BrightBytes® Announces New Product to Widen Focus of Student Support

BrightBytes expands their product offering suite to provide insight into social-emotional health and school climate with Research Partner the American Institutes for Research®

San Francisco, Calif., June 18 2019 - BrightBytes, the leading data analytics solution for education organizations, today, announced the launch of the Whole Child module, a new solution that will shift focus from solely-academic achievement and growth to a holistic view of student and teacher perceptions as they relate to peer social and emotional learning, school climate, and culture.

The new module, available both as a standalone product, or nestled within the organization’s Early Insights suite, addresses a growing need for educators to prioritize the whole child approach to education and better understand and foster the interconnected social, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of learning. This shift to promote and nurture a healthy social and emotional student and overall school climate reaches beyond compliance and state standards, and has potential to transform the foundations of education itself. Dr. Lori Nunez, Chief Special Programs Officer at Alvarado ISD, explains, “Our team is dedicated to providing a balanced approach to teaching and learning that fosters both academic skills and social and emotional well being. By adding the BrightBytes Whole Child module to our toolkit next year, we believe we will be able to build strong relationships with students and enhance their opportunities to grow, both in the classroom and beyond.”

Using data captured via research-based psychometrics, combined with individual SIS information, the BrightBytes Whole Child module analyzes areas including SEL, engagement, safety, and environment, and

provides educators with deep insight into the mindset and social and emotional state across individuals, demographic cohorts, and the district itself. BrightBytes CEO, Traci Burgess shares, “We’ve seen more and more correlational and longitudinal research confirming that when students feel safe, engaged, and socially and emotionally supported within their learning environments, there are positive outcomes for academic achievement, as well as positive downstream impact on areas like school safety and school culture. We’ve created the Whole Child module to provide research-based analytics that help educators better evaluate the holistic needs of students and the overall organization. The module will provide the right insight to situate these needs in the context of culture and social-emotional learning.”

An established standard for BrightBytes, the module was developed in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), an independent, nonpartisan organization that conducts behavioral and social science research across areas of education, health, and workforce productivity. AIR, also a research partner for the BrightBytes Student Success and Intervention modules, believes the work to promote a whole child approach is central to education. “Positive school climate, when combined with intentional instruction that provides opportunities for social, emotional, and academic learning for every student, can contribute to improved individual and school outcomes including equity.” said David Osher, Ph.D., Vice President and Institute Fellow at American Institutes for Research. "Our expanded partnership with BrightBytes will help educators develop and realize a vision for students that encompasses a more holistic approach to learning.”

To date, BrightBytes is impacting students across 42 states, and is used in 1 in 5 schools in the United States.

About BrightBytes: BrightBytes, the leading data analytics solution for education organizations, provides educators with the power to turn big data into big benefits for students. BrightBytes’ decision support platform, Clarity®, analyzes and organizes meaningful data across research-based frameworks to deliver visualized, actionable information that drives student learning.

About AIR: Established in 1946, American Institutes for Research (AIR) is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research on important social issues and delivers technical assistance, both domestically and internationally, in the areas of education, health, and workforce productivity.

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Central Access and BrightBytes Partner to Improve Learning in Mississippi Schools

Central Access empowers Mississippi schools to make informed data-driven decisions by adding deeper analytics to positively impact learning and student well-being across the state.

Ridgeland, MS, May 31, 2019Central Access Corporation: Mississippi K12 Education Software Provider announced an expanded partnership with BrightBytes, Inc., the leading end-to-end learning analytics company in K-12 education. Central Access currently provides software and support for over 130 of 142 school districts, over 320,000 students, in Mississippi.  

Now Central Access will offer schools across Mississippi a new and robust suite of learning analytics solutions and support tools, powered by BrightBytes.

"We are excited to expand our partnership with BrightBytes, one that we trust will allow us to provide even stronger support for our partner districts," said Central Access Executive Vice President and CTO, Alex Manning. "Central Access values innovative resources that empower districts to improve learning and long-term outcomes for students. BrightBytes’ robust learning analytics suite for educators aligns with Central Access’ commitment to helping districts and schools make data-driven decisions that improve student achievement and student well-being.”

