Insights & Analysis

K-12, Municipal, News, Press Releases

Munetrix Announces Investment by Essex Bay Capital

Investment and expertise will fuel next stage of growth and further advance the forecasting, transparency and performance analytics company’s mission to help K-12 schools and municipalities make smart decisions.

Munetrix, a provider of municipal and school district data management tools and proprietary performance analytics applications, today announced it has received a growth equity investment by Essex Bay Capital, a private equity investment firm that partners with middle-market companies and management teams to help drive growth. Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., Munetrix empowers municipal leaders, school administrators and finance leaders to make more informed financial, strategic, and academic decisions.

The investment allows Munetrix to expand its resources in areas like product development, customer support and sales. Essex Bay will continue to support Munetrix’s unique expertise, excellent customer service, as well as their extensive partnerships like Ed-Fi Alliance and data integrations like the one it has with Michigan Datahub to provide best practice guidance and resources to clients.

“I could not be more proud of the Munetrix team for living our mission and delighting our customers every single day by helping hundreds of K-12 school districts and municipalities on financial planning, budgeting, transparency and academic outcomes” said Buzz Brown, Cofounder and CEO of Munetrix. “We are excited to work with our new partners at Essex Bay who understand and appreciate our core values, and who will support our vision for product innovation and growth, both organically and through acquisitions.”

Franklin Foster, Partner at Essex Bay Capital, said, “Munetrix’s reputation as a leader and innovator in the financial planning and academic analytics realms is well-earned, as evidenced by its winning of a 2021 CODiE award, an EdTech Breakthrough Award, its ongoing GovTech100 recognition, and the clear demand for the solutions it brings to market. We look forward to partnering with the Munetrix leadership team to continue the company’s fast-paced growth and further support its mission, culture and customers.”

Additionally, as part of the transaction, Munetrix has added serial GovTech entrepreneur Steve Ressler to its Board of Directors. Steve has held numerous GovTech executives roles, including as President of Callyo, which was recently sold to Motorola Solutions, as well as serving as Chief Marketing Officer of Granicus and Founder of GovLoop. Steve will bring his experience growing GovTech companies to the next phase of growth at Munetrix.

About Munetrix:

Munetrix, among the nation’s largest aggregators of municipal and school district data, promotes municipal wellness and sustainability through its cloud-based data management tools and proprietary performance analytics applications. In partnering with Munetrix, municipalities and school districts are able to manage their data and access cost-effective products and advisory services to make meaningful and reliable budgets, financial projections, academic achievement metrics, trend reports and better-informed forward-looking decisions. More than 300 clients across the country use Munetrix’s tools to make more informed financial and business decisions and improve student success.

About Essex Bay Capital:

Essex Bay invests in small to mid-sized private companies, partnering with management to accelerate growth. With over 20 years of investing experience, and 70+ completed acquisitions, our team brings more than just capital to the equation. We are long-term investors, focused on creating sustainable value.  We build companies, organically and through add-on acquisitions to become market leaders. Partnership and alignment are at the core of everything we do. We pride ourselves on being transparent and supportive with resources, insight and expertise to create win-win opportunities for our partners. Learn more at www.essexbay.com.

Education, K-12, News, Press Releases

Munetrix Academic Module Recognized by SIIA as Best Collaborative Solution for Teachers

Munetrix Named Winner of Prestigious CODiE Award for 2021!

The Munetrix Academic Module 2.0 has been named a 2021 SIIA CODiE Award Winner for Best Collaborative Solution for Teachers, as part of the 2021 SIIA CODiE Awards. The prestigious CODiE Awards recognize the companies producing the most innovative education technology products across the country and around the world.

The Munetrix Academic Module is a comprehensive, all-in-one solution for educators being tasked with more—with less time and fewer resources. It was developed to accelerate academic outcomes and facilitate the monitoring of progress made by the whole student—academically, emotionally, socially, demographically, and socio-economically—all with a single, easy-to-use interface.

“We were humbled even being named a finalist for this award, given the company we were keeping. Now, to be named a winner in this category is gratifying recognition of the hard work we’ve done as a company and in cooperation with the educators we serve,” said Buzz Brown, vice president of customer engagement and chief data officer with Munetrix. “Our mission has long been to make data accessible, actionable, holistic, and easy for anyone to use and understand. SIIA’s recognition of the success of that mission is welcome validation from an industry stalwart.”

