Insights & Analysis

Education, K-12

Back to School with Transparency: Building Trust in K-12 Data and Financial Clarity

Top Tips for Navigating Back to School with Transparency 

As we gear up for a new school year, transparency is one of the most crucial factors for success. Through the years we’ve learned that when schools maintain open communication and share data with their communities, it builds trust, fosters engagement, and creates a thriving learning environment.  

That’s why we emphasize the critical components of transparency, like embracing financial clarity, promoting safety drill awareness, and implementing practical strategies for transparent decision-making. All while continually underscoring the importance of K-12 data, performance analytics, and educational financial transparency in promoting an outstanding academic year. 

Here are our top tips for starting the school year off with transparency in mind! 

Tip 1: Establish Trust Through Transparency 

Keeping Your Community in the Loop 

Transparency starts with open and honest communication. That means establishing a culture of openness, where information, including valuable K-12 data and performance insights, is readily shared with students, parents, and staff. Some ways that our customers have found success is through regular meetings, town halls, and newsletters to make sure everyone is kept in the loop about school policies, decisions, and upcoming events.  

But communications are a two-way street – encouraging feedback and promptly addressing concerns also fosters trust and makes the community feel heard and respected. 

Fostering Strong Connections 
It’s not enough to only talk to your community – engaging with parents and students beyond the classroom also matters. Through organizing community-building events, like parent-teacher meet-and-greets, workshops, and volunteering opportunities, you can create strong and lasting bonds with your community members. A bonus to this approach is that by involving parents and community members in the school environment, you can deepen the connection between the school and its stakeholders to foster a sense of ownership and make the school a community-driven learning hub. 

Tip 2: Promote Financial Transparency 

Tracking Financial Data for a Solid Foundation
One of the essential aspects of running a school is sound financial management, including educational financial transparency. Mastering that is hard work and takes time. To achieve financial transparency, maintaining clear records of income, expenses, and budget allocation is crucial for schools. By tracking and analyzing that data effectively, you can make informed decisions, allocate resources efficiently, and address any financial challenges transparently.  

Our most successful districts have found that using school management software and accounting systems ensures that their financial data is accurate, up-to-date, and readily accessible. 

Engaging Stakeholders in Financial Discussions
School finances shouldn’t be a mystery – involving parents and staff in financial discussions through regular budget presentations and reports further promotes transparency. Without going into too much detail, explaining fund allocation, significant expenses, and the reasoning behind financial decisions will not only builds trust with your community, but by keeping it simple and explaining financials in a way that’s easy to digest you can invite valuable input and suggestions. This makes your community not only active partners in the school’s financial health, but also general advocates for your school’s expenditures. 

Tip 3: Improve Safety Procedures with Transparency 

Promoting Safety Awareness 

Safety drills are crucial for preparing students and staff for emergencies, but they can also cause anxiety, especially for younger students. By transparently promoting safety drills, you can reduce fear and anxiety and increase community awareness. We also recommend proactively informing parents and students about the date and purpose of each drill while also providing clear instructions on what to expect and how it contributes to their safety. 

Including the Community in Safety Preparedness 

Safety is a shared responsibility, and involving parents and local authorities in safety drills and preparedness training demonstrates a commitment to a secure environment. Parents can also provide valuable feedback on safety measures, allowing schools to make improvements and adaptations based on their insights. 

Tip 4: Boost Academic Success Through Transparency 

Clear Academic Expectations 

Transparency extends to the classroom – by clearly communicating grading policies, class curriculum, and learning objectives to both students and parents, along with K-12 data and performance analytics, you can ensure that everyone knows what to expect. It’s been proven that when everyone understands what is expected, students are more likely to succeed, and parents can actively support their child’s educational journey. 

Incorporating Open Decision-Making 

Incorporating transparency into the decision-making process is equally important. Involving parents in important decisions that impact the school community, like curriculum changes, extracurricular activities, or school policies, demonstrates that decisions are made with transparency and inclusivity. Through surveys or advisory committees, you can also ensure a diverse range of perspectives, leading to more substantial support and understanding among the community. 

