Posts by

Mike Geers

Education, K-12, Opinion

How Will New Mexico “Move the Needle” in Student Achievement?

The NAMSBO Winter Conference may serve as an early report card on New Mexico’s Public Education Department initiative to “Move the Needle.”

Along with a proposed $4.3 billion support package from the state Public Education Department, lawmakers are mulling several pieces of legislation for the session, including revamping graduation requirements and increasing the amount of time students spend in school.

Those proposals, lawmakers and education officials have said, aim to improve student outcomes and close gaps for “at-risk” students, tackle statewide educator vacancies and better support schools and their leaders.

Education, K-12, Opinion

How to Measure Investments in Equity Relative to Student Achievement 

A closer examination of equity and student achievement data reveals some surprising counter-intuition, in places. As will be discussed and presented by John Humphries, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association for Equity in Funding, monetary investments in instructional spending do not always directly correlate with equity in student achievement gains. It is also worth noting discrepancies between per-pupil spending and their intended outcomes regarding staffing levels, classroom size, and quality of education.
Wisconsin Act 89 has made things both easier and more challenging. As educators everywhere place an increasing focus and emphasis on achieving equity and equality in education—working to address historical inequities and increase opportunities for all students—a new challenge has emerged to present an even greater hurdle: not knowing what we don’t know. This is especially critical as stakeholders work together to specifically address the equity piece of equity and equality, as equity should be regarded as a destination, or something demonstrably achievable, as opposed to a mere goal of ambiguous “improvement.”

Education, Fiscal Health, K-12, Municipal, Opinion

Why Municipal Leaders Are Increasingly Studying Academic Achievement Data

How to Leverage Academic Performance Analytics to Improve Economic Drivers of Community Success

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with originating the quote, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Never has that sentiment been proven more prescient than today. In fact, within less than a week’s time, I was told by three different administrators in municipal government that the best predictor of a community’s future economic success is academic performance in that community’s public schools. Specifically, third-grade reading proficiency has been found to directly correlate to the economic development and career opportunity environment of cities, townships and villages across the United States.

What more and more officials in municipal management are discovering is that there is much more to glean from merely looking at academic achievement metrics to understand the correlations between school district performance and future economic and workforce development. They are realizing that they can activate the analytics from educational outcome data and leverage it to plan for better economic outcomes to better serve the communities they live and work in.

As another famous American, Abraham Lincoln, once said, ““The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Braiding Data to Optimize Performance Analytics

At its founding, Munetrix was originally launched to provide municipalities with the metrics they need to analyze performance and make better-informed decisions and plans (hence the name, mun- paired with -trics, or Munetrix). Before long, we identified the need for school administrators and educators to visualize the data driving their decisions and future planning, and we almost immediately began to serve education users as well. To this day, Munetrix is something of a unique organization, as one of few data and performance analytics providers that serve both the municipal and education sectors.

Given the connections between educational and economic drivers, serving the entire community has become more of a necessity…and a more accurate and holistic approach to building 21st-century communities that will thrive long into the 22nd century and beyond.

The key to making this work for communities large and small is the concept of “braiding” data. This will require that communities commit to a collaborative approach to “speak a common data language.” According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce:

The need for a common data language is analogous to the use of a common language for people and economies to share the best of ideas, products, and services. A language used exclusively by a few isolates people from the rest of what the world has to offer.

So it is with the systems, technology and data used by local governments; schools and districts; fire and police departments; economic planning departments; and state, local and federal entities throughout the public sector. If every system is speaking a different language, they can’t possibly optimally communicate, collaborate or cooperate to the greatest benefit of the communities they serve. But that represents the reality for the vast majority of communities across the U.S. — everyone working on different platforms, speaking different languages, and missing opportunities to optimize planning and future outcomes.

The term frequently used in data and performance analytics to describe the ideal paradigm is “interoperability” — the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information collaboratively. Governing bodies in education and municipal government often set standards and guidelines for interoperability, but they can be difficult and onerous to adhere to, especially for those entities still relying on more primitive data processing systems, such as spreadsheets and legacy databases.