“Congratulations to the 2021 Ed Tech CODiE Award winners,” said SIIA President Jeff Joseph. “The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of innovative Ed Tech products and services and this year’s class takes a special place among the many amazing products recognized across the 35-year history of the CODiE Awards.”

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software and digital content industries, announced the full slate of CODiE winners during an online winner announcement in light of ongoing COVID-19 concerns. 

Forty-five awards were given for products and services deployed specifically for education and learning professionals, including the top honor of the Best Overall Education Technology Solution.

A SIIA CODiE Award win is a prestigious honor, following rigorous reviews by expert judges including educators and administrators whose evaluations determined the finalists. SIIA members then vote on the finalist products, and the scores from both rounds are tabulated to select the winners.

One evaluating judge remarked, in evaluation of the Academic Module, that the product represents “the ‘unicorn’ that our district teachers and administrators have been looking for! A one-stop shop for data to help support students and achievement! It includes SO many pieces for educators, personnel, finance, achievement, evaluations and improvement plans — for students, staff and operations.”

By harvesting and contextualizing public and private data into one powerful combination, the product provides schools a unique, holistic platform that empowers districts to analyze all of their data with a single log-in and destination, supporting horizontal succession planning, building institutional knowledge, and workflow management all in one place. Offered in conjunction with a financial analytics and planning engine, the Academic Module is a comprehensive suite of powerful, interdependent solutions that takes multi-level, complex data sets and makes them simple to understand, report and act upon, including: achievement and growth data, student reporting, needs assessment, educator evaluation, progress monitoring, as well as financial budgeting, forecasting and modeling.

More information about the CODiE Awards is available at http://www.siia.net/codie.  

Details about the winning products can be found at https://history.siia.net/codie/2021-Winners

About Munetrix

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Munetrix, provides schools, districts, educators and administrators cloud-based data management tools and proprietary performance management applications that range from academic achievement, budget and finance to personnel management, team collaboration and asset management solutions. The Academic Module empowers educators, from the district office to the individual teacher, to easily analyze various student data at the individual student, class, grade, building and district level across multiple assessments with a few clicks. Correlations between state and nationally normed assessment data are calculated using actual district student data — not projected data — providing an accurate picture of achievement trends within the district. It also empowers educators to analyze year-over-year grade-level trends and cohort trends to identify areas of strength and need in curriculum, instructional practices, etc. Learn more at www.munetrix.com.

About the SIIA CODiE™ Awards

The SIIA CODiE Awards is the only peer-reviewed program to showcase business and education technology’s finest products and services. Since 1986, thousands of products, services and solutions have been recognized for achieving excellence. For more information, visit www.siia.net/CODiE.

Education, K-12, News, Press Releases, Uncategorized

Munetrix Recognized for Learning Analytics Innovation in 2021 EdTech Breakthrough Awards Program

Prestigious Awards Program Recognizes Outstanding Educational Technology Products and Companies

EdTech Breakthrough, a leading market intelligence organization that recognizes the top companies and solutions in the global educational technology market, announced today that Munetrix, a data analytics solutions provider serving municipalities and public school districts nationwide, has selected the Munetrix Academic Module solution as the winner of its “Learning Analytics Solution of the Year” award in the third annual EdTech Breakthrough Awards program.

The Munetrix Academic Module was developed to accelerate academic outcomes and facilitate the monitoring of progress made by the whole student – academically, emotionally, socially, demographically, and socio-economically – all with a single, easy-to-use interface. By harvesting and contextualizing public and private data into one powerful combination, the product provides schools a unique, holistic platform that empowers districts to analyze all of their data with a single log-in and destination, supporting horizontal succession planning, building institutional knowledge, and workflow management all in one place. 

The new solution represents a robust combination of financial, demographic, student achievement, educator assessments, and perception and process data tools to accommodate the optimization of student, teacher, school and district educational outcomes.

“This award is another humbling recognition of the hard work we’ve done as a company and in cooperation with the educators we serve,” said Buzz Brown, vice president of customer engagement and chief data officer with Munetrix. “Our mission has long been to make data accessible, actionable, holistic, and easy for anyone to use and understand.”