“We are thrilled to announce our deeper partnership with Central Access,” says BrightBytes CEO Traci Burgess. “Central Access, like BrightBytes, is a mission-driven organization that is committed to serving students and schools by providing data-driven insights and information to educators. BrightBytes is proud to be selected as an exclusive analytics partner of Central Access. This is a great opportunity to provide, together, an end-to-end solution and seamless implementation that will support educators throughout Mississippi to positively impact student achievement, social-emotional learning, postsecondary readiness for students and schools across Mississippi.”

For more information on the Central Access and BrightBytes partnership or the learning analytics suite available through Central Access and powered by BrightBytes, please contact:

  • Stephanie Lass, Director of Marketing & Customer Relations, Central Access Corporation  
    601.572.3314 (office)
    601.896.5445 (cell)

  • Jann Arnold, Director of Channel Partnerships, BrightBytes


About Central Access: Established in 1954, Central Access began servicing the K-12 education community by providing school supplies, and has evolved into delivering all-encompassing software solutions that cater to the needs of each school district. The organization works hand-in-hand with the Mississippi Department of Education, as well as partners with many other K-12 service providers to ensure access to the best solutions possible for Mississippi districts.

About BrightBytes: BrightBytes is the leading end-to-end data analytics solution focused on educational outcomes. BrightBytes analyzes and organizes meaningful data across research-based frameworks to deliver analytics solutions and supporting tools that are educational, engaging, and actionable.

Media Contact for Central Access
Stephanie Lass
Director of Marketing & Customer Relations, Central Access Corporation  
601.572.3314 (office)
601.896.5445 (cell)

Media Contact for BrightBytes
Jann Arnold, Director of Channel Partnerships, BrightBytes

BrightBytes' Early Insights Suite Honored as Finalist for the EdTech Cool Tool Awards


Congratulations to the innovators, leaders, and trendsetters lighting the way!

Finalists for The EdTech Awards 2019 have been announced to a worldwide audience of educators, technologists, students, parents, and policymakers interested in building a better future for learners and leaders in the education and workforce sectors.

Now in its 9th year, the US-based program is the largest and most competitive recognition program in all of education technology, recognizing the biggest names in edtech – and those who soon will be“Nearly a decade in, The EdTech Awards persists in its salute,” said Victor Rivero, who as Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest, oversees the program. “And nearly a decade in, the people driving edtech forward persist in their passion to improve learning. The EdTech Awards 2019 celebrates edtech’s best and brightest all year long; innovators, leaders, and trendsetters who are shaping the future of learning.”

The EdTech Awards recognizes people in and around education for outstanding contributions in transforming education through technology to enrich the lives of learners everywhere.

Featuring edtech’s best and brightest, the annual program shines a spotlight on cool tools, inspiring leaders and innovative trendsetters across the K-12, Higher Education, and Skills and Workforce sectors.

The EdTech Awards recognize people—and the products they produce and lives they shape— with three main honors:

  • The EdTech Cool Tool Awards

  • The EdTech Leadership Awards, and

  • The EdTech Trendsetter Awards.

This year’s finalists include:


The edtech ecosystem is now more than 15,000 companies strong, with hundreds of thousands of educators using technology to enhance, improve, and transform their everyday work.

The EdTech Awards were established in 2010 to recognize, acknowledge, and celebrate the most exceptional innovators, leaders, and trendsetters in education technology.

More than US$50 Billion has been invested worldwide across the global edtech landscape in just the last several years while global education and training expenditure is set to reach a whopping $10 Trillion by 2030, according to some estimates.

Past winners include Kahoot!, Claned, Soundtrap, Blackboard, ClassLink, Coursera, Discovery Education, DreamBox Learning, Edmodo, Edthena, Flipgrid, Freshgrade, Promethean, Scholastic, Schoology, SMART Technologies, Smithsonian Learning Lab, and zSpace, among others.

