SPSS Case Study of Local School Districts

With shrinking budgets, local governments are forced to do more with less. At the same time, school districts are required to deliver higher quality education. To achieve this goal, school districts are turning to predictive analytics to understand where they should direct the most attention. This is where IBM SPSS comes into play.

Through the use of Predictive Analytics Software, like IBM SPSS, Public Schools around the country are changing the way they teach students. IBM SPSS enables fair comparisons between schools with radically different student populations, ending the historical tendency to treat schools as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based purely on test results. IBM SPSS identifies students who are statistically likely to fail or drop out, allowing teachers to make timely interventions to get them back on track. It measures the effect of remedial actions taken by teachers, so that the system learns which interventions have the most positive effect in any given scenario.

Case Study:
Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS), located in the metro Atlanta area, is the largest school system in Georgia. The school district serves more than 162,000 students in 133 educational facilities, and one in every five Gwinnett County residents is a GCPS student. GCPS has undergone enormous change over the past few decades, transforming from a rural school system to a large urban school system. The district was one of the fastest growing school systems in the US during this time period.

Business need:
To improve student outcomes, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) needed better insight into school performance. In particular, the organization wanted to adjust results to account for economic and demographic disparities among schools, in order to reveal which were truly adding value and which were under-performing. It also wanted the ability to benchmark performance figures against other high-performing large school districts nationally.

Solution:
GCPS deployed IBM SPSS Predictive Analytics software to provide insight into student and school performance, normalized to take into account the negative effects of indicators such as the proportion of economically disadvantaged students at a given school. The solution will provide daily dashboards to teachers, enabling them to see how their students are progressing against normal expectations.

Results:
GCPS relies on IBM SPSS as a key strategic tool for enhancing the quality of policy decisions. It will use SPSS Modeler to try to understand the paths that children take all the way through education. “We are building the ability to understand what path a child is on, and how far they might be straying from a path that is deemed to be successful,” said their superintendent. “SPSS gives us the ability to look for correlations across large sets of performance data, revealing relationships between data that we can then analyze more thoroughly. This is all about using predictive analytics to enable us to intervene in a timely, effective manner.”

The proof is in the Results
“SPSS gives us confidence in our understanding of school performance. It enables us to extract meaningful and actionable information from the raw data, and that is leading to more effective practices for our students’ learning. Another major benefit is that it takes data mining out of the hands of statistics specialists. Perhaps the biggest praise I have for SPSS is that it allowed me as a non-statistician to have great success in a reasonable period of time.”

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