Every day, students in K12-powered online classrooms give us millions of data points. Everything from how they communicate with their teachers to their interactions on a discussion board, provides us with bits and pieces of information we can use to build an education system that supports their growth and development. In a digital learning environment, something as unremarkable as a teacher taking attendance can create a slew of informative facts and figures. The volume of information we're working with can feel astronomical—in 18 years, more than one million students have enrolled in K12-powered public schools—creating a treasure trove of important data. That's where my team comes in.
I joined K12 in 2000—right when it was starting—after spending time in a traditional school as a special education teacher and later at an education technology company that built tools for adult learners. K12 married my interest in working in the digital space with building curriculum for younger students. After holding diverse roles in the organization, I now focus on harnessing the power of our data to develop systems that support our students and teachers.
Though online education is growing rapidly, the marketplace for digital classroom tools is still relatively small. One of the reasons I'm proud to work for K12 is that the company is eager to invest in creating innovative systems. Rather than waiting for another company to develop a program, we identify our needs and fill the gaps in the marketplace. To date, we have invested more than $500 million in technologies to support large-scale online educational deployments.
We want to build out functionalities that help our schools manage data and use it to help their students. Doing so takes a team of seasoned experts who dedicate thousands of hours to developing these tools. Our team in composed of experts with a deep understanding of what works in the classroom—more than 70 percent of K12's employees have a background in education.
Sifting Through the Stories: Building Systems that Set Up Students and Teachers for Success
The data we collect tells a story. It's my team's job to figure out what that story is and understand how that story can help us identify where students and teachers need help. We take a holistic approach by looking at both qualitative and quantitative information. This helps us develop programs that do everything from assist teachers in quickly taking attendance to others that ensure students are on track with their graduation requirements.
The abundance of data we collect(1) on a given day is like having an extra set of eyes and ears in the classroom. I look at numbers all day, and one of the most telling pieces of information I've seen in my career is the drop-off of student success from third to fourth grade math. Once fractions and decimals are introduced into lessons, many students struggle with the content and need supplemental support. We took this insight and developed training programs to help students navigate the challenging coursework.
Over the years, we've also learned that students are most successful when they know they're on a path with a purpose—one that will end in success. In late 2017, we launched Grad Plan, a program that helps students map out and track their progress toward meeting state diploma requirements. This added level of support can be critical for students who primarily rely on virtual resources to navigate their education.
At K12, we understand that we need to equip our K12-powered school teachers with the best tools possible in order to ensure success. We're able to harness student data to create a holistic picture for teachers. Our program consolidates these data points into a searchable system that schools can access 24/7. This allows educators to understand where their students are succeeding and where they're struggling and need extra support.
Another way K12 tools can help teachers is by assisting them with taking attendance. K12 developed a system that automatically aggregates the relevant data points to identify if a student is present or absent for the day. This capability gives teachers time back—and, in turn, allows students to receive even more time for instruction.
Bringing Our Tools to Scale
Every year we're integrating thousands of new students into K12-powered schools across the country. When we develop new tools, we're committed to ensuring that all the teachers and students are knowledgeable about how the tools work. During a product rollout, we develop extensive communications plans, host individualized meetings with schools, and carefully review feedback. We also hold regular conversations with teachers, Learning Coaches, students, and families to garner feedback. By doing so, we aim to drive a smooth transition and eliminate barriers to use.
When I look at the systems we're able to develop at K12, I often think back on my time in the classroom and wish that I had had access to such robust tools. Educators at K12-powered schools are able to tap into the plethora of systems and data K12 aggregates in order to create a personalized approach for students. At K12-powered schools, their mission is to meet students where they are. Using data is just one way they're able to do this.
(1) All data is collected in accordance with each state's data privacy laws.