If fellow data management and IT directors were to challenge Jay Childers to describe in one word what he likes to see within his school district’s workforce and its expansive student database, that’s an easy one:
In the last half of the 2010-19 decade, Union County Schools in South Carolina admittedly struggled with state reporting. Childers, its Director of Technology Integration, recently said it was difficult getting all the elements to line up and for school clerks and other support staff to do things one consistent way when it came to keystroking, editing and validating its student and staff data. Such challenges caused a lot of lost time for the IT staff cleaning the data coming in from various school locations.
“Everybody did data entry differently, they each approached it differently – so it was hard to get everybody on the same page, which made it more difficult on the IT Department,” he said. “So, everything was very inconsistent, and it was a lot more time consuming trying to get everything ready for submissions to the state. Plus, all the original data entry was inconsistent. That’s where we stood.”
Without being melodramatic, all the inconsistency changed for Childers seemingly overnight, when Union County Schools combined efforts with Level Data and its PowerSchool plug-in.
“One of the biggest things I’ve seen with using Level Data that’s been great for us is consistency in mailing addresses and phone numbers,” he said. “I know those things may seem insignificant to many, but having patterns now to follow with the Level Data (State Validation Suite) is huge, because now we’re all consistent, the numbers are consistently set up, addresses are consistently the same.
“Addresses can be their own nightmare when you look at routes and streets and roads, avenues; just anything you can think of with abbreviations.”
Childers said the entire staff worked hard and he commended their efforts to submit all state reporting correctly under the old system – the simple reality is the district’s newfound consistency has made life easier for all – and the data is cleaner for maximizing state funding metrics.
“Having a single location to go into for the Level Data validations, to reconcile errors and issues, that has been a huge time saver for our records clerks, because they also do attendance, which is a big majority of their day. I can’t say they dread us emailing them that we need their data, but they probably dislike us less (now) than before,” he added with a chuckle.
Level Data’s State Data Validation Suite (SDVS) is a proprietary software plug-in for users of PowerSchool. It is custom designed to model the specific credentials required from any district’s respective state. All student data input into PowerSchool by any user is reviewed instantaneously for accuracy and shows color indicators of red, yellow and green – which are displayed when the system automatically and promptly detects data input errors, potential data errors or the correct data, respectively, per color.
In other words, data is made consistent the first time.
Like all good district directors who try anticipating their return on investment, Childers plotted out certain expectations and desired outcomes for partnering with Level Data. The return was even easier to calculate considering Level Data only costs about one dollar per student.
“I underestimated the amount of time it would save us,” he said. “I knew using Level Data would make things better, but I didn’t realize how easy it was going to be for all of us. That’s been fantastic.”