This year’s finalists and winners were narrowed from the larger field and judged based on various criteria, including: pedagogical workability, efficacy and results, support, clarity, value and potential.  

Victor Rivero, who as Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest, oversees The EdTech Awards, said: “A very big congratulations to the finalists of The EdTech Awards 2019! In an age of rapid technological change—innovators, leaders, and trendsetters are our greatest treasures. If our age is golden, they’re lighting the way. Nearly a decade in, The EdTech Awards persists in its salute. Featured are the creators and champions of the sufficiently advanced technologies that sometimes wow us, seek to help us, and ultimately move us forward.”  

Further information about The EdTech Awards is available here:

New Ways to Identify Struggling Students

A South Carolina district looks at more data to keep kids on track

By: Tara García Mathewson
Original Post from The Hechinger Repor

Adults in a school generally know the names of the most at-risk students. Those having the hardest time academically or emotionally stand out.

In Richland School District 2 in suburban Columbia, South Carolina, Erin Armstrong says if students are ranked according to risk, the top 10 to 15 names will be familiar. Those students are the ones who appear in the office all the time. They’re getting in trouble.

“The numbers 15 to 30,” Armstrong said, “those are the ones who are falling through the cracks.”

Armstrong, the lead teacher for virtual education in the district, has taken a leading role in developing a new system for making sure all students get the attention they need.

Five years ago, if teachers or administrators wanted to identify the struggling students they might be missing, they would have had to spend hours combing through spreadsheets, piecing together risk profiles. Now, a software program does that automatically, tracking dozens of factors related to student performance, attendance and behavior, and updating risk levels for every student monthly. Importantly, all the adults in the building have access to this information and they can add their own notes about students so that new insights are shared. Every time someone intervenes with a student and tries something to get or keep that child on track, it’s logged.

That’s a big change from how things happened before. Armstrong said the district is full of people who care deeply about serving students at risk of failing or dropping out. But five years ago, everyone was working alone.

“Things were happening in silos,” Armstrong said. “Nobody was talking to anybody.”

The new system breaks down the silos and creates opportunities for conversation that never existed before. It also makes sure any patterns in the data are brought to light. If something like bus discipline seems to correlate strongly with academic performance, bus discipline will be a factor that gets closer attention. That wasn’t the case five years ago, when educators were in the dark about all but the most obvious correlations between behavior and outcomes.

So far, the district uses it in all 20 of its elementary schools, where getting and keeping students on grade level is imperative so that students don’t get held back in third grade. In South Carolina, the state mandates third-grade retention for kids who are behind. This spring, the district’s seven middle schools will have to use the system, too, and next year, the five high schools will follow suit, if they haven’t already.

Armstrong looks forward to the districtwide implementation and its potential to keep even more kids on track. In elementary school, in many ways, it’s easier because class sizes are smaller and kids spend almost their entire day with the same teacher. In middle school, when students start switching classes each period, and in high school, where truancy increases (at least in Richland 2), Armstrong has seen the risks grow. Giving teachers and administrators a tool to keep track of students better will pressure them to use it, she said.

Marjie Rehlander, a school psychologist at Westwood High School in the district, is a member of the original team advocating this comprehensive intervention and risk management system. She finds its ability to find patterns in the district’s own student data to be powerful.

“It broadens our ideas about how to identify students with risk and how to be more prescriptive in our interventions,” Rehlander said.

It also alerts teachers and administrators to problem behaviors sooner than they might have noticed them on their own, which makes a difference when trying to offer a course correction. Rehlander said one student was on track for graduation, but her attendance started to suffer. The software identified her early, but she wasn’t on any staff member’s radar because she was otherwise on track. A simple phone call home, however, unearthed information that made the need for an intervention clear, and school staff could step in and keep her on her path toward graduation.

Rehlander expects the new system to be responsible for many more stories like that in the years to come.

This story about struggling students was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for theHechinger newsletter.

