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Clean Data’s Positive Impact on Smaller School Districts is Felt in Full Funding

September 16, 2021 at 10:01 AM

One big advantage for smaller school districts is the ability for teachers, principals, and other staff to get to know the students on a very personal level. It leads to better educational opportunities in many ways and brings citizens of small communities together.

However, quite frankly that advantage doesn’t fully apply to, nor address the needs of, behind-the-scenes staff like David Spalvieri-Kruse. He is a key cog in making sure enough state funding comes in to fully operate the 459-student district of Lawrence Public Schools in rural Southwest Michigan.

“It’s not about how well you know your kids,” said Spalvieri-Kruse, who carries at least four job responsibilities of SIS Administrator, State Reporting Assistant, Assessment Coordinator, and MTSS Coordinator. “It has everything to do with how clean and how organized your data is. 

“You can know your kids inside and out and still be missing data, for school or whatever SIS you use. You might know the kids and their families – but that’s not going to affect whether or not someone remembered to divvy up the FTEs correctly between Special Ed and general classes before submission time comes up. 

“It’s not going to help you notice you forgot to validate whole grade levels worth of addresses for the transportation department. It’s not about how well you know your kids, it’s about how successful you are in organizing your data.”

It’s not about how well you know your kids, it’s about how successful you are in organizing your data.

Spalvieri-Kruse said he wasn’t really sure what advantages would take place for a small district partnering up with Level Data, Inc. – a PowerSchool Preferred Partner – for the ability to easily clean and maintain his district’s student and teacher data. But now you couldn’t ‘pry it out of his dead, cold hands,’ to loosely quote a Hollywood movie line from Charlton Heston.

“I admit that at the start I really didn’t know how much we were going to get out of using Level Data,” he said looking back to 2019. “I didn’t completely understand what we’d be receiving. I suspected I’d get a better bird’s-eye-view on our data as a whole. But, since getting to know all it offers, the State Report Submissions stress has gone way down, and the submissions have gone way more smoothly, with many less errors than before.”

The State Data Validation Suite (SDVS) developed by Level Data is a plugin that allows virtually any district staff to input its state data reporting requirements. The system has checks and balances with the district’s raw data stored in PowerSchool – where color indicators of red, yellow, and green are then displayed when SDVS automatically and instantaneously detects data errors, potential data errors, or validates the correct data, respectively, per color.

“I wouldn’t say before Level Data that our state reporting errors were awful, but it was to the point that having a tool to use to help make those submissions more successful just felt like it was worth trying. The price wasn’t too demanding, so we thought it was worth a try, and now I never want to let go.”

Level Data always ensures we have the right number in there; we don’t miss out on any state funding because of bad data.

The majority of large school districts that partner with Level Data and utilize the series of PowerSchool plugins, frequently admit to the cost and staff time savings that positively affect their bottom-line budget. Spalvieri-Kruse said he’s not sure they save money at Lawrence, but they do save lots of time, and they more importantly don’t lose funding from the State of Michigan.

“One thing I find that’s just wonderful in this plugin is the blank general education FTE rule,” he explained. “It is so crucial that we have the FTE number correct for the submission going in because it will immediately affect our state funding. So that has been great. No FTE’s slip by anymore, ever

“It always ensures we have the right number in there; we don’t miss out on any state funding because of bad data.”

And no district, especially those with the fewest students, can ever afford to miss a penny of that.

Tom Lang
Written by Tom Lang

Tom Lang has spent more than 3 decades in the field of journalism and marketing, while always having a hand in public education. His father was a school teacher, his mom a school secretary, and his wife teaches high school English and Humanities. On his own, Tom worked his way through college as a school bus driver and today remains closely tied to education as a Board member of FIRST (Robotics) in Michigan. He has worked with high school coaches and athletes for nearly 30 years as a freelance sports writer at the Detroit Free Press, and for more than 10 years as a basketball referee. Bottom line -- help kids grow, learn and create productive futures.

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