Embracing Transparency 

Navigating back to school with transparency is about so much more than just sharing information; it’s about building trust, promoting engagement, and creating a sense of community. By communicating openly with the school community, including sharing K-12 data and performance insights, tracking financial data diligently, and promoting safety drill transparency, you can create an environment where everyone feels heard, valued, and informed. 

What’s more, with Munetrix, you can turn school transparency from an aspiration into a daily practice. We take all the complex K-12 data and financial details you have and make them accessible to everyone, so you can share academic performance with parents and students in a way that’s both meaningful and engaging. By breaking down your budget using Munetrix, you can open up financial understanding to the entire community. And when it comes to collective decision-making, you can use Munetrix to convert abstract ideas into concrete plans that reflect your shared goals. It’s not just a suite of tools; it’s your partner in building trust, enhancing community engagement, and fostering a school environment where everyone feels part of the success story. 

Education, K-12, Webinars

Watch Webinar Replay: Demystifying the New School Year

Revealing the Magic of Data

As educators, you know that each new school year is filled with excitement and anticipation… but it also brings a hint of mystery and uncertainty. Like gazing into a magical crystal ball, surrounded by foggy clouds of unanswered questions. But fear not! 

This webinar is designed to help you gain the power to see the path forward by harnessing the magic of Munetrix. Discover the hidden secrets that will amplify your data insights and sweep away the uncertainty surrounding this new year. 

Key topics covered:

  • Creating Peer Groups  
  • Student Migration Information  
  • Identifying “At-Risk” Students

Interested in a private demo? Click Here

Municipal

Watch Webinar Replay: Managing Capital Improvements

Unleash Success and Master Capital Improvement Planning

In a world where effective planning and management can make or break the success of your capital improvement initiatives, staying ahead of the curve is essential. That’s why we have designed this exclusive webinar to equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to excel. 

Discover game-changing strategies and leverage the latest innovations in Munetrix to supercharge your projects. 

Key Topics Covered: 

  • Efficient planning and stakeholder engagement 
  • How to streamline project management with real-time updates 
  • Enhanced tracking, evaluation, and data-driven decision-making 
  • Updates and innovations in Munetrix

Interested in a private demo? Click Here

Education, K-12, Webinars

Watch Webinar Replay: Navigating Back to School with Transparency

Transform Your School Year with the Power of Transparency

As the new academic year approaches, we understand the mix of excitement and challenge it brings, especially when it comes to telling your community about what’s happening. But here’s a secret… it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The key lies in one word: Transparency. 

Our webinar is designed to offer a fresh take on school operations, emphasizing the crucial role transparency plays in building a robust, engaged, and successful school community. 

Key topics covered:

  • Building trust and engagement with transparency 
  • Driving financial transparency 
  • Enhancing student safety drill transparency 
  • Practical strategies and valuable insights 

Interested in a private demo? Click Here

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early warning module for planning intervention programs
Education, K-12, Webinars

Watch Webinar Replay: Planning for Intervention Programs

Empowering District Leaders to Address Attendance and Discipline Challenges

Two big topics we keep hearing from K-12 district leaders are that attendance and discipline are at the top of everyone’s mind.

During this insightful 45-minute webinar, our experts shared their knowledge on how the Munetrix Early Warning Module can empower leadership to proactively identify and address potential challenges, like attendance and discipline, within their districts.

Key topics covered:

  • Best practices for implementing effective intervention programs
  • See how you can access grades, discipline records, attendance history, and assessments in one place for a comprehensive view of student risk
  • Q&A session to address your specific concerns and queries

Interested in a private demo of the Early Warning Module? Click Here

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Education, Fiscal Health, K-12, Opinion

Is Public Education Facing a Fiscal Cliff?

How to Be Better Prepared to Make Difficult Decisions as COVID-Era Funding Dries Up

The K-12 public education sector is abuzz with speculation that we are approaching a “fiscal cliff” when it comes to federal funding of public school systems. Forbes Magazine reported months ago that “Federal COVID relief funds will be running out in 2024. A continuing baby bust will hit school enrollment numbers. There might be a recession coming (or not). All of these shifts will create pressure for school districts.”

