5 Reasons Your School Needs a Data Warehouse

What do you think of when you hear the word data? Do you envision numbers rapidly scrolling on a computer screen like in The Matrix? Or of spreadsheets with endless rows and columns filled with figures and formulas? Even worse, maybe the word is anxiety-inducing because you’ve heard the phrases data-driven instruction and data-driven decision-making a few too many times.

What do you think of when you hear the word warehouse? Do you imagine forklifts carrying pallets of cardboard boxes across dusty concrete floors? Or a place where things go to be stored, perhaps indefinitely?

Despite some of these connotations, a data warehouse designed for educators is a platform for exploring questions tied to improving teaching and learning. A data warehouse built for teachers should bring together multiple sources of student information so that strengths and areas for improvement become clear. Any single source of information is likely insufficient to draw conclusions. But by storing, sorting, and synthesizing summative, diagnostic, and formative assessment results, a data warehouse can help educators identify problems and solutions more effectively and efficiently.

 So why bother to set up a data warehouse? Here are five good reasons!

1. View assessment results in one place.

Imagine all of your school’s most important student data in one place. From state assessments to classroom-level formative assessments, data warehouse stores and displays information within one platform. Rather than spending hours downloading documents from assessment vendors, you can focus on analysis and action planning. 

2. Find trends fast.

A well-designed data warehouse guides your eyes to the most important information. Through color coding, summary tables, and detailed subscore reports, you can identify trends quickly, leaving more time for planning differentiated interventions and enrichment.

As a school leader, discovering and communicating these trends helps keep the focus on outcomes, not activities. 

3. Prevent dropouts by identifying students with risk factors.

Research from John Hopkins University has identified three critical indicators for determining whether students are likely to graduate on time. A student’s attendance, behavior, and course grades serve as signals regarding a student’s likelihood to leave high school with a diploma. By establishing research-based thresholds tied to each indicator, educators can find potential dropouts before it’s too late. 

A data warehouse that flags students who have crossed thresholds can help school counselors, principals, and other educators know who is at risk and why. This makes intervention programming (e.g., family conferences, attendance tracking, tutoring, counseling) easier, especially when services can be offered to groups with common concerns.

4. Eliminate spreadsheets.

The need for creating spreadsheets and entering formulas is reduced (if not eliminated) by storing information in a data warehouse. How much time is spent by highly-educated school personnel compiling spreadsheets, conditionally formatting columns, and sharing these documents with colleagues? A data warehouse can help you reclaim most of this time, allowing you to focus on leading, teaching, and learning.

5. Access the right information at the right time.

Privacy regulations rightfully protect student data. A data warehouse can display data aligned to a staff member’s permissions. For example, a teacher should have access to data for students on his/her roster while a principal should see information for all students in a building. District personnel should see information for all students. Rather than manually adjusting permissions to a shared spreadsheet or tailoring attachments sent to different groups through email, a data warehouse has built-in logic for ensuring that educators have access to the right information at the right time.

As the phrase, big data continues to be used in articles, in news stories, and by business leaders, consider taking advantage of the analytical power and benefits that can be gained from a data warehouse built from the ground up to help educators improve teaching and learning.