“The product saves teachers and administrators hundreds of hours per year, collecting, aggregating, disaggregating and analyzing data by more traditional methods stored in multiple, disparate locations, where they are difficult to sort, search and cross-analyze,” Brown added. “The cloud-based platform provides the highest levels of industry- standard data security and encryption for privacy and security of student data. We are honored to receive this award from EdTech Breakthrough, especially on the heels of such an unprecedented year.”

The mission of the EdTech Breakthrough Awards is to honor excellence and recognize the innovation, hard work and success in a range of educational technology categories, including Student Engagement, School Administration, Adaptive Learning, STEM Education, e-Learning, Career Preparation and many more. This year’s program attracted more than 2,000 nominations from over 17 different countries throughout the world. 

“The Module empowers educators — from the district office to the individual teacher — to easily analyze various student data at the individual student, class, grade, building and district level across multiple assessments with a few clicks,” said James Johnson, managing director, EdTech Breakthrough. “At the end of the day, the Munetrix Academic Module is a comprehensive, all-in-one solution for educators being tasked with more — with less time and fewer resources. Munetrix absolutely breaks through the EdTech space with this module and we offer our heartfelt congratulations for winning our ‘Learning Analytics Solution of the Year’ award.”

Offered in conjunction with a financial analytics and planning engine, the Academic Module is a comprehensive suite of powerful, interdependent solutions that takes multi-level, complex data sets and makes them simple to understand, report and act upon, including: achievement and growth data, student reporting, needs assessment, educator evaluation, progress monitoring, as well as financial budgeting, forecasting and modeling.  

The reporting functionality saves educators countless hours by automatically populating Individual Reading Improvement Plans (IRIPs) with required data points from multiple student assessments. For administrators, the Module allows districts to identify personalized professional development plans to increase educator effectiveness by providing accurate and consistent calculations of educator evaluation scores across multiple data sources from nationally recognized assessment providers.

To schedule a personal demo of the Academic Module 2.0, please contact sales@munetrix.com.

Want to see more? Take a tour of the Academic Module’s many tools, resources, features, benefits and applications here >>.

About EdTech Breakthrough

Part of Tech Breakthrough, a leading market intelligence and recognition platform for global technology innovation and leadership, the EdTech Breakthrough Awards program is devoted to honoring excellence in educational technology products, companies and people. The EdTech Breakthrough Awards provide a platform for public recognition around the achievements of breakthrough educational technology in categories including e-learning, student engagement, school administration, career preparation, language learning, STEM and more. For more information, visit EdTechBreakthrough.com.

About Munetrix

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Munetrix, provides schools, districts, educators and administrators cloud-based data management tools and proprietary performance management applications that range from academic achievement, budget and finance to personnel management, team collaboration and asset management solutions. In partnering with Munetrix, both municipalities and school districts are able to manage their data and access cost-effective products and advisory services to make meaningful and reliable budgets, financial projections, trend reports and better-informed forward-looking decisions. Learn more about Munetrix’s solutions for administrators and managers at municipalities at www.munetrix.com.

Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal, Opinion

Be Not Afraid: Data Can Be Your Greatest Ally and Easiest Path to a Post-Pandemic Recovery

GovTech’s March magazine’s article, Data-Driven Ways to Maximize City Budgets Post-Pandemic, authored by Harvard-Kennedy Professor of Innovations in Government Stephen Goldsmith, was almost genius in the way it broke down the benefits of data use into simple components. Former government appointee and thought leader Jane Wiseman co-authored the piece, and collectively, they hit the nail on the head.

I have long held that the word data is one of the most oft-used but least understood words in government today. What exactly is data, anyway? It means different things to different people. And to almost everyone, the word can suggest an intimidating reference to sophisticated technology and informational analytics.

But for an archeologist, an unearthed piece of broken clay is a data point. A cardiologist would find blood pressure or heart rate data useful. For a police chief, crimes per capita per geographic square mile are significant data points. Certainly any police chief would understand those measures and their importance, but making an assumption that everybody shares that ability would be a mistake. The point is, data must be presented in a manner in which anybody can understand—especially public-sector data, which is often lacking in structure and availability.

Adopting a Culture of Data Literacy to Combat Data Intimidation

As both a data analyst and an office-holding policymaker, I can say with certainty that many public sector stakeholders who have limited exposure to technology, finance or analytics often shy away from asking questions for fear of embarrassment. This is particularly concerning with policymakers, who may be tasked with making decisions on information they may not completely comprehend.

