We are living in the era of data abundance—perhaps even data excess. With every student, every learning management system log-in, every enrichment activity, every assessment, every bus ride, every absence, and every survey, the amount of data generated by schools and school districts continues to grow. With that exponential data growth, school districts often struggle to pull data together in a way that informs timely action. Many districts spend too much time asking the question, “Where do we get that data?” or “How can we answer this question?” and not enough on “What can we do about this?"

In our work with schools and school districts, EA has learned about these challenges firsthand. We know that the school and district staff we work with want to know more about their students and schools—and know it more easily. Educators want to know as much as they can about their students, including who they are, how engaged they are with school, how they are doing on their tests, or if they need behavioral supports. Principals and district administrators want to know how well a particular school performs on a range of key metrics to celebrate wins, build communities of practice, or identify areas to improve. Superintendents and central office administrators want to use data to inform policy, structure, and action at the district level.

What different users want to know about their students and schools

Infographic summarizing the information from data that educators, principals and district administrators, and superintendent and central office administrators want to know about their students and schools.

However, school data isn’t typically structured in ways that allow district and school staff to answer questions effectively, efficiently, or easily. Data likely live in disparate systems that don’t easily communicate with one another, are stored or formatted in ways that make it difficult to manipulate and summarize, need to be accessed manually, or may not include all the necessary information to act. Pulling data together at schools is time-consuming, and often requires technical expertise. School district staff increasingly need to be data experts, not just in interpreting data and leveraging their content expertise, but in managing data.

EA believes school and district staff should not need to become data architects, engineers, or analysts to use data effectively.

Introducing Podium

That is why EA created Podium. Podium is Education Analytics’ set of standard visualizations that makes using data generated by schools and school districts easier. Podium is a catalyst for change, allowing districts to focus on solutions to their challenges rather than spending time determining how to wrangle the data needed to answer pressing questions. Podium empowers content area experts with actionable data to help better serve students, families, and staff.

Even for districts that have significant data capacity, Podium can free up resources by tackling basic reporting infrastructure. Podium can help save data analysts’ or research staff’s time by providing dashboards that answer a range of common questions, so those staff can get started generating novel insights and actionable outcomes from data. Podium also takes on the burdensome work of figuring out how best to visualize data with its standard set of visuals developed by following user and human-centered design practices, letting dashboards meet a range of needs in ways that are friendly and useful to end-users.

Podium is built on the Ed-Fi data standard and on top of Stadium, another EA-hosted product. Stadium is a managed data warehousing service built on Ed-Fi. It is an analytics solution for education agencies that have implemented Ed-Fi and are now ready to use the data in Ed-Fi for analytics, research, and data visualization. Ed-Fi gets education agencies positioned to bring their operational data from different sources together, and setting up Stadium turns those operational data into data formatted and ready for analytics and research.

Visualizing attendance data

A recent article by NPR highlights how student attendance and chronic absenteeism remain significant issues in the 2022-23 school year, despite a more “normal” school year—compared to 2020-21 and 2021-22 due to the pandemic and use of remote learning. The article highlights how access to and use of up-to-date attendance data, along with regular monitoring of those data, has been an effective strategy for improving students’ attendance.

EA is working to make this strategy a reality for more schools and districts. Through the support of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, EA is partnering with four school districts in South Carolina and with Attendance Works to build attendance dashboards in Podium. Using human-centered design principles, we have built dashboards that let districts better understand their students’ attendance data, allowing them to identify specific groups or students for intervention. Specifically, the dashboards allow districts to slice their attendance data by attendance risk level, by absence type, by demographic characteristics (such as gender or race/ethnicity), school characteristics (like school or grade level), and other special statuses (such as English Language Learners or Special Education).

Infographic highlighting how Podium’s dashboards enable users to slice and dice their attendance data by attendance risk level, absence type, demographic characteristics, school characteristics, and special statuses.

Our dashboards are designed to be actionable at multiple levels, from the district down to the student level. Some of the questions districts are able to ask and answer with this Podium dashboard include:

Questions that can be asked and answered by Podium

Most importantly, our dashboards are updated daily. District staff can log in using their single sign on (SSO—the same account that lets them access all their other district tools), click on the attendance dashboard, and the most recent data are there. No need for pulling data in from another source, or running a script, or contacting other offices to get the data needed to answer these questions. If districts need additional data beyond what’s in Podium, any table or visual can be easily exported into a .csv for modification or additional custom analysis.

Our current focus is on attendance and chronic absenteeism metrics, and our district partners have identified other attendance-related data they would like to visualize, including tardy and truancy dashboards. Our tool allows these dashboards to be created quickly: If the data are sourced in Stadium, we can quickly pull it into Podium. Once built, our dashboards are designed to be scalable, meaning we can quickly provide Podium dashboards to new district partners who have their data in Stadium.

What’s next for Podium

Podium’s tooling and approach allows for flexibility and scalability. EA will take information from our work with attendance data and apply those learnings to other topics important to schools. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Enrollment
  • Behavior
  • Assessments
  • Course and Grades

Each dashboard will have a consistent look and feel, allowing district and school administrators to explore their data in an easy-to-navigate package. These dashboards will be bundled together at a price point that is more competitive than existing dashboarding tools and platforms.

With wider-scale use, we are also looking towards developing and fostering communities of practice. When districts are using the same data structures and dashboards, we know this can more readily facilitate conversations between district staff in how they are using data and the steps they are taking to intervene with students. Sharing best practices, crowdsourcing tips and tricks, and peer-to-peer learning are just some of the benefits of a community of practice model that can more deeply and authentically support district use of a tool like Podium.

As the Ed-Fi ecosystem becomes more robust and as EA further develops our suite of products that interacts with Ed-Fi—we plan to move beyond descriptive data dashboards that describe what happened yesterday to design dashboards that tell users what we think is likely to happen in the future. Imagine having a daily attendance report that dynamically addresses chronic absenteeism risk before it happens. This is one of the future areas of Podium development.

By building scalable data solutions, we hope schools and school districts can use their ever-growing data resources more effectively.

Interested in learning how Podium can empower you through actionable data to better serve your students?

Contact us for more information about Podium or schedule a demo.