THE DROPOUT PROBLEM:
Some 50 miles off the Gulf of Mexico, Pasadena Independent School District (ISD) was facing its share of a national crisis. Administrators at this large, urban district were troubled by what seemed to be a high dropout rate and an alarmingly low graduation rate. However, due to a lack of timely access to detailed data, it was difficult to understand the problem and to organize a solution. For instance, district staff had to wait over a year before they received a state-provided list of dropouts and graduation rates from the previous year- hardly a turnaround time that enabled action to support those students. Facing this reality, administrators at Pasadena ISD decided that they needed much greater in-house capacity to track students, find out who was dropping out and why, so they could act to do something about it.
GETTING A HANDLE ON THE DATA
Managing data on over 50,000 students was no easy task. “Our biggest roadblock was time,” said Donna Summers, Pasadena ISD’s Director of Research and Evaluation, during a webinar co-hosted by Microsoft and Mizuni. “The time to [manually] pull data together, to aggregate it, to disaggregate what we had just aggregated, to summarize for non-standard students, and to generate tables and graphs that made the data understandable and visual for folks.” In need of a better way to manage and leverage the data, Pasadena ISD turned to Mizuni for help.
REPORTS FUEL IMMEDIATE INTERVENTION
Mizuni worked with the district to develop a number of flexible, real-time reports, a set of which were designed to support the dropout reduction effort. “What these reports did for us was completely automate the leaver tracking process, so we are now spending time on the interventions and not on the identifications….We’re now working with today’s information about today’s students,” said Mrs. Summers. One of the new reports revealed that a third of the recent dropouts had left school after failing to pass all three required portions of the state test. Equipped with this new insight, the district’s high schools immediately mobilized to reach out to these kids. To help them pass the test and get back in the pipeline to graduation, college, and workforce readiness, the district offered a range of intervention services including tutoring and mentorships, one-on-one counseling, before and after-school programs, and summer learning opportunities.
FROM RECOVERY TO PREVENTION
As the district’s efforts advanced, Pasadena ISD worked with Mizuni to develop greater functionality, expanding beyond dropout recovery to a more proactive focus on dropout prevention. From a vast, sometimes overwhelming collection of data, the district narrowed its focus to five research-based early warning dropout indicators (course grades, attendance, behavior, state assessments, and college readiness). With its data integrated, consolidated, and delivered through the Mizuni District Solution, the Pasadena ISD was now able to predict in real time which currently enrolled students were showing the warning signs associated with dropping out. Teachers are now using the data to collaborate around data on grade levels, subjects, and individual students. Counselors use the reports to inform one-on-one conversations with students and to help determine the right intervention strategy for each. And the district offers a range of alternative programs such as extended-day scheduling, evening and night classes, and various remediation programs in major subjects to meet each student’s specific needs
JUST GETTING STARTED
After years of hard work using powerful tools, Pasadena ISD has steadily decreased its dropout rate. Since the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, the district decreased its grades 7-12 annual dropout rate from 4.5% to 3.1 %. And from 2007 to 2009, Pasadena ISD increased its completion rate by 5%. Still, district staff is determined to do even better. The district’ s flexible data warehouse and reports continue to grow as new data items and analyses are added to meet evolving needs including evaluation of its many dropout intervention programs. And the district continues to expand data access and develop skills among administrators and teachers on the interpretation and effective use of data to help each student achieve his or her personal best. “Ultimately,” says Donna Summers, “the tools will allow us to individualize instruction for every one of our 51 ,000 students.” No small feat, but one that is now within reach thanks to the district’s dedication to student success and effective use of smart technology.
- Greater Houston area
- 5 high schools, 10 intermediate/middle schools
- Student population: 51,000 students, 20% mobile, 75% economically disadvantaged, 29% Limited English Proficient, 57% “at-risk” (based on Texas indicators formula)