Goldsmith and Wiseman suggest, “The best strategy is to use data as a tool—to identify what works and find operational efficiencies and identify the areas in the greatest need.” One with a technical or analytical background might infer he’s referring to the Pareto Principle, also referred to as the “80/20 Rule”, which implies that 80% of outputs are driven from just 20% of inputs.

Using data, a city discovered it was spending considerably more on its police department on a per-capita basis than any of the other 17 cities in the region. Blue bars represent region averages, red represent the city’s actual spend. By addressing the imbalance in its next contract, the city saved $2 million over the new contract term.

But not every municipality can afford to have a Business Analyst on staff, nor do they need to. Investing in a simple-to-use analytics platform, and with minimal training, a “culture of data literacy” can take root, and eventually erode away the intimidation that the typical lay person harbors when it comes to data and technology. Given the right inputs (the 20% Pareto references), technology can be leveraged to provide a prescriptive set of outputs, in an intuitive, dashboard-like visualization that even the broader community-at-large can understand, with no prior training at all!  

In one real-world example, a community in Michigan found that they were spending considerably less than the 11 other cities in its region by reviewing just such graphic outputs. When expanding their search/analysis to cities across the state of like size (budget, taxable value, population, e.g.), it emphasized the finding was truer than they even realized. In one sense, community officials could be proud of their cost controls, but the question that remained was, How does this relate to the quality of service we are delivering at that budget, and was it appropriate and sufficient?  

Another community found that it was spending considerably less than the 11 other cities in their region (middle chart), and when expanding their search to cities across the state of like size (budget, taxable value, population, shown at right) it emphasized the finding was true.

When they looked at their reported crime data, they realized that the money saved was not benefiting the residents, since they were near the top in every one of the four major categories of crime reporting data.

Aha. A more complete data set reveals a much different takeaway. And nobody needed an advanced degree to read the digital tea leaves. This community clearly and confidently recognized that it needed to invest more in their police department, and made the decision to do so almost immediately. 

Survey Says!

The authors cite a recent survey they conducted in 2020 with the Chief Data Officers of 20 cities. They report that the responses were contradictory, in that many cited the need for massive increases in data use, but anticipated less funding would be available for the infrastructure that creates value from data. One respondent said, “The appetite for data has tremendously increased, and data insights are becoming the norm.” 

One concern is that as data needs increase, budget reductions “will eliminate new initiatives and impact some ongoing operations,” according to Philadelphia CIO Mark Wheeler. The other concern confronting them is the loss of experienced staff due to the boomers hitting retirement eligibility and a shortage of qualified or interested talent coming into the public domain.

According to the article, consulting firm McKinsey estimated that globally, “Government could capture $1 trillion of value by using data analytics, both to identify revenue not collected and to recoup payments made in error, and estimates that using data analytics to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in government can have returns as high as 10 to 15 times the cost.”

At Munetrix, we’ve seen this in situations as simple as analyzing an Accounts Payable report.  Why pay a single vendor 50-70 times per year when payment terms of once per month can be easily established?  If we calculate the cost of processing a payment, order to bank reconciliation, transactions costs range from $35 to almost $150 based on estimates from governments of different types and sizes. If 50 payments using an average of $50 were eliminated, we could free up $2,500 for other operational purposes. Multiply that by dozens of vendors and we’re talking real money.

Simple, intuitive and rich data visualizations have the ability to turn the invisible into the visible.

Looking at data visually can provide insights to trends or anomalies that may otherwise be left undiscovered.

Removing Uncertainty, Instilling Confidence in Decision Making

Goldsmith-Wiseman’s article concludes by saying that public officials should be able to check the following five boxes if they are interested in fostering a culture that respects the power of data to unlock insight. Does your community…

  1. Use public scorecards to show returns on investment measured in terms of customer service and dollars saved.  
  2. Use a predictive analytics program.
  3. Make widespread use of layered data and spatial analytics to identify trends and relationships.
  4. Use data to identify revenue opportunities in service areas or with examining unpaid fees. 
  5. Establish an internal “culture of data literacy” initiative with employees. 

And I would recommend a #6 be added: Don’t be afraid of data, and don’t be afraid to ask for help! There is nothing to fear in making more informed decisions and more confidently prescribing solutions to today’s challenges as we continue to recover from the effects of a global pandemic.

