How Business Intelligence Is Changing The Life Of Students

     Nashville Metropolitan Schools have built a framework using data analysis foundation to help the students with their overall performance.


Have you ever wondered what will be the outcome when you blend Three Rs with the BI? If yes, then you should definitely give a look to Nashville Metropolitan schools that have created improvements in student results and national recognition. They have created an example of a revolution in education.

The results of Data Quality Campaign (DQC), the Nashville schools have improved the overall study outcomes of students by introducing normal classroom activities. DQC is a nonprofit organization that supports the emerging leaders and policy makers to promote the use of effective data towards the overall achievements of students.

When asked in an interview by Information Week, the director of information management and decision support, Laura Hansen said, “The benefits started showing up really fast when we analyzed all the data from different sources was brought together by data warehousing.”

In a telephone interview with Margie Johnson, business coordinator of Metropolitan Nashville Public School she explained the following benefits to Information Week:

  • Increase in overall graduation rate
  • Data warehousing is equipped with an early warning system that helps to detect the students who are at risk. This has helped to lower the number of at-risk students
  • The rate of attendance has increased
  • Decreased discipline issues
  • Overall improvement in achievements of students.

In a phone interview, Hansen said, “We’ve applied data warehouse techniques to make them fit into classroom levels so that teachers can use them in a more applicable way. We had the framework with us and it is not that we required something out of the box, but we had the code. We have a board of experienced technical staff and other business professionals who help us to figure out the ways we can use these data to help teachers.”2217375343_c55801ed85_z

Data warehousing is not rocket science but it becomes critical because of its major enterprise standards. The data that is provided through data warehousing is helping teachers, administrators, support staff, and parents who work with students.

The total loading database is nearly 127 GB with a 37 GB reporting database. This reporting database contains 313,486,012 records that are being used by the Business Intelligence to analyze the ways to support students.

For example, after receiving permission from students and guardians, the Mayor of Nashville, Karl Deans received access to the data to support each and every student to achieve their educational goals. The Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA) receives the data about student report cards, attendance, and formative assessment results, to customize after-school tutoring for the students.


In a report by DQC, they had mentioned the quote from northeast zone NAZA director Adam Yockey saying, “Afterschool providers want to support like a partner for what’s happening in the schools. But without data, particularly data in real time, it is hard to participate in such innovation. If you get the data at the end of the school year, it would be of no use as you cannot help those students.”


Support from Top to Bottom

Johnson said that providing the information to the teachers only is not enough; it is important that they should be taught that how this data should be used in welfare of students and how they can achieve success through this. The district has thus hired 12 people as data coaches to explain the information gathered by Business Intelligence queries and how to apply it. They also acknowledge them about ‘Over The Counter Data’ approach developed by Jenny Grant Rankin, PhD.

“Earlier we had only 12 data coaches and they were not enough for providing information to 150 schools.  The OTCD staff has information on the reports that are available that can be used by the teachers” said Johnson. She further added, “We gave this data to a lot of people but it proved out to be in vain as not everyone knew about how this data should be used. That’s why we talk about building the support within the data systems.”


Those efforts are turned into action by providing continuous support to data coaches and publishing monthly newsletters. There is also a book named ‘Got Data? Now What?’ written by Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman. “After doing a fish bone analysis on what barriers we needed to remove to get adaptive inquiry,” said Johnson. She also said, “We are now trying to adopt a common agenda to summarize what this is all about. This will help us to convert this work into a journey.”

“Support from the executives and administrators, is critical building a proper support system to help teachers and the other staff,” said Hansen. Her position was funded by a Race to the Top Grant, but it is continued through ongoing investment by district schools. The 12 data coaches were also funded by this race and it is ending this year. Now that more schools are showing their interests, they themselves are raising funds to pay data coaches.


Ahead of the Class

Line Sparrow, an association for policy and advocacy at the DQC, noted that they became interested as the organization was providing something more than mere data. In a telephone interview, Lise Sparrow said, “They have abundant of data in a lot of districts but with lack of techniques, they can’t do anything.” Sparrow further added, “We have highlighted some student-teachers conversations and teacher-parent conversations, so that that they can analyze the importance of this data for success of students.”


The Nashville story is being promoted by DQC to set an example for the other districts as well to use the data for student support. In a phone interview, Chris Kingsley, associate director of local policy and advocacy said, “This task requires a really very hard work and people look to Nashville because it has really come up with something very innovative.” When asked about factors prevailing for adopting Nashville model, Kingsley pointed in unexpected direction.


Kingsley said, “I am sure that there is some fiscal element to the barriers but it is not the largest area. People say that there are no tools and technology. One clear thing in front of us is that schools don’t need more systems integrators.” He further added, “When Laura tells about the data warehousing, it sounds like the real key. They took various different approaches and turned them into a single business intelligence system. To reach this position, it takes thoughtfulness and contacting the right people on the right time.”

Though Kingsley said it is about having a vision and continuously following up with consistent hard work. “It takes really efficient leaders. One needs to take desired outcomes and merge them back to the classroom. Continuous improvements may seem rapid, but it is really about tying the data back to what happens in the classroom. One needs to train and prepare teachers to deal with tough situations, and they have been doing it consistently in Nashville from past six years.”

One such company that has emerged as a leading service provider is BP Analytics. The company holds expertise in developing data warehousing, data modeling, and business intelligence systems for the companies. BP Analytics provides customized services to its clients and thus anyone can hire the company for their data warehousing needs be it a multibillion dollar company or a new startup firm. BP Analytics has made it possible for educational institutions to successfully install data warehousing systems. This system has proven effective in a better analysis of students as the teachers can retrieve the necessary data in just a few clicks. For more details about BP Analytics, visit




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