BrightBytes® DataSense™ Platform to Expand Data Integration for Educators as Part of Microsoft Education

Acquisition ensures wider reach and greater support for educators’ data integration needs


San Francisco, CA - February 4, 2019 - Leading education data analytics organization, BrightBytes, today, announced the sale of data integration platform, DataSense, to Microsoft. This will enable the DataSense platform, already the premier integration platform as a service (IPaaS) solution for both education solution providers and U.S. school districts, to improve data interoperability and integration across a global market.

DataSense has proven itself a best-in-class data integration platform, evident not only by multiple Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards, but also by the platform's robust capabilities. DataSense currently integrates secure data for millions of learners across hundreds of districts daily. Central to the fundamental success of the DataSense platform, Microsoft will also be welcoming the BrightBytes data management team to the global education team.

Leaders from both Microsoft and BrightBytes believe that adding DataSense to the Microsoft education product offering was the natural next phase in their ongoing work together. With this announcement, Microsoft can help scale to more people faster. General Manager of Education Strategy and Platforms at Microsoft, Steve Liffick, shares, “In the coming months, we’re excited to begin the process of integrating DataSense technology into our products for schools, providing a single, more secure, Microsoft-based service that will unlock the power of data analytics for schools. As we start this journey of integration, BrightBytes customers using DataSense can rest assured they will not experience any disruption.” In fact, educators can expect the exceptional support BrightBytes provided in the past, but from a larger team, focused entirely on the DataSense product.

BrightBytes’ vision to use data to improve the way the world learns can only be achieved when educators have access to high-quality, communicable data. Efficient, wide-spread data integration lies at the core of BrightBytes’ analytics work, and Microsoft can make this a reality for all schools much more quickly. BrightBytes CEO, Traci Burgess, explains, “We are excited about the global acceleration this sale provides to our mission. Schools around the world will benefit greatly from capabilities across data integration, interoperability, and provisioning."

BrightBytes will continue to grow their analytics organization, which currently provides research-based, predictive analytics across school improvement, digital learning, and student success, via their Clarity® platform, to over 25,000 schools globally. The BrightBytes team will also partner further with Microsoft, turning to the DataSense platform for integration needs.

About BrightBytes: BrightBytes®, the leading data analytics solution for education organizations, provides educators with the power to turn big data into big benefits for students. The organization’s decision-support platform, Clarity®, employs advanced analytics, including machine learning, psychometrics, and predictive analytics to organize and visualize actionable data across research-based frameworks to drive student learning.

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Infinite Campus Selects DataSense™ as Digital Learning Partner

December 18, 2018 – Blaine, Minn. – Infinite Campus, the most trusted name in student information, is excited to announce that the BrightBytes® DataSense platform, a data integration and management solution, is now a Digital Learning Partner. A connection through DataSense integrates Infinite Campus student information system (SIS) with DataSense-supported systems.

DataSense enables supported systems to exchange real-time data with the Infinite Campus SIS, which provides teachers and students a valuable tool: assignment score passback. When teachers using a DataSense-supported learning management system (LMS) update their scores, those will be reflected in their Campus Grade Book.

At this time, the connection through DataSense will support the following systems: Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Classroom, and the Clarity Analytics Platform by BrightBytes.  

Both Infinite Campus and DataSense are IMS Global Certified and meet their OneRoster standard for securely sharing class rosters, assignment data and scores between systems.

“We’re excited to be working with DataSense and offer this powerful integration to customers,” said Charlie Kratsch, Infinite Campus CEO and Founder. “Campus was the first SIS to be OneRoster v1.1 Grading Services API certified, it’s important that we partner with other IMS Global certified vendors.”

“This partnership helps connect teachers with tools they frequently use, which will save them time and reduce errors,” said Dr. Barry Brahier, Chief Product Officer for Teaching and Learning at Infinite Campus. “By integrating with DataSense, we are ensuring that teachers spend more time teaching, which furthers our mission of Transforming K12 Education®.”