When data is Reliable, Timely, Relevant, Useful, Comparable and Consistent—the six qualitative characteristics of data per the Government Accounting Standard Board (GASB)—the invisible becomes visible; and added clarity will ultimately improve decisions, outcomes and literacy.

Education, K-12, News, Press Releases

Munetrix Named SIIA Education Technology 2021 CODiE Award Finalist

Academic Module Named to Best Collaborative Solution for Teachers Category

We are proud to announce that the Munetrix Academic Module 2.0 was named a 2021 SIIA CODiE Award finalist in the Best Collaborative Solution for Teachers category. CODiE Award finalists represent applications, products and services from developers of educational software, digital content, online learning services and related technologies across the PreK-20 sector. 

The Munetrix Academic Module is a comprehensive, all-in-one solution for educators being tasked with more—with less time and fewer resources. It was developed to accelerate academic outcomes and facilitate the monitoring of progress made by the whole student—academically, emotionally, socially, demographically, and socio-economically—all with a single, easy-to-use interface.

One award judge remarked, in evaluation of the Academic Module, that the product represents “the ‘unicorn’ that our district teachers and administrators have been looking for! A one-stop shop for data to help support students and achievement! It includes SO many pieces for educators, personnel, finance, achievement, evaluations and improvement plans — for students, staff and operations.” [WATCH VIDEO HERE.]

Acknowledged as the premier awards program for the software and information industries for over 35 years, the SIIA CODiE Awards are produced by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software, education, media, financial information and digital content industries. The Munetrix Academic Module was honored as one of 152 finalists across the 42 education technology categories. 

“Being named a finalist, among the company we are proud to be keeping, is humbling recognition of the hard work we’ve done as a company and in cooperation with the educators we serve,” said Buzz Brown, vice president of customer engagement and chief data officer with Munetrix. “Our mission has long been to make data accessible, actionable, holistic, and easy for anyone to use and understand.”

By harvesting and contextualizing public and private data into one powerful combination, the product provides schools a unique, holistic platform that empowers districts to analyze all of their data with a single log-in and destination, supporting horizontal succession planning, building institutional knowledge, and workflow management all in one place. Offered in conjunction with a financial analytics and planning engine, the Academic Module is a comprehensive suite of powerful, interdependent solutions that takes multi-level, complex data sets and makes them simple to understand, report and act upon, including: achievement and growth data, student reporting, needs assessment, educator evaluation, progress monitoring, as well as financial budgeting, forecasting and modeling.

“The CODiE Awards recognize the most exciting and transformative products in Ed Tech,” said Jeff Joseph, SIIA President. “This year, these leaders helped our nation respond to the historic pandemic, enabling learners, educators, administrators and parents to remain connected to each other and to critical educational resources via an array of innovative services and platforms. Congratulations to this year’s finalists for demonstrating the vitality, resilience and importance of this important industry.”

The SIIA CODiE Awards are the industry’s only peer-recognized awards program. Educators and administrators serve as judges and conduct the first-round review of all education nominees. Their scores determine the SIIA CODiE Award finalists which accounts for 80% of the overall score. SIIA members then vote on the finalist products and the scores from both rounds are tabulated to select the winners. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Business Technology category winners will be announced during an online winner announcement celebration June 22, 2021.

About Munetrix

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Munetrix, provides schools, districts, educators and administrators cloud-based data management tools and proprietary performance management applications that range from academic achievement, budget and finance to personnel management, team collaboration and asset management solutions. The Academic Module empowers educators, from the district office to the individual teacher, to easily analyze various student data at the individual student, class, grade, building and district level across multiple assessments with a few clicks. Correlations between state and nationally normed assessment data are calculated using actual district student data — not projected data — providing an accurate picture of achievement trends within the district. It also empowers educators to analyze year-over-year grade-level trends and cohort trends to identify areas of strength and need in curriculum, instructional practices, etc.

Learn more about the full suite of applications for teachers and administrators here.

About the SIIA CODiE™ Awards

The SIIA CODiE Awards is the only peer-reviewed program to showcase business and education technology’s finest products and services. Since 1986, thousands of products, services and solutions have been recognized for achieving excellence. For more information, visit siia.net/CODiE.

About Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA)

SIIA is the only professional organization connecting more than 700 data, financial information, education technology, specialized content and publishing, and health technology companies. Our diverse members manage the global financial markets, develop software that solves today’s challenges through technology, provide critical information that helps inform global businesses large and small, and innovate for better health care and personal wellness outcomes.

