Michael & Susan Dell Foundation Releases Report on Improving Student Achievement in the U.S. Public Education System

- Forward Thinking School Districts Initiating a Data Revolution from the Classroom to the School Board-

AUSTIN, Texas  – The state of the U.S. public education system has been the issue of much debate, particularly when more than 30 percent of 56 million U.S. students drop out before graduating from high school and a persistent achievement gap between students from different economic circumstances and racial and ethnic backgrounds remains. A new report published today by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, entitled “Performance Management in Action,” demonstrates how school districts and charter management organizations are improving student achievement and making significant progress in closing the achievement gap through performance management. Performance management is defined as a leadership culture designed to improve student academic achievement enabled through technology to gather, share and act upon relevant and timely information.

The report outlines the following information:

  • Alarming statistics about the achievement gap between students from various economic circumstances and ethnic backgrounds
  • The concept of performance management – a data-rich, technology-enabled, action-oriented approach to improving student achievement wherein educators are better enabled to make decisions, predict performance levels and graduation rates, change the course of individual students at risk, and better prepare all students for college and beyond
  • Innovative applications of performance management in large urban districts – from a sophisticated data system implemented throughout the New York Department of Education, to a “Freshmen Watch List” employed in the Chicago Public Schools to address low graduation rates and put at-risk freshmen on track to graduate, to the Austin Independent School District’s student data snapshot that serves as an advisory touch point and assessment with each student every six weeks
  • Processes, tools and dashboards administrators and teachers are using to assess student achievement in real time and shorten the cycle of intervention from months or years to weeks and days

The definition of leading indicators like attendance, teacher attrition and performance in certain courses that allow administrators and teachers to predict and triage academic issues before they become insurmountable.

“We’ve all heard the issues, with too many students falling behind in math, science and reading; low graduation rates and the lack of college readiness among some of our most at-risk youth,” said Janet Mountain, executive director of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. “This report outlines how different school districts across the country are using performance management to move from framing problems to solving problems. Performance management is about giving educators continuous access to the information and resources they need to respond to the unique needs of each student, thereby allowing them to guide their students to the college track sooner and more consistently. We hope this report celebrates the successes of these innovative educators and gives other districts across the nation specific insights into the powerful potential of this approach.”

Educators Weigh In: Performance Management is Already Working
Administrators and teachers agree that performance management has given them new insights to help improve student academic achievement. Using a performance management dashboard, a student’s teachers are able to compare his scores and data to other students at his grade level and determine his performance based on metrics such as student participation, academic performance, growth/student progress, academic rigor and college and career readiness.

“We’ve seen firsthand how data empowers us to make better decisions,” said Jim Leibman, Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and former Chief Accountability Officer of the New York City Department of Education. “With more than 1 million students, the amount of student data New York City collects each day is mind boggling. We needed to turn that data into meaningful information principals and teachers could use to improve the outcomes of each one of our students. With our new tools, and intensive training in how to use them, New York City’s performance management culture is now so ingrained that 66,000 (about three-quarters of all) New York teachers have used the system this year alone to access powerful diagnostic data and collaboration tools and accelerate student learning. Since we introduced the new tools, the pace of improvement in student outcomes has increased citywide.”

“While the aggregated data enabled by performance management is invaluable to the administrators in our district, the real power comes into play at the classroom level,” said Vicki McCall, a teacher and student advisor in the Austin Independent School District. “Just three years ago, we had limited access to data on every student. Now that we’ve implemented performance management, we’re able to use our comprehensive progress reports – that include everything from attendance to grades to GPA to current credits – as a conversation starter to engage students in a frank discussion about issues that are impacting their performance at school.”

To download the full report, click here.

About the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (www.msdf.org) is dedicated to improving the lives of children living in urban poverty around the world. With offices in Austin, TX and New Delhi, India, and Cape Town, South Africa, the Dell family foundation funds programs that foster high-quality public education and childhood health, and improve the economic stability of families living in poverty. The foundation has committed more than $600 million to global children’s issues and community initiatives to date. The Foundation has invested more than $100 million in performance management initiatives across the country.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is separate and distinct from the Dell Foundation. In any first reference, please use the ‘Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.’ For second references, ‘the Dell family foundation’ may be used.

i: Committee on Education & Labor. “High School Dropout Crisis Threatens U.S. Economic Growth and Competiveness, Witnesses Tell House Panel,” May 12, 2009.
ii:Source: Upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010, Table 214 http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/