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Data Validation Streamlines Data Reporting for Cicero Public Schools

April 18, 2023 at 11:36 AM

Tish Brandt still thinks back in some disbelief at how cumbersome and time consuming the old way of reporting school data to the state was for her team at Cicero (IL) Public Schools.

“There we so many different layers of complication there,” Brandt said about the former process, before technology advances made it easier and more accurate.

The layers have been virtually eliminated since Cicero began working in 2021 with Level Data and its IT plug in of seamless and smooth reporting with the State Data Validation Suite (SDVS) – a software plug-in for users of PowerSchool.

SDVS is custom designed to integrate the specific credentials required from any district’s respective state. All student data entry into PowerSchool by any user is software 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.

Brandt described an old process that still resembles what thousands of school districts across the country do – school secretaries and sometimes principals, all with a wide variety of computer knowledge, entering and updating student data. All those keystrokes by multiple people at 16 different schools literally defined the word ‘inconsistency.’

So, when Brandt, the Executive Director for Data Systems and Assessment at the district, and her team had to submit projects like quarterly reports and spring and fall enrollment, it typically took up to two weeks to scrub all errors and mistakes and missing data. Due to the lack of technology, it was a small quagmire of back-and-forth support on codes and excel files and such, plus the coordination with all the various district departments.

What she explained as formerly taking hundreds of hours to clean data has now been reduced to minutes with the addition of Level Data’s SDVS working alongside the PowerSchool SIS.

“The district now has a weekly task on each Tuesday for each school admin to go into their Level Data state validation,” she said. “They look at their one or two errors, if that, they correct those one or two errors and now we don’t have to go through all these different steps to make sure our data is correct before submission. So, at practically any moment now, we know that the data the state has for our district is accurate, up to date and correct."

Brandt was beaming as she explained how the entire date team and each school rep worked together closely as a group to establish their needs and best procedures, the creation of optimum ways to use the student data and made the decision together that each Tuesday was their best time to sync everything.

“Our secretaries and clerks absolutely love the fact they can go in and see where their data stands,” she said. “They love the fact they can log in, click on a link, they see any errors they might have along the side in red, and they love seeing all the green check marks when everything is good. It’s a visual that gives them positive reinforcement. It makes them feel great to see all the green checkmarks.

“They love that they can click on the error counts and be taken directly to the student records and receive a window where they can enter the corrections right there, on the spot, and not being forced to go to every single individual student record.”

Brandt added that an unexpected outcome is the free ‘professional development’ that comes along with running SDVS.

“They love the utilities of how the plug-in works, and they like that it tells them the rules about why this is an error. They like reading that because it’s helped boost their knowledge and understanding of what that data is and means, which reduces errors in the first place with their better overall understanding of why data is entered.”

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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