SBR: Painting by numbers: a portrait of KASB data

by Ted Carter, tcarter@kasb.org

Recently, my title was changed from “Research Specialist” to “Chief Data Officer.” This was a change I proposed and was accepted based on an awareness that the nature of my position here at KASB has changed, but more than that, I believe it reflects an awareness that the nature of how we as an organization deal with data is changing.

The “Chief Data Officer” position is not new in the business world, but it is one that is gaining attention as the data assets that organizations have to manage become more and more important.

So, what exactly is a “Chief Data Officer”? According to Wikipedia, a chief data officer (CDO) is “a corporate officer responsible for enterprise wide governance and utilization of information as an asset, via data processing, analysis, data mining, information trading and other means.” Many organizations are realizing data is as valuable an asset as the money managed by a Chief Financial Officer and the communications managed by a Chief Information Officer.

You might be wondering why I am writing this article “tooting my own horn.” Well, I am excited about the title change, but my purpose is actually to talk about the data KASB manages and how important an asset it is for our membership.

KASB is in the process of moving all of our membership data to a new Customer Relations Management (CRM) system, which we will be unveiling somewhere around the beginning of 2019. It is a massive undertaking and many staff here are working hard to ensure the information we have and the structures we use to enter, update, store, retrieve, and utilize it are optimized to best serve our members. In addition to this, we are working with districts to get all of the annual surveys submitted to us, and we are reviewing national data sources for state-level information to compare Kansas with the rest of the U.S. At the heart of all of it is data.
The table and chart below show some of the kinds of data KASB collects and uses and how many individual records we currently have of each. The total count for all the records listed is 1,545,871. That is a lot of data.
And where does KASB get this data? The vast majority comes directly to us from Kansas public school districts. Each district has a data steward and many have data steward assistants designated by the district as the data experts who work with KASB staff to get us the information needed to fill in all these tables.
The data submitted to us by these data stewards and assistants is important for two key purposes. First, districts in Kansas use it to ensure their policies, procedures and dollar amounts are consistent with similar districts. This ensures that our public schools are as consistent, efficient and effective as possible. Second, KASB uses this data to inform the legislature and in our testimony in support of public schools in Kansas. No other organization in the state collects this information and it is used widely for promoting best practices and appropriate funding for all students.
Therefore, just as it is important for KASB to recognize the value of the data we collect and use, it is essential for schools and school districts to do the same. There is a lot of talk these days about channeling money into the classroom and avoiding unnecessary administrative oversight. This sounds good, but it ignores the fact schools need information to help better guide how they deliver the best instruction to Kansas kids.
So, even if your district doesn’t have someone whose official title is chief data officer, it has people who work diligently to collect, store, report and share information vital to the success of your students. Make sure you recognize them and the valuable role they serve.

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