With better, faster access to data, educators will have more insight into how to improve learning and replicate best practices. “We want to ensure educators have the opportunity to achieve data interoperability, so they can access and leverage high-quality data to inform learning,” said Traci Burgess, CEO at BrightBytes. “By partnering with Infinite Campus, we are able to expand our DataSense product offering, reach more educators, and have more impact on students.”

Infinite Campus and DataSense will be piloting the integration with select DataSense-supported districts during the spring of 2019 with release to all customer districts planned for 2019-20 school year. DataSense joins 10 other Infinite Campus Digital Learning Partners: eDoctrina, Illuminate Education, itslearning, Kiddom, Kimono, Microsoft, Naiku, Otus, Schoology and Turnitin.

For more information, please visit

About Infinite Campus: As the most trusted name in student information, Infinite Campus manages 7.8 million students in 45 states. For 25 years, Infinite Campus has successfully implemented its solutions for customers of all sizes, from those with fewer than 100 students to those with more than 600,000 students. Infinite Campus customers include school districts, regional consortia, state departments of education and the federal government.

About BrightBytes: From complex integrations to actionable analysis, BrightBytes is the leading end-to-end data solution for education organizations. The BrightBytes platforms efficiently unify education data and combine top research and advanced analytics, delivered across easy-to-understand, intuitive dashboards, so educators can turn big data into big benefits for students.



Unused: Instructional Software's Dark Secret

By: Kipp Bentley
Original Post from Center for Digital Education

A new report shows that almost 98 percent of the software and apps purchased by some school districts are never fully used by students.

A recent report from the Penn Center for Learning Analytics, funded by BrightBytes, a K-12 data and learning analytics company, offers a glimpse into U.S. schools and their students’ use of instructional software and applications. The report’s findings should give pause to any school leader responsible for purchasing instructional applications.

I recommend reading a Hechinger Report article for its overview of the Penn Center work, which included these findings: Of the 48 school districts whose data was used in the analysis, it was found that a median of 97.6 percent of their apps weren’t used to their intended levels, and 70 percent of their districts’ student app licenses weren’t used at all.

I’ve written before about the flawed processes school districts frequently employ to make instructional software purchasing decisions, and I’ve been guilty of leading such selection processes that weren’t based on solid research or adequately inclusive of teacher input. I’ve also fallen short on evaluating usage data once the applications were purchased and implemented. So I’m not too surprised by the report’s findings, and believe they may partially explain why educational technology isn’t paying the dividends in students’ academic growth that many of its champions have hoped for. But there’s more to it than that.

I see four major components that contribute to the Penn Center’s findings on the marked underuse and ineffectiveness of instructional software and applications in schools:

1. Lack of research. Frequently, districts’ software and application purchasing decisions are made without the benefit of unbiased research on the products’ effectiveness. This happens because either good research exists but is overlooked by the districts’ purchasing authorities, or because unbiased research, not funded by the application’s parent company, hasn’t been conducted. Addressing this issue, a new group out of the University of Virginia, The Jefferson Education Exchange (JEX), is working to conduct and promote rigorous educational technology research. Additionally, JEX is committed to including strong teacher input in the JEX review and evaluation processes.

2. Lack of teacher input and investment. Too often, digital resources are purchased by school districts on their teachers’ behalf, but without adequate teacher input. It’s no small feat for districts to get a significant number of teachers meaningfully involved in the software evaluation and selection processes and to also have them field-test the applications in their classrooms with students. But, unfortunately, the alternative solutions may lead to the kind of low-use issues identified in the Penn Center report.

3. Lack of ongoing teacher support. It’s important that teachers’ use of purchased software and applications are well-supported by instructional content-area experts. However, “buy it and they will come” is a common unwritten theme in districts’ software deployment strategies. But this approach is rarely successful, even when good research and teacher input drive the purchasing decisions. Teachers need support — both initially and over time — to determine why and how they should incorporate new digital resources into their instruction. Some especially recalcitrant teachers may also require the encouragement of their supervisors to ensure they get on board.

