Education, Latest News, Monongalia County

Local school district delves into the data

MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County’s school district has your number.

In January, it inked a partnership with Hanover Research, a data research firm in Arlington, Va., that boils down the numbers — in terms of encapsulated snippets and deep-dives of work life and school life — and then boils them down even more.

Hanover’s clients come from the corner office in the corporate arena, and from the lecture halls and classrooms of higher education and K-12 education.

When Mon’s Board of Education meets again July 27, some of Hanover’s managers and researchers will dial in digitally, to discuss the data in two preliminary studies the firm took on for the district.

“And they’ll have a lot to share,” he said.

The firm did two studies looking at how the district compares with school systems nationwide and how Mon’s students may be faring academically and emotionally come Aug. 24, the first day of school, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said.

The former is nice to know, the superintendent said.

“It will be good to have that benchmark,” he said. “We know where we stand in West Virginia, but we want to know how we compare to everyone else.”

The latter, however, is the study carrying more weight in the pandemic age, Campbell said.

“Now we have a pretty good sense of what we’ll be looking at on that first day.”

Using data to assess school districts is nothing new.

Annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report are required reading for superintendents, principals, teachers and parents across the land.

Then along came COVID-19.

The pandemic, Campbell said, didn’t necessarily change the complexion. It just made it more flushed.

“There was a whole new sense of urgency,” he said.

Which prompted Campbell and his colleagues to reconsider what was already out there, while pondering what districts may not have known about.

“A lot of districts have the data, but they don’t know what to do with it,” he said.

Or, rather, they don’t have the resources.

“We didn’t have the staffing to do those deep dives like Hanover is doing for us,” the superintendent said.

“So you find out what you’re doing right, and the things you’re doing that can be improved upon.”

Much like Mon Schools, other districts are taking that same pandemic-inspired path nationwide.

Last month, 20 school districts and three state education agencies across the country linked up with Washington, D.C.-based International Society for Technology in Education to address their deficiencies in data research and technology in general.

And, like Mon, it was mainly driven by the unprecedented 15 months of the coronavirus.

“The pandemic was that final piece,” Campbell said.

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