If cuts are coming, and even wholesale elimination of certain line items, what does that mean for school districts already struggling to adequately fund instruction, recruit educators, and make the necessary investments to improve outcomes, reverse learning loss, and maximize gains in student achievement?

Of course, districts were not supposed to apply emergency federal COVID dollars toward permanent expenditures, such as hiring. But many did, and funding can be fungible regardless. The result many fear is that personnel layoffs are looming — at a time when educators and administrators are already feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

What we are urging our client partners to do is to maximize their use of available resources, data and technology to start planning for various scenarios today so that whatever lies ahead in terms of difficult decisions to be made, they can be approached with forethought, planning, preparation and the most amount of complete information possible.

Three Ways to Prepare for the Next Fiscal Crisis Today to Minimize Pain and Disruption

Here are three things that superintendents, human resources professionals, educators and other district administrators can do today to plan for the uncertain future ahead:

1 – Try to identify opportunities to eliminate non-personnel expenditure redundancies.
Each passing year or so, without really thinking about it, professionals in every sector (the public and educational included) have incrementally added a tool here, an application there, a system here, a database there. We are now at the point at which enough has become more than enough — it’s become too much. Perhaps this is a time and opportunity to save costs by simplifying the administrative tech stack.

There are many reasons why you might want to simplify your tech stack, even if predicted cuts somehow fail to materialize. The most obvious among them is to save time and administrative burden of managing, maintaining and accessing this number of disparate technology tools. Certainly, once you find yourself looking to save money facing budget cuts, consider eliminating systems that overlap with one another — or consider finding one singular system that can achieve multiple tasks at the same time — as one way to save money before considering layoffs.

2 – Create peer groups to cross-analyze how other districts in your region are spending/cutting comparatively to your own.
The future of planning and budgeting is something called “comparative analytics.” Put simply, comparative analytics refers to the process of examining your own organization’s data and performance against those of your peers and competitors to draw more informed conclusions and to make better decisions. It’s a methodology for avoiding one of the greatest perils to critical decision-making: thinking we have all of the information we need and omitting a potentially decision-changing data set.

If you can view your own historical data and forward-looking projections against those of neighboring entities with whom you may be competing, won’t you be able to make more confident decisions and more strategic allocations of time, treasure and talent? Anything less, and you’re making critical decisions in a vacuum. If budget cuts become necessary, work today to plan for a future that affords you the confidence that you’re making cuts strategically and not putting your district at a competitive disadvantage relative to your neighbors and peers.

3 – Nobody knows the future with certainty. Build scenarios and plan for multiple potential tomorrows.
With so much uncertainty persisting in the public education sector, plans and predictions are ever-changing and more dynamic than ever. Creating a budget or forecast and presuming it will stand the test of time is no longer a luxury administrators and financial leadership have in this day and age. Cumbersome and laborious spreadsheets that remain static while the world evolves around them no longer suffice — especially knowing that drastic change may soon be coming.

Tools like the Forecast Builder and Budget Builder allow planning to be done with multiple possible scenarios envisioned, which can evolve dynamically and instantly. As new inputs or updated data become available using publicly available data sources and API, braided with a district’s own proprietary data, plans and budgets can be fluid and reflective of up-to-the-minute realities.

The Only Constant Is Change

Whatever tomorrow holds, we recommend that school districts plan for it today. Even if the future is uncertain and undefined. The last three years have been a period of unprecedented volatility and incredible changes and external pressures put upon those in charge of educating the future of our country.

We managed to do our best to survive a global pandemic, we continue to manage the impact dramatic inflation and the toll it’s taken on our budgets, and now another challenge most certainly awaits.

But just as we did with the prior crisis facing public educators, we will do our best to provide as much support, guidance, resources and innovation as we can, so that every decision they make is data-driven.

Contact me to see how your school building or district can harness the power of data to improve literacy, numeracy and other educational outcomes.