Education, K-12, News, Press Releases

Munetrix First to Earn Ed-Fi Consumer Badge for Data Consumption

First in Category to Demonstrate Adherence to Ed-Fi’s Rigorous Standards

Munetrix has become the first vendor of its kind to earn the prestigious Ed-Fi “Consumer Badge” in the category of Data Consumption. This badge is awarded to solution providers that have developed a robust Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering that adheres to Ed-Fi’s rigorous quality, availability, and transparency standards.

Ed-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering a community of educators with real-time, comprehensive student data, has developed a set of rules for the collection, management and organization of educational data that allows multiple systems to share their information in a seamless, actionable way. The earned designation shows Munetrix’s adherence to the Ed-Fi Data Standard and supports “interoperability.”

“The importance of this achievement cannot be overstated,” said Cesare Tise, manager, strategic partnerships, Ed-Fi Alliance. “We know that school districts and states that implement a modern data management infrastructure based on interoperability standards are better able to serve their educators, students and parents, especially at this critical time. Now, a district or state of any size, any budget, any expertise level can reap the benefits of connected data to support the educators and students they serve. By being the first to earn this badge in its category, Munetrix has paved the way for the districts and schools they serve, such as those in the MiDataHub, to deliver better data in much more accessible and leverageable ways.”

About Interoperability

A data standard defines rules for how data should be formatted and exchanged between systems. Typically, every piece of educational technology has used its own “language” for storing and managing data. One tool’s language was different from the next’s—making integration nearly impossible. The student information system couldn’t talk to the learning management system, which couldn’t talk to the assessment software, and so on.

Drawing from a team of educators in 36 states and districts nationwide as well as technologists (known as the Ed-Fi Alliance), Ed-Fi has crafted the premier data standard for K-12 school districts and state agencies. It’s been used by real educators and tested by real schools. Ed-Fi seamlessly connects education data systems to have a complete, real-time view of every student in new, practical and transformative ways.

“Receiving this badge is gratifying reward to the hard work we’ve done as a company and in cooperation with the educators we serve,” said Buzz Brown, vice president of customer engagement and chief data officer with Munetrix. “Our mission has long been to make data accessible, actionable, holistic, and easy for anyone to use and understand. By making our system communicate seamlessly across platforms, we are achieving the interoperability that Ed-Fi sets the standard for.”

About Munetrix

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Munetrix, provides schools, districts, educators and administrators cloud-based data management tools and proprietary performance management applications that range from academic achievement, budget and finance to personnel management, team collaboration and asset management solutions. In partnering with Munetrix, municipalities and school districts are able to manage their data and access cost-effective products and advisory services to make meaningful and reliable budgets, financial projections, trend reports and better-informed forward-looking decisions. Learn more at www.munetrix.com.

About the Ed-Fi Alliance

The Ed-Fi Alliance is a nationwide community of leading educators, technologists, and data advocates connecting student data systems in order to transform education. A not-for-profit organization founded in 2012, by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Ed-Fi aims to boost student achievement by empowering educators with real-time, comprehensive insight into every student.

Ed-Fi technologies streamline data management in school districts and states across the country. By allowing schools to integrate data previously siloed within disconnected tools and software—and organizing it through a single, secure data standard —Ed-Fi solves one of the country’s most perplexing educational challenges: how to get a complete, accurate view of individual student achievement, so that every student can receive the support they need when they need it most.

Education, K-12, News, Opinion, Uncategorized

Creating a District-Wide Culture of “Data Literacy” to Achieve Equity in Education

How to Map a Path to Your Equity Goals Tomorrow by Understanding Where Your District Stands Today

By Peter Solar and Mike Geers

A version of this article originally appeared on District Administration magazine.

As educators everywhere place an increasing focus and emphasis on achieving equity and equality in education—working to address historical inequities and increase opportunities for all students—a new challenge has emerged to present an even greater hurdle: not knowing what we don’t know. This is especially critical as stakeholders work together to specifically address the equity piece of equity and equality, as equity should be regarded as a destination, or something demonstrably achievable, as opposed to a mere goal of ambiguous “improvement.”

