime, elevating security and lowering IT administrative overhead.

Bill Odell is vice president of marketing for endpoint systems management at Dell Software. Bill has an MBA from Dartmouth College and BA in Political Science from UC Berkeley. 

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Campuses Upping Their Dates

Getting an A-plus in student engagement with online calendars.

GUEST COLUMN | by Mykel Nahorniak

CREDIT localistEach year, colleges and universities become a second home for thousands of students across the nation. When it comes to campus events, student participation is essential to creating a sense of community on campus. Events hosted by groups, clubs, professors and administrators are an important aspect of college life, giving students the opportunity to leave their comfort zones, get involved and meet new people. Providing students and faculty with a means through which to discover events happening on campus is crucial – which is why The University of Louisville recently brought their calendar of events into the digital world.

With more than 15,000 students, 370 student groups and 140 event locations, there was no shortage of student activity on the Louisville campus. But their event calendar was stuck in the past, without any of the search capabilities and social network integration key to reaching the college demographic.

Online buzz can translate to increased awareness and packed events, while also having the potential to reach prospective students.

Feedback among the University’s colleges and divisions pointed to the need for a comprehensive, easy-to-use, mobile-optimized calendar that allowed different units to share events with one another.

In particular, Louisville wanted a calendar with links to Google Maps for each event, the ability to search for events, a responsive design that could be viewed on mobile devices, social media integration, widgets to customize content for each department’s needs, integration with existing university programs and the ability to easily generate event newsletters.

In late 2013, Louisville decided to bring their calendar into the modern age with a robust calendar that was easier to search through, boosted engagement on campus, and made event management easy.

The first step was making sure it blended in with the university website. Students and faculty are constantly searching for campus events, and being redirected to a third party site for a calendar can get confusing and could result in miscommunication. The University of Louisville integrated its calendar seamlessly into their existing web presence. The success of the integration led to a quicker transition for students and faculty from the old calendar, to the new one.

Louisville then leveraged its existing calendar content. Events, venues and groups were easily transitioned to the new calendar with a bulk uploading option. From there, the team began to customize the calendar. Different filters and categories were added to make it easy to search for and discover events happening on campus. Student groups showcased all of their events on the calendar, so students could join events and meet others with shared interests.

One of the many benefits to hosting an event calendar online is that it has the ability to generate more buzz than an offline schedule of events. Like any good ambassador, online calendars should help to spread the word about the university and everything that it has to offer. Online buzz can translate to increased awareness and packed events, while also having the potential to reach prospective students.

Robust online calendars should provide users with a forum to talk about events as well as the institution. The University of Louisville was able to facilitate user engagement on their calendar through user comments, check-ins, venue reviews and social media shares. By gauging interest in events, not only through engagement but through analytics, the University can now better plan activities and improve events.

Lastly, with the intent of keeping students and faculty well informed, the University addressed mobile integration with a custom mobile app that automatically pulled events from its calendar platform. Students and faculty are now able to access event information on-the-go and check-in to an event anywhere.

In 2013, the school was averaging 25,000 pageviews per year. Now averaging 200,000 pageviews per year, the University has seen a 700% increase in web traffic. Since launching its new, social calendar in February of 2014, almost 21,000 unique users have visited the calendar. In addition, 25 percent of traffic has been from mobile phone or tablet – au audience the University was previously not serving content to with the old calendar. And more than 2,000 views originated from Facebook and Twitter.

An easy-to-use online calendar works seamlessly with the way people seek information and make plans on-the-go. Interactive, online calendars have the potential to reach more people, and at a lower cost, than other calendars without many capabilities. The University of Louisville’s online calendar has made it easy for attendees to find event information, get directions, share info with friends, find out who else is attending, and talk about the upcoming event – all with the click of a button.

Mykel Nahorniak is the co-founder and CEO of Localist (www.localist.com), one of the industry’s only providers of an online calendar platform with an emphasis on marketing.

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Computer Science For All, And Why

Computer science should be offered in all Calif. public schools, but challenges lie ahead.

GUEST COLUMN | by Muhammed Chaudhry

CREDIT SVEFIt’s one of education’s most burning questions: What kind of computer skills and knowledge do today’s students need to succeed in the modern workforce? How much do they need to know to be able to fill the requirements not only of today’s jobs in technology but jobs in most every other occupation that now rely on computers?

The answer’s not easy. No educator or tech industry leader disputes that today’s children should be computer proficient, especially in California. But how to achieve that across the state’s schools poses significant challenges, especially given that most high schools – 56% — don’t offer computer science courses at all to prepare the bulk of our students for those computer-reliant jobs in their future. Only 13 percent of high schools offer AP (advanced placement) courses in computing.

In general, it’s hard to add a new subject to the K-12 curriculum. Where will the school day fit it in?

We know that companies across many professions are eager for computer-savvy workers. And most jobs today, from business and banking to medicine and law, require workers to have significant computer skills.

According to research group the Conference Board, the demand for computing professionals is roughly four times higher than the demand for all other occupations. Currently, there are more than 75,000 open jobs in computing in California and only 4,324 computer science graduates to fill them. The field of computing is driving 50% of all new STEM jobs.   

Complicating the issue is the fact that most teachers have little or no training to teach computer science, which would require developing new teacher training guidelines and the cost and time to teach them. Schools that do teach computer science offer such a hodgepodge of courses that it’s hard to fit them into a category or department. Some courses are offered under the math department, others under business. Most are electives. Because there are no clear-cut guidelines for teaching computer science, schools wonder whether they should be teaching students programming or fundamental concepts of computing and applications.

In general, it’s hard to add a new subject to the K-12 curriculum. Where will the school day fit it in? And are already-overloaded teachers ready to add another course requirement, like computer science, to their busy schedules? These are challenging issues, but we need to consider them, with the help of state and industry leaders who need to help with creating new funding.

California legislators haven’t helped move the issue forward with any speed. Various bills are winding their way through the legislature that could increase the number of courses offered. But there are no statewide guidelines for the courses. Fourteen other states already have secondary school standards for computer science. It’s especially distressing that California has been slow to adapt to the increased demand for skilled computer science graduates since the computer industry plays a central role in the state’s overall economy.

Locally, the non-profit Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) in San Jose recognizes the need and is bringing innovative computer science programs into K-8 classrooms to fuel students’ interest in learning about computers – and in  programming.  Through its Learning Innovation Hub, or iHub, SVEF connects ed tech startups with educators to introduce cutting-edge tech software to classrooms to test what works best.  A competition called the “iHub Pitch Games” selects the startups, which go into two dozen Silicon Valley school districts for a three-month testing period.

Many of us who promote forward thinking in education, including tech industry leaders, say learning introductory concepts of computing, including programming, should start at pre-school age, with games, to teach kids how the Internet and how apps works.   

Business and education leaders from across California recently gathered in San Jose for a first-time meeting to discuss new policies for increasing computer science courses and access to all students.  The Silicon Valley Education Foundation convened them.

Some of the highlights:

Computer science standards need to be clearly defined, whether that means teaching fundamental computing concepts or programming.

Computer science courses should be offered at all California public high schools.

Allow computer science courses, which are largely electives, to be counted toward high school graduation and college admission.   

Allocate state funding for teacher professional development.

Focus on underrepresented students – females and minority students  – who have appallingly low enrollment in computer science courses.     

While we have already begun work on this issue, we know the task is long and the challenges are real. Meeting them takes persistence, patience and continued support from the education and business communities, parents and the public to be able to provide all California students with the best technology training for the future.

Muhammed Chaudhry is president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.

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