Articles Tagged with

Local Government Early Warning Indicators

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, Webinars

Watch Webinar Replay: How to Prevent Learning Loss From Going Undetected

The Academic Module: Your Early-Detection Warning System

According to the Nation’s Report Card, “Average scores for age-9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020. This is the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.”

Watch the replay of our webinar to learn how the Academic Module can help in our battle against past and future learning loss.

Imagine a single tool that could not only alleviate burdens of time and workload, but also improve your ability to accelerate academic outcomes and effectively educate and monitor the progress of “the whole student”—academically, emotionally, socially, demographically, and socio-economically—all with a single, easy-to-use interface. This webinar will provide a brief overview of the Munetrix Academic Module, data required, and tips for a successful school year.

Education, K-12, News

Cities & Schools Reach Crisis Point Due to States’ Low Economic Reserves

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Many States Are Unprepared for Next Economic Downturn) caught my attention because it highlighted a key factor adding to the fiscal stress of municipalities and schools.  The article suggested that most states are unprepared for an inevitable economic downturn as they lack the necessary fiscal reserves or rainy-day funds to cushion the next financial blow, and, it’s already having a negative trickle-down effect.

Forced to do more with less since the last recession, cities and schools are continually struggling with reduced revenue sharing from their states while scrambling to meet the demands of unfunded mandates, retiree obligations, an aging infrastructure and even increased student testing. Add this to the anticipated silver tsunami caused by public sector retirements in the next decade, we see a myriad of local governments that are already stretched too thin and have reached a crisis point.

One of the most alarming things noted in the WSJ article was that some states appear to have little sense of urgency and limited tools to address these budgetary shortfalls. Forget crisis point—this dilemma will have far-reaching and long-term consequences for the populations served by those who gloss over the unavoidable hard truth and do nothing about it now.

Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Opinion

At least for now, Michigan closes the chapter on Emergency Financial Managers

By: Bob Kittle and Katrina Powell

The State of Michigan Department of the Treasury sent out a press release on June 27, 2018 announcing that for the first time in 18 years, neither a school district or municipality in Michigan has an emergency manager. You can read the press release in its entirety here, but following is an excerpt.

“LANSING, Mich. – State Treasurer Nick Khouri today announced that no Michigan municipality or school district is under state financial oversight through an emergency manager for the first time in nearly 18 years. The…announcement comes after releasing Highland Park School District from receivership under the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act. Since 2000, there has been an emergency manager providing financial oversight somewhere in Michigan.”

For many years the Emergency Financial Manager (later changed to Emergency Manager or EM) concept was regularly maligned by some constituents, citing it as an overreach of state government at the loss of local control and racially motivated. The term carpetbagger was bandied about as well. One respected national government trade publication headlined a 2012 article, Emergency Financial Managers: Michigan’s Unwelcome Savior. As local government financial advisors ourselves, (Katrina was the State-appointed City Manager for Hamtramck from 2014 to 2017) we, but especially Katrina, have been on the receiving end of some hurtful and untrue verbal attacks about roles and motives.

Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Opinion

Local Government Early Warning Indicators

There is no shortage of articles and white papers addressing the topic of “Local Government Early Warning Indicators.” However, very few offer a concise methodology to address the issue; and most don’t draw any meaningful recommendations to address the dynamics local governments face in today’s new normal.

According to an Alison Wiltshire paper, Developing Early Warning Systems: A Checklist, there are four elements of a people-centered Early Warning System. Why people-centered? Because the average person must be able to grasp the concepts of the message heeded. Mathematicians, researchers and academics are not the ones who will be dealing with a fiscal calamity as it unfolds. The concept of “early” indicates that one would want to understand the issue well in advance in order to act proactively.