As the trope goes, there are things that we know, things that we don’t know, and things we don’t know that we don’t know—and it’s in that last category where lies a danger that, gone unaddressed, could result in well-meaning intentions causing purpose-defeating ends. 

With so much at stake, at a time in which so many are uniting in common purpose and resolve, it’s critical to get this initiative right, for current students and for future generations to come. 

Our secret weapon in this cause is something districts have at their ready disposal, but which has historically presented difficulty harnessing: data. It’s not that districts and educators don’t have access to data—quite the contrary. Data is everywhere: public databases, district-owned systems, spreadsheets, census bureaus, government entities…even desk drawers and computer hard drives! 

Yes, districts are data-rich. But they’re knowledge-poor.

Start with a Clear Picture

It’s one thing to set generalized standards for what a better future might look like—greater equity, more equitable access, etc.—but quite another to set definitive metrics for what improvement looks like, and what the final destination might be. The latter are hard numbers, and they’re specific, measurable milestones.

But to achieve progress toward a goal, you must have a clear picture of where your district stands today. What, precisely, is the current reality when it comes to existing equity gaps—social, emotional, educational and financial? The only way to truly understand the disparities (and the degree/extent of disparity) is to look at hard data. Numbers don’t lie, and there are numbers everywhere.

If there were ever a critical time and clear justification for the modernization of school districts’ data management systems, this is it. No longer is it enough to have data storage systems. We must get the numbers off of the paper, out of the spreadsheets, unlocked and out of disparate systems that house our data, and get them all into one system, where they can be analyzed and cross-analyzed, aggregated and disaggregated, compared, contrasted and shared.

“Using data to inform all of our practices in K12 education—from budget management to student instruction—is more important than ever,” says Paul Liabenow, Executive Director with The Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA). “We must analyze the data that we find at our fingertips to make timely course corrections if our desired outcomes are not being met. Most importantly, we must use data to expose and correct inequities in our systems and immediately make changes for the benefit of our marginalized students.”

Making the Invisible Visible

As districts and educators, and as the cornerstones of the communities we serve, we should be cross-pollinating and overlaying publicly available census data, district financial and modeling data, student achievement and educator evaluation data, population demographics and economic data, student migration and graduation data, grant and budget-forecasting data…all of it. And more. We should be working with our partners (public and private) in the communities we serve to harness as much information as possible. 

Only then will we truly understand the equity gaps that exist in our buildings and in our communities. And only then will we be able to conceive of and implement data-driven strategies, plans and programs to overcome them. Anything less, and we risk applying a well-meaning solution to the wrong problem, thereby missing the opportunity to achieve the end itself, or worse, exacerbating the problem.

A complete data set has the effect of “making the invisible, visible.” That danger of not knowing what we don’t know is very real. What if a root cause of a given inequity is presumed to be financial in nature, but in reality, is socio-political? Will throwing more money at this particular situation address root causes, or will it merely present the illusion of effort? And can you even measure progress toward a goal if you’re addressing the wrong underlying cause? Given that scenario, will your efforts be rewarded and applauded, or be met with cynicism and demands for greater transparency or compliance, when reporting demonstrates lack of progress?

If we truly want to address the drivers of inequity, we must first see them, later make sure we understand them, and finally show our work in overcoming them. By tapping into all available data sources, and enabling the data points to talk to each other, we can determine if a particular gap is driven by economics, demographics, geography, educator experience, or geopolitics.

You simply can’t see the invisible by looking at spreadsheets, one at a time.

Create a Culture of Data Literacy to Measure Everything—Even the Invisible

The challenges that educators face when it comes to equity—as well as equality—in education are similar in nature to all of the other myriad challenges confronting district personnel:

  1. Understanding the issue, problem, challenge or opportunity;
  2. Understanding what steps to take to overcome the shortcoming or achieve the aspiration; and
  3. Reporting out to the various stakeholders and compliance officers that action is being taken, and to what effect.

Achieving a district-wide commitment to what we call a “culture of data literacy” is a district’s best opportunity to check all three boxes, including for today’s equity and equality initiatives. This means having a very real, very consistent commitment to optimal data-use practices in order to facilitate better data-driven decisions. Enough of the invisible; enough of not knowing what we don’t know. There are easily implemented and easily understood systems that take all of the time and labor we used to devote to the administrative headaches of keeping data systems current and execute it all for us…way better and faster than we humans ever could.