4. District-wide licensing issues. Buying district-wide or volume licenses is an expensive proposition. Even though school district leaders know the applications won’t get used by all teachers in all schools, they nonetheless go ahead and buy volume licenses. And they do this because the vendor makes bulk license pricing especially attractive, or to ensure all schools get equal treatment, or perhaps because it’s just the easiest thing to do. But going this route, for whatever reason, guarantees many licenses will lie fallow. And considering the 70 percent unused license figure from the Penn Center report, districts must find better ways to allocate their resources, and also pay closer attention to their applications’ usage data.   

The Penn Center’s report reveals some uncomfortable truths for many school districts investing in educational technology applications. But these findings will hopefully prompt districts to hit the “pause” button on further purchases; to reconsider their application selection, implementation and data monitoring procedures; and determine what they must do to improve their practices.


3 lessons from data on how students are actually using educational apps and software at school

Teachers and students aren't using all the pricey software that school budgets buy, researchers say

By: Jill Barshay
Original Post from Hechinger Report

rightBytes Inc. is a for-profit company that sells data analysis to public schools. One of its products monitors which websites students visit and which apps they’re clicking on their tablets. The company’s marketing pitch is that it can tell school administrators what educational software is actually being used, how much they’re spending on it and whether the ed tech they’re buying is boosting student performance — the education sector’s version of “return on investment.”

It’s not perfect. A lot of computer usage isn’t captured, especially at home. Higher test scores could be caused by things other than the online software like great teaching. Despite these drawbacks, the company has an interesting repository of technology usage from roughly 400,000 students, kindergarten through high school, across 26 states. (Yes, even kindergarteners are using apps at school.) The company hired Ryan Baker, director of the Penn Center for Learning Analytics, and another data scientist to mine the data and create a national snapshot of technology use for the 2017-18 school year. A report was released in November 2018.

Baker began by calculating how much each student improved on standardized assessments between the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018 in both math and reading. (In addition to the annual state test each spring, many schools administer additional assessments throughout the year to track progress.) They had enough test score data to analyze roughly 150 of the 2,500 education apps in the marketplace.

Here are the takeaways:

1. Most software is drastically underused by schools

Although some apps are designed to be used daily or for many minutes each week, most aren’t used very often. Even the most intensely used app in the study, Carnegie Learning’s digitalACE, was used fewer than 32 days and for a total of 804 minutes, on average. That’s less than a half hour a week. The vast majority of the apps were used for fewer than seven days during the school year and less than 200 minutes in total.

Another way of expressing underuse is to look at software licenses that schools buy. (Sometimes each student needs a license but often multiple students can share a license.)  Some 70 percent of the licenses schools purchased weren’t used by anyone, Baker found.  Among the licenses that were used, most were used for fewer than 10 hours during the school year.

“Talk to teachers,” said Baker. “Pay attention to what your teachers are actually using. I think there’s a lot of cases where someone in the district thinks it’s a good idea and so they buy it for everybody. And most of the teachers don’t want anything to do with it.”

Baker says teachers are “smart” not to assign software to students if they themselves haven’t received enough training on how to use it well.

For some apps, however, Baker found that more licenses were used than the school purchased. That’s an indication that teachers are independently selecting their own apps and assigning free versions of them to students but the school hasn’t purchased premium access.

Calculating financial waste is tricky. The price of licenses ranged from 14 cents to $367. Schools often buy many of them.  Some of the most expensive ones were purchased by high schools for credit recovery, which gives students a second chance to pass classes that they failed, and to provide Advanced Placement courses that are not offered at a school.

2. More upside potential for math, less in reading

The researchers found a correlation between rising math scores and more time spent on the software but the correlation was tiny. Among the sites or apps showing the strongest correlations between usage and math scores were ALEKS, Wikipedia, LearnZillion, DreamBox, Seesaw and Starfall. However, certain online programs were conspicuously missing from BrightBytes’s list, such as ASSISTments, a free math program that has performed well in randomized-controlled trials.  It’s designed for homework but BrightBytes’s technology for monitoring use primary captured activity at schools.

