In May 2015, Phyllis Grice, assistant director of technology at Parkland School District in Allentown, Pa., was recognized as a Data All-Star in SunGard K-12 Education’s Lead without Limits Awards Program. From nominations from educators and school administrators from across the country, Grice was selected as the individual who best uses data to positively affect student achievement.
In her role, Grice supports and manages data flow between Parkland’s student-related data systems. In addition, the Parkland data expert—who has completed the Experienced PIMS Administrator Track of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s PIMS certification program—is the district’s Pennsylvania Information Management Systems administrator, overseeing the collection and submission of all templates relating to student information. For the past four years, Grice also has served on the Pennsylvania State Reporting Customer Advisory Council, which offers invaluable feedback to SunGard K-12 Education’s State Reporting Team.
For Grice, these roles offer important insights into the district’s student achievement data. “Having an intimate knowledge of the data in various systems and how it’s related is crucial to maintaining and reporting accurate information across the district,” explains Grice. “Accurate and reliable data enables everyone to make good decisions. Students use the data to find out how they are performing in their classes and what they need to do to prepare themselves for life after graduation. Teachers use the information to determine the best way to provide instruction to each of their students. Data about their children’s performance helps parents provide the necessary support at home. Principals and other administrators use data to know which programs are working, which staff members need more training, and how to best allocate their resources.”
To ensure data integrity, Grice has developed a collection of Cognos reports, Excel spreadsheets, and Access databases that extract, analyze, and consolidate information from various systems. Grice guides Parkland educators and administrators with gleaning insights from the data. “Our technology team has developed documentation and conducted workshops for teachers, principals, and administrative assistants covering the process for entering accurate data into various modules of eSchoolPLUS, such as report cards and gradebook, discipline, medical, scheduling, and registration,” she explains.
To improve data integrity, Grice advises districts to do the following:
- Identify and Support Data Owners. “Learn who owns the data and assist that person or department with ensuring that it is entered and maintained correctly,” she says. “Write reports that show missing or incorrect information and expect that the owners will make the necessary changes. When individuals take ownership of specific data, they are much more likely to keep it accurate and up to date.”
- Develop Proficiency with Reporting and Analysis Tools. “Become proficient in Cognos report writing and learn to use advanced features of Excel and Access, which are important tools for manipulating and analyzing data,” she encourages.