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Case Study – The Quad Cities: Making Shared Data a Reality

November 4, 2015 All Articles, Nonprofits, Nonprofits and Communities, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

We are pleased to announce the release of our new case study, The Quad Cities: Making Shared Data a Reality. At nFocus Solutions, we are proud to have worked with the United Way of the Quad Cities Area over the last two years to implement and deploy our Community Solutions Data Warehouse product. However, the relationship- and foundation-building began long before they selected us as their software vendor.

In this case study we highlight the incredible work the United Way and their school and community partners have been doing since 2009 to combat poverty and improve educational outcomes for young people in the Quad Cities. In the words of Scott Crane, President of the United Way of the Quad Cities Area:

“We started small, and the progress was slow — always too slow. But working steadily, building trust, and truly listening to our partners’ concerns, we soon found that we had created a system with data-analysis capabilities far beyond what we’d originally set out to do.”

Below, we share an excerpt from the paper, giving an overview of the case study and an introduction to the Quad Cities context. We invite community leaders, superintendents, and other stakeholders who are considering or have begun creating a shared measurement system for collective impact to download, read, and share the entire case study right here.

Overview

As part of the growing movement to take a “collective impact” approach to improving the lives of young people, the Quad Cities region in Illinois and Iowa has managed to make progress on one of the most important – and arguably most difficult – elements of the framework: creating a shared measurement system. This case study provides an in-depth, narrative look at how they did it.

Often, the challenges to creating shared data systems are thought to be primarily technical. However, as can be seen in the experience of the Quad Cities, it is the relational and strategic work done by community leaders on the ground that lays the foundation for the future success (or failure) of any technological solutions to data-sharing.

In this case study, we organize our description of the work done by the Quad Cities partners into five “phases:”

  1. Convening the partners
  2. Defining shared metrics
  3. Creating a data-sharing plan
  4. Identifying and implementing a data-sharing platform, and
  5. Analyzing and reporting the data.

While these phases are, in reality, overlapping and iterative, they represent a general progression of work that communities considering building shared measurement systems may wish to use as a guide. Recognizing, however, that each community’s experience is unique, we conclude the case study not with prescriptive “best practices,” but rather with guiding questions for readers to discuss with their own community partners.

Introduction

In 2009, a group of school and community leaders in the Quad Cities began having general discussions about how to work together to improve the region’s high school graduation rate. They knew they had a problem in common, but they were unsure what the collective solution might be.

Today, they are operating a shared data system – built on nFocus Solutions’ Community Solutions Data Warehouse – to collect standardized data on the kindergarten readiness, third grade reading, middle school attendance, high school credit accrual, and high school graduation rate of over 40,000 students in eight different school districts, located in two different states. Combining three years of historical data on these measures with current-year updates, these data provide indicators of academic performance over the pre-K-12 educational life span.

With these data, and supported by a research partnership with a local institution of higher education, St. Ambrose University, the Quad Cities effort seeks to explore questions that:

  • describe the current educational experiences of children in the Quad Cities area (e.g., “What is the level of kindergarten readiness for our kids as a whole, and does it differ between subgroups?”
  • predict relationships between indicators at different educational stages (e.g., “Does middle school attendance predict high school credit accrual? What factors are associated with variations in the ability to complete high school?”), and
  • test the impact of interventions designed to improve educational outcomes (e.g., “Do students who participate in particular community-based activities have higher graduation rates than students who participate in others?”)

Answering these questions with local data allows the Quad Cities effort not only to examine the effects of their collective efforts, but also to tailor interventions to specific sub-groups more effectively, based on both local data and existing educational research.

To download, read, and share the entire case study, The Quad Cities: Making Shared Data a Reality, please go to: http://www.nfocus.com/downloads/the-quad-cities-making-shared-data-a-reality/.

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