Arlington schools invite data analysts to help reduce dropout rate

Arlington public schools are kicking off a competition Monday that invites data analysts from around the country to help solve one of the most vexing problems in public education: how to keep kids from dropping out.

The school system plans to select up to 10 data teams to analyze a trove of student data to spot previously unnoticed trends that could, if addressed early, improve student outcomes.

In addition to boosting the graduation rate, officials are looking for strategies to increase the number of students who pursue advanced diplomas or who graduate better prepared for college or work.

The winning team will get a $10,000 award funded by the CK-12 Foundation, a California-based organization that produces open-source online textbooks and seeks to increase access to education worldwide.

“This is an exciting venture, and we are eager to integrate the expertise of data experts from around the country to use the ‘big data’ approach to help us personalize student learning and achievement,” Arlington School Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy said.

Tossing out tough problems to number crunchers around the world via online communities such as Kaggle has become an increasingly popular way to invite innovative solutions in the private sector.

In Arlington, the teams selected will be given secure access to 12 years of student-level data, including assessment scores, school attended, courses taken, grades, absences, demographic information and certain outcomes, including dropout information and diploma type.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in Northern Virginia.
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