But this is changing. And the future is not what it used to be, as a result. What does this look like in the real world and under the best-case scenario? We don’t have to hypothesize; we can learn from others already embracing this approach…

Real-Word Success and a Modern Approach to Data Visualization

As I mentioned, three different executive-level individuals in different parts of the country and in three different contexts approached me within one week with variations of this same conversation: How can we leverage early indicators of economic and workforce development by analyzing reliable predictors of future outcomes? 

It all starts with early education. By braiding school district academic performance analytics with municipal economic and other data, municipal planners and leaders can extract real intelligence to help them make both immediate critical decisions as well as better plan for the unique futures that their own communities need to realize.

For example, a school district may consider braiding transparency data with its fiscal data and with student achievement data. Or it may wish to braid academic performance data with fiscal, demographic and economic data. Overall, a community—upon adopting and achieving interoperability and a Common Data Language—can collaboratively “braid” all of their various data feeds. 

Third-grade reading proficiency data predicts high school graduation rates. High school graduation data foretells workforce success. Workforce readiness, development, outcomes and employer needs should then be analyzed and fed back into the curriculum development decisions within the district. Complete interoperability and collaboration coming full-circle.

Hobbs Municipal Schools in New Mexico had a decision to make, one that was dividing the community: Where to open a second high school, based on increasing enrollment? Had leadership made the decision in a silo, a second high school would have opened nearby, perhaps serving the community well — perhaps not. But the community chose instead to understand the economic drivers and needs of the community that the school district serves, and an interesting discovery was made: What the local economy needed was more workers with career and technical education (CTE) backgrounds. Furthermore, an analysis of the community’s educational performance data revealed a student population well-suited to pursue such careers. So, instead of building a second high school, the district leveraged that braided data to inform a decision to open a state-of-the-art CTE facility, CTECH, a $47 million facility that would allow high schoolers to learn trade skills and earn certifications for industries like construction, transportation, culinary arts and IT. 

The facility was widely embraced and opened to great fanfare, complete with an appearance from TV’s Mike Rowe (a vocal proponent of CTE curriculum), and very quickly saw near-full enrollment. Instead of a community divided, leadership came together, collaborated and made a data-informed decision to best serve the businesses and its residents at once — the community came together. The employers will have a more appropriately developed workforce, the future workforce will have greater opportunities for career advancement, and the school district will become the envy of its regional peers. Win-win-win.

To Serve Your Community You Must Know Your Community

Elsewhere, multiple studies have shown that there is a growing mismatch between skills and education of graduates and the worker demand from the community’s employer base — one in California and another looking at global data — to cite only two of many I’ve recently come across. The latter was presented in the context of an article entitled, “Call for a New Era of Higher Ed–Employer Collaboration.” But if communities are not sharing data between the employment sector and the educational sector, how can leaders identify those mismatches in advance, let alone do something to correct them?

The best way to facilitate that community-wide collaboration is to get the entire community on the same page — our educators, our government leaders, our citizens, our businesses, and all of our stakeholders. It starts with a rigid commitment to data literacy and doesn’t end until there is complete collaboration and total transparency.

The success stories are starting to emerge. What does your community’s future look like? As Lincoln said, the best way to predict it is to create it.

If you’d like to see how all of your community’s data threads can effectively intertwine, how easy it can be to adopt a Common Data Language, and why all of this is so critical to the future of your community, let’s talk.

Education, K-12, News, Opinion, Uncategorized

How to Measure and Achieve Equity in Education in Wisconsin

At long last, we have witnessed an increased emphasis and investment in achieving equity in education in Wisconsin. But how do we measure whether our intentions are resulting in desired outcomes, and that equity gains are truly equitable from school to school and district to district?

Wisconsin Act 89 has made things both easier and more challenging. As educators everywhere place an increasing focus and emphasis on achieving equity and equality in education—working to address historical inequities and increase opportunities for all students—a new challenge has emerged to present an even greater hurdle: not knowing what we don’t know. This is especially critical as stakeholders work together to specifically address the equity piece of equity and equality, as equity should be regarded as a destination, or something demonstrably achievable, as opposed to a mere goal of ambiguous “improvement.”