Take these actions as a district, and yours will be well on its way to achieving this culture of data literacy, and making measurable, demonstrable progress toward greater equity and equality:

Understand the whole community. Know the district you serve, and not just its students and parents. What portion of the population rents versus owns? What is the size and nature of its homeless population? What about its percentage of single-parent households? What is the district’s complete demographics picture, from ethnicity to income, and everything in between? What are the geographic boundaries, anomalies and trends? All of these data points are potential contributors to inequality. But until you see them all, overlaid against one another, it’s difficult to discern which are the drivers, and which are the resultant outcomes.

Follow the money. Do you truly and completely know your financial spend at a district level, and at a building-to-building level? Do you know which schools have more active and more successful grant writing initiatives, and do those (or lack thereof) have an impact on financial gaps or inequities? What are the tax revenues, as well as state and federal funding sources, relative to your neighboring districts and statewide peers? “More money” is one solution, yes. But if a district doesn’t know how the money is spent now, how can it make a better plan to more efficiently allocate resources to greater effect, equity and equality, so that the new good money doesn’t go out with the old, bad?

Evaluate personnel. Consider cross-referencing student achievement data with financial data sets and educator evaluations. Are the higher-income areas of the district being served by teachers with more experience, and is that contributing to (or working against) student achievement metrics and educator outcome inequities?

Quantify the gaps and articulate the needs. With some $54 billion coming to schools in the second federal stimulus, a significant portion of that will be earmarked to address learning loss and student well-being (social, emotional and learning deficiencies). If you can’t quantify your district’s needs with hard numbers, it will be difficult (if not impossible) to demonstrate measurable progress toward closing the gaps, which will be a reporting requirement to be eligible for those funds. For example, can you demonstrate that your Title-I population experienced greater learning loss than the general population? Start this analysis now so you can expedite access to much needed federal funding and assistance to come as it becomes available.

Make it a team effort. Collaborate with district leaders, local office holders and city councils, police departments, and other entities that share your commitment to addressing community-wide inequities, and invite these stakeholders into the tent. Ask them to share their available data. Consider forming a task force with each entity represented at the table, and create a project workflow with assignable tasks and accountability, so that the entire community can share in the progress the district makes.

Get it together. Most importantly, get all available data sets into one, centralized, intelligent system, so that you can start with a clear picture of today, conceive of a measured plan for demonstrable progress, and implement that plan with purpose. With all of the data in one place, and with all stakeholders working together, reporting out to state and federal agencies will be easier, more transparent, and more accurate than ever before.

As with any important initiative, one cannot address such a critical goal of achieving equity in education by “going a mile wide and an inch deep.” There are so many interdependent forces at work—both historical and current, both plainly visible and subtly latent— that to make presumptions based on limited information or intuition does a disservice not only to the challenge before us, but to the requisite remedies as well.

Mike Geers

Peter Solar (left) is Director of Client Partnerships with Munetrix. He can be reached at peter@munetrix.com. Mike Geers is Client Partnership Manager with Munetrix, and he can be reached at mike@munetrix.com.

Education, Municipal, News

Munetrix Again Named to the GovTech 100 List

Munetrix Named to GovTech List for Fifth Year Running

Munetrix is proud to be once again featured on Government Technology’s GovTech 100 list, a compendium of 100 companies focused on, making a difference in, and selling to state and local government agencies across the United States.

Munetrix has earned this prestigious honor every year since 2016, each year the list has been researched and published.

The announcement reads, in part, “In 2020, as detailed in this feature-length article in Government Technology magazine, the gov tech market brought bigger deals, more investment, new companies and many fresh new innovations that moved the needle in the public sector.”

“We are thrilled to once again named to the GovTech 100 list,” said Bob Kittle, Munetrix President and CEO. “This annual recognition is a reflection of our team’s commitment to innovation, product development and, perhaps most of all, personalized customer service. We continue to try make data analytics easy, intuitive and centralized for our users in the municipal government and education sectors.”

Government Technology wrote in support of the 2020 announcement:

“Five years ago, Government Technology saw something happening: Civic tech was changing. Fueled by new technologies, modern methodologies and a sudden interest from investors, startups were beginning to work more with government. In a space long dominated by incumbents, notorious for complex procurement and implementation cycles, agencies were hungering for something new. We took note, and launched a list of 100 companies that represented that ecosystem.”

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