Education, K-12, Opinion

How to Overcome Data Overload to Implement Multi-Tiered System of Supports

Spend Less Time Fact-Finding and More Time Supporting Students

United We Learn is the State of Kentucky’s initiative to propel forward the future of public education in the state, a vision built “around three big ideas: creating a more vibrant experience for every student, encouraging innovation in our schools – especially when it comes to assessment, and creating a bold new future for Kentucky’s schools through collaboration with our communities.” 

To realize this vision, the Kentucky Multi-Tiered System of Supports (KyMTSS) is a multi-level prevention system to support student achievement and social-emotional behavioral competencies through an integration of differentiated core instruction, assessment and intervention.

The purpose of KyMTSS is stated to be to promote “the integration of systems-level approaches and state/district/school initiatives under one comprehensive framework to more efficiently use resources while focusing on improving outcomes for every student.”

That stated vision of equitable access and opportunity is, in fact, the paradigm: one comprehensive framework of six interdependent and interconnected components that are essential to the implementation and sustainability of an effective MTSS framework in Kentucky school districts. 

The challenge is that the current reality of how data is gathered, stored and analyzed has historically been anything but comprehensive, one, interdependent nor interconnected, making the task of effective MTSS implementation arduous, onerous and time-consuming for those responsible for executing this vision. Many districts are, in fact, data-rich…but too many are also tragically knowledge-poor.

This is why the EdTech sector is pushing for greater interoperability and advocating for disparate systems and entities speaking a common data language. This is how we will collaborate to make this critically important initiative a reality, without taxing our resources or monopolizing educators’ time that is better spent on activities other than data mining.

How to Visualize Data to Actualize Outcomes

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has identified six elements as essential to the implementation, improvement and sustainability of an effective multi-tiered system of supports:

  1. Collaborative Problem-Solving Teams (includes shared leadership, collaboration and communication)
  2. Data-Based Decision Making with a Comprehensive Screening and Assessment System
  3. Tiered Delivery System with a Continuum of Supports
  4. Evidence-Based Instruction, Intervention and Supports
  5. Equitable Access and Opportunity
  6. Family, School and Community Partnerships

The first thing that jumps off the page to me are the words “collaborative,” “data-based” and “evidence-based.” We’ve seen firsthand how school districts nationwide struggle to collect and connect all of the various disparate systems and data warehouses that educators and administrators rely on to provide educational excellence and comply with transparency reporting obligations.

The KyMTSS Implementation Guide notes that the systems used for “academic, behavior and social-emotional supports often are implemented in silos or parallel systems that work independently of each other. Each system and initiative might have its own set of teams

doing the work, separate data systems and separate practices,” and recommends “building one coherent, strategically combined system to address multiple domains or content areas in education to achieve and sustain positive outcomes more effectively.” 

It is important to note that, in doing so, districts should “braid” all available data sources, including those proprietary to the district itself, as well as all publicly available data sources. 

What districts are increasingly finding is that events and data that occur outside of the classroom have a significant impact on outcomes that are achieved in the classrooms themselves, especially when it comes to social-emotional learning. Factors such as demographics, geographics, economics, equity of access, and many more contributing factors may have nearly as much influence on learning as curriculum, instruction and quality/training of teachers.

The answer? Seeing is believing. Truly seeing. Correlations that may exist between poverty rates, Internet access, geographical boundaries and student achievement can only be understood if displayed visually and overlaid on one another. A heat map will reveal where at-risk students tend to live, in most cases, and may also reveal some other important interdependencies. But this is not possible to examine if the data remains in silos. Nor is it achievable if it’s only displayed in a columnar table or a spreadsheet. All you see is numbers…when what you are looking for is trends, drivers, and potential causality.

Data must be visualized for better outcomes to be actualized.

Guidelines for Implementing the Six Essential Elements of KyMTSS

A team of data scientists has partnered with educators and administrators to develop a comprehensive resource designed to support districts in implementing Kentucky’s state-required K-12 Multi-Tiered System of Supports. This guide can be used not only as a roadmap to effective KyMTSS implementation, but can unlock a singular system for implementing each of the six essential elements and providing the necessary documentation and reporting.

