Ascension Parish Public Schools (APSB) is one of the fastest-growing and highest-performing school districts in the state of Louisiana. Primary goals of APSB include improvement of District Performance Scores by raising LEAP (4th and 8th grades), iLEAP (3,5,6,7, and 9th grades), and GEE (10th and 11th grades) test scores. In support of these goals, APSB hired Unissant to implement a data warehouse enabling faster and broaden access to data that provides administrators and teachers greater insight into internal and external factors affecting test score results.
APSB relies upon pre-defined data structures from multiple off-the-shelf products. APSB captures data in a variety of different databases but has not been able to consistently and efficiently integrate data to achieve an enterprise-wide view. Educational performance information is reported to their district administrator and the state of Louisiana on a monthly basis. This process required 160+ hours organizing data and reporting each month.
APSB had purchased reporting software but had never deployed the product due to the complexities of the tool and limited resources with the necessary skills. Therefore, APSB has been using pre-defined “canned” reports and limited ad-hoc functionality of the off-the-shelf product. With APSBs growth and focus on increased student performance, it was realized that the current process needed an overhaul.
Unissant’s team performed focused requirement gathering sessions in Louisiana, meeting and interviewing all the key business units and IT employees and collecting pre-existing documentation. After analyzing this information, a master implementation plan and architecture for designing the data warehouse was developed. The foundation of the data warehouse included a staging area database in Microsoft SQL Server 2008, and Microsoft SSIS ETL packages to populate the target staging area from a set of Student Information Systems (SIS) and internal APSB data sources. The solution runs performing batch loads on a nightly basis providing the user a freshly updated data set daily.
Next, the data was extracted, transformed, and loaded into a Data Mart specifically used for reporting. A Star Schema data model to support enrollments, absences, disciplines, special education, GPA, ACT, Dibels, and assessment (State & Benchmark) data was designed. Based on those requirements, together with APSB we defined BI tool requirements. Unissant performed a BI tool selection analysis that included an extensive evaluation of five BI tool vendors and their capabilities.
Then Unissant developed a matrix mapping weighted criteria to the BI tool functions which yielded a comprehensive recommendation document favoring the selection of Oracle Business Intelligence (OBIEE). Unissant assisted with the procurement of the software and licensing from Oracle. A new OBIEE application was implemented. The initial deployment included pre-defined dashboards covering student assessment and state tests, course enrollments, attendance, discipline actions, and performance benchmarks. In addition, the application empowered the end user to create their own ad-hoc reports and dashboards across all the subject areas in the data warehouse within a drag and drop interface. The solution interfaces with Blackboard and uses Active Directory for access management.
The solution has improved APSB exposure to performance data and student metrics while reducing data collection by 40+ hours each month. Data loads from the source systems to the warehouse are done in a “lights out” environment and refreshed on a nightly basis. Performance dashboards are updated daily and users are able to drill down to the details from each dashboard in addition to creating their own ad-hoc reports. These results have effectively eliminated the need to re-create reports in Excel each month. Student Disciplinary action reporting efforts have been improved by eliminating 2 hours a day to compile these reports. Instead school staff are able to focus on corrective actions and not the compiling of the report data on a daily basis.
Unissant helped APSB achieve their #1 goal in 2010-2011 to “Implement and refine a Data Warehouse to help administrators and teachers make data driven decisions with more comprehensive data, less effort, and more accuracy.”
Unissant adds new data analysis capabilities on an on-going basis in support of the goal of continually gaining greater insight into key factors affecting test score results.
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