Fiscal Health, Municipal

Data Management and Analytics Software for Municipalities

The Ongoing Evolution of Data Management and Analytics Software for Cities, Villages and Townships

Advanced data management and analytics software for municipalities has evolved beyond mere data visualization—which is, of course, critical—to encompass robust yet intuitive performance analytics solutions as well. For it’s one thing to be able to contextualize data through charts and graphs, but quite another to have software convert that data into actionable insights and intelligence that can inform better decision making.

One component of the complete Munetrix edition of our data management and analytics software for municipalities is a suite of tools that empower cities, villages and townships to perform peer review audits, track progress against their own metrics and manage projects to easily meet compliance requirements. The Budget Builder app, for example, is a powerful tool that allows users to create linear regression budgets in a matter of minutes.

We wrote recently about some features of the Munetrix Municipal Budget Allocation Reporting Dashboard. Whether you are allocating new monies from stimulus or other surplus, or making tough decisions about spending cuts, the best way to make those hard choices confidently is having the most complete set of data available.

Get a Free Demo of Munetrix’s Data Management and Analytics Software for Municipalities Today!

The Enterprise Module of Munetrix’s data management and analytics software for cities offers the most complete range of data visualization software for municipalities available. The full product includes budgeting, chart of accounts planning, forecasting and scenario building to debt management, peer benchmarking and capital improvement management, powerful interdependent apps that collaborate to contextualize and visualize all data sets available, from public API to your city’s internal data systems.

City managers, finance directors and other municipal administrators can get free access to one of the key tools in our data management and analytics software for municipalities with a free report we are issuing to any city, township or village who wants to receive this complimentary report. Learn how your municipality’s budget allocations compare to the average of all others in your region with this free, personalized report created specifically for your particular city, village or township—at no cost or obligation! Click here to receive your free, personalized report within 24 hours.

To learn more about how local governments are using data management and analytics software for municipalities to build better budgets, make better decisions, and inject greater transparency, easier compliance and, ultimately, more community trust, collaboration and teamwork with their constituents, request a no-obligation demo to unlock 30 days of free access to the Munetrix data management and analytics software for municipalities!

Education, K-12

Financial Forecasting and Scenario Planning for Schools in New Mexico

School reform from SB-1 and SB-96 have made financial forecasting and scenario planning for schools in New Mexico more important than ever.

The performance analytics modules in Munetrix’s financial forecasting and scenario planning for schools solution gives New Mexico school districts and educators the ability to find, compare, measure and monitor dozens of key performance indicators (KPIs)—all with a single, easy-to-use interface.

As we enter budgeting season, finance directors, superintendents and other administrators are facing dilemmas and difficult decisions. Whether trying to prioritize the allocation of stimulus or other surplus funds, or processing the challenging demands of budget cuts, it’s decision time.

To help school districts make better budgeting decisions—based on better data— Munetrix is offering a free report to any school district in New Mexico that wants to see how their compare budget allocations against those of all districts in their regions. Click here to see a glimpse of Munetrix’s financial forecasting and scenario planning for schools in New Mexico.

Take a Closer Look at Munetrix’s Financial Forecasting and Scenario Planning for Schools in New Mexico

Download our free resource guides to take a tour of the entire suite of complementary solutions in the Munetrix Enterprise Edition, which includes the Academic and Financial Modules. Or read our piece on how data is a district’s greatest asset in achieving equity in education, as published in District Administration magazine: “Achieving a Culture of Data Literacy.”

Financial forecasting performance analytics solutions include modules for budgeting, chart of accounts planning, forecasting, scenario building, debt management, peer benchmarking and capital improvement management.

Both our financial and academic performance analytics solutions for schools in New Mexico are fully integrated with state-of-the-industry interoperability that meet or exceed the latest educational and IT standards.

Ready to schedule a private, personal demo? Contact us to schedule a personal tour of Munetrix’s financial forecasting and scenario planning for schools in New Mexico solution today!