Examples from each of the six essential elements guidance protocols include:

1 – Collaborative Problem-Solving Teams (includes shared leadership, collaboration and communication)

Build and openly share a dashboard that “helps teams at the district, building, grade and content level to analyze academic, social emotional and behavior data in one, shared online platform.”  (For example, see the Munetrix Early Warning Module.)

2 – Data-Based Decision Making with a Comprehensive Screening and Assessment System

Configure a system so that it can “manage and analyze multiple types of data, including assessment, behavior, social emotional, attendance, demographic, perception, process, and other types of data in one centralized platform. This helps districts ensure that the data is collected, analyzed, and used to monitor both student outcomes and implementation of interventions over time.” This should include:

  • Needs Assessment 
  • Academic and Behavior Data
  • Formative Assessment Data
  • Progress Monitoring Data
  • Demographic Data
  • Student/Family/Staff Survey Data
  • Relevant Community Data
  • Student Early Warning Indicators 

The Munetrix Early Warning Module is a tool designed with all of this in mind…all in one place!

3 – Tiered Delivery System with a Continuum of Supports

Insist on technology that allows stakeholders to “analyze data and trends across various groups and sub-groups to help consider the range of learning needs and assets from accelerated to severe and persistently challenged. Dynamic filters are needed to help educators quickly and easily identify and group students by ability levels within areas of need, across multiple assessments.

4 – Evidence-Based Instruction, Intervention and Supports

Student growth and needs assessment must be supported by an “application that can analyze data to help identify the outcome and fidelity of implementation to monitor the effectiveness of instruction, intervention, and supports.”

5 – Equitable Access and Opportunity

The most effective solutions are ones that “equip district leadership with student and community demographic and socioeconomic data, so that they can ensure that MTSS leadership teams include key stakeholders such as students, family and community partners who are representative of the entire student body and holistic school community.” It should “blend financial and student data (academic/behavior/social emotional) in a single platform to empower district leaders to analyze the data in one place so that they can identify and address inequities of funding, student access to highly effective teachers, high-quality curriculum, school disciplinary practices, or other supportive resources such as technology.”

6 – Family, School and Community Partnerships

Ideally, the “system helps districts form active and reciprocal family, school and community relationships through transparency reporting tools and access to tools to evaluate community socioeconomic and demographic data as well as student, parent and community input or survey data collected through family engagement opportunities.”

Free Template and Resource Guide

If we were to simplify the guidance offered in this document, it would be this:

  1. Get all of your relevant data sets into one system.
  2. Don’t ignore the data outside of your own purview of education and student achievement.
  3. Make sure that data can be visualized, not just tabulated.
  4. Make reporting easy, transparent and intuitive.

Take these simple steps and your district will be well on its way to helping Kentucky realize its vision of “each and every student empowered and equipped to pursue a successful future.”

To download this template for complete and effective KyMTSS implementation, complete with easy guidance on reporting and transparency, click here.

Education, K-12, Opinion

Can Third-Grade Reading Proficiency Be “Guaranteed” in Ohio Public Schools?

Legislators have been working since 2012 to improve literacy outcomes in the state, notably when the state legislature passed the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which required that third-graders pass a reading test in order to be promoted to fourth grade.

Committed to addressing this issue ongoing, educators and administrators in Ohio have implemented and are focusing on a number of strategies to improve third-grade literacy rates and numeracy.

By implementing these strategies, schools are working to ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed in school and in life. But one area in particular that sticks out to me is this notion of “data-driven instruction.”

Education, K-12, Opinion

New Mexico Educators Look to “Move the Needle”

Data-Driven Instruction Relies on Sound Data Practices

School reform from SB-1 and SB-96 have made financial forecasting and scenario planning for schools in New Mexico more important than ever. Regrettably, New Mexico recently ranked 51 out of 50 states and Washington D.C., but the state is “doubling down” to reverse course and improve achievement outcomes.

Meanwhile, lawmakers, the executive branch, the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED), and statewide educators and administrators are working to collaborate on a critical initiative referred to as “Moving the Needle.” This follows a much publicized lawsuit — the Martinez/Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit — following which the PED acknowledged “the Court’s ruling that ‘no education system can be sufficient for the education of all children unless it is founded on the sound principle that every child can learn and succeed[.]’”

According to one recent news article:

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.

If New Mexico is going to be successful at “moving the needle,” it will be critical to measure all of the contributing factors that can impact student achievement — financial and educational alike.

Failing Grades for the Nation’s Report Card?

Educators and school administrators nationwide are still reacting and responding to the release of the “Nation’s Report Card,” issued by the ​​National Assessment of Educational Progress in late 2022. What came to few observers’ surprise was that achievement scores for both mathematics and reading declined significantly during and following the pandemic. Educators are now working hard to reverse those trends and get student outcomes back to pre-pandemic levels.

The good news is that there are concerted efforts like New Mexico’s Move the Needle initiative to counter the learning losses by teachers, administrators, superintendents, assessment professionals and curriculum directors alike. There truly is a “we’re all in this together” spirit that’s noticeable and admirable.

This unified front faces significant obstacles that have also emerged in this same timeframe: a national teacher shortage crisis and an overwhelming amount of work, compliance obligations, reporting duties, and even an avalanche of data to sift through.

Districts are now beginning to discover that less truly can be more — that simplifying and consolidating resources and technology can actually reveal clearer pathways to better educational outcomes, without adding more to our overworked partners in student performance.

What Has Been Done to Address Third-Grade Literacy and Numeracy Rates in New Mexico?

Two of the most often cited metrics for educational progress are third-grade literacy rates and third-grade numeracy (mathematics) rates. Seen as key indicators of future graduation and dropout rates, these proficiency scores are key prognosticators of even distant outcomes, such as incarceration rates and a community’s economic health. When New Mexico officials speak of “moving the needle,” these are two of the most monitored statistics they will consider as success or failure.

Committed to addressing this issue ongoing, educators and administrators in New Mexico have implemented and are focusing on a number of strategies to improve third-grade literacy rates and numeracy, including:

  • Early intervention: Schools are providing early intervention services to students who are struggling with reading and math. These services may include tutoring, small group instruction, or one-on-one support. Munetrix has made early intervention one of our top priorities as a company.
  • Data-driven instruction: Schools are using data to identify students who are struggling and to target their instruction accordingly. This data may come from state tests, progress monitoring assessments, or teacher observations.
  • Differentiated instruction: Schools are working to provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all learners. This means that teachers are tailoring their instruction to the individual needs of each student.
  • Family engagement: Schools are working to engage families in their children’s education. This may include providing parent workshops, sending home newsletters, or holding parent-teacher conferences.
  • Creating a culture of literacy and numeracy in schools. Many public schools in Ohio are making sure that reading and math are valued and that students are given opportunities to practice these skills throughout the day.

By implementing these strategies, schools are working to ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed in school and in life. But one area in particular that sticks out to me is this notion of “data-driven instruction.”

What is Data-Driven Instruction, and How Can it “Move the Needle?”

In short, data-driven instruction involves gathering together a database of information about the students in each classroom, and using that information to improve the quality of teaching in the classroom. The good news is that access to data has exploded in recent years; the bad news is that, while educators are now data-rich, many struggle with being knowledge-poor.

Too often, all of the data educators need to optimize education outcomes live in disparate silos, making it nearly impossible to access, analyze and leverage for the betterment of students. However, when combined, integrated and overlaid, what often results is that invisible becomes…visible.

We frequently use the term “braiding data,” which is an apt representation of the benefit of such an approach. Individual strings of rope in the physical realm are made much more stronger when braided together than are when used separately and alone. Your data is no different. When intertwined, integrated and interdependent, your various systems become much more than a stack — they become a powerful, complete and cohesive system that honors and accounts for all drivers and outcomes of a school’s or district’s ultimate success.

The stronger the rope, the better it will be to pull students forward and move the needle for an entire state.

Contact us to see how your school building or district can harness the power of data to improve literacy, numeracy and other educational outcomes.

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