In reading, a positive association between online activity and learning improvements was less common. Indeed, when the researchers compared reading test score gains across all the apps students used, there was no overall correlation at all. Students were just as likely to post the same reading test score gain regardless of the amount of time they spent learning online. That echoes more rigorous scientific research that has consistently found better outcomes for some math software but not in reading.

It would be a mistake to conclude from this study that online software is producing any test score gains. The kids who are assigned to use software more might be in classrooms with better teachers and it could be the human teachers who are producing the learning gains, not the apps and websites. It’s also possible that the kinds of students who use educational software the most are more motivated learners and would have had higher test scores even without software. A study that compares the test score gains with those of similar kids who didn’t use the software would be more conclusive. This study didn’t do that.

However, correlations like these send out important signals. “The fact that we’re not seeing a lot of correlations is a sign that the systems aren’t being used effectively or they’re not effective,” said Baker. “There are a lot of systems out there that do well in controlled settings, but they don’t do so well in the real world because of issues like teacher training or teachers choosing not to use the system.”

Not all reading apps were useless. Of the more than 100 apps and sites analyzed, some were associated with higher reading scores. Among the top one were Varsity Tutors, LearnZillion, Wikipedia, Brainingcamp, Google Classroom and TED-Ed. In the case of LearnZillion, higher test score gains were associated with both the number of days students logged in and the total time spent on the app.

Sometimes frequency mattered more than minutes. For example, students who visited Varsity Tutors more frequently had higher reading scores. But it didn’t matter how much time they spent on the app, which connects real humans to students via video for 1-to-1 tutoring sessions. With other apps, frequently visiting a site sometimes was associated with lower test scores. But spending a lot of time on a particular topic seemed to be beneficial.

3. Wikipedia pops to the top

Note that the lists of top apps include several free ones. That too confirms other research which has found that cheap can be effective. But it was odd to see Wikipedia listed among the top three apps for both reading and math achievement.  Perhaps it’s a sign that educational software is so ineffective that even an crowd-sourced encyclopedia can do better!

“The second biggest surprise of the whole investigation was how well Wikipedia did,” said Baker. “The word ‘app’ is a misnomer in this case. Wikipedia has a lot of mathematics definitions.”

Students might be looking up terms they don’t understand during a math lecture. Some Wikipedia entries have examples of how to do calculations, such as adding fractions or figuring out the slope of a line. The explanations are extremely sophisticated, quickly heading into college-level math, so it’s likely that the brightest students are best able to take advantage of it.

It’s another example of how technology use at schools might be helping the best and the brightest to surge ahead. That’s good for motivated students, but it could also increase the achievement gap.

Why Teachers Don't Use The Software The District Paid For

By: Patrick Greene
Original Post from Forbes

Ryan Baker (University of Pennsylvania's Center for Learning Analytics) unleashed a small surprise last month with a report indicating that the vast amount of software licenses purchased by school districts are simply never used. There are points on which we might quibble, including the smallish sample size of districts (48) and the very small sample size of data management companies (1). But the results still feel correct, and worthy of discussion. Schools spend a great deal of money on software that is barely used, if at all. Why does that happen?

Thomas Arnett at the Christensen Institute took a stab at explaining all that unused software, using the Institute's Jobs To Be Done Theory. We could call it Perceived Utility or Does This Actually Help Me, but the idea is simple. Teachers have an idea of what their job is, and they will evaluate software based on whether or not it helps do the job.

Arnett's team talked to teachers and uncovered three "jobs" that they believed were relevant:

Job #1: Lead way in improving my school.

Job#2: Find ways to engage and challenge more students.

Job #3: Replace broken instructional model so I can reach each student.

Software rarely helps with the first, can occasionally help with the second and might help with the third, says Arnett. I'm not so sure. It's hard to believe that in 2018, we still have folks who think a computer program will be engaging just because it's a computer program. But students are no more excited about computers than they are about pens.

On top of that, software has a very short interest life. In the last decade of teaching, I repeatedly saw the short lifespan of cool new apps play out with my students. First the new app is discovered, then it's shared, then everybody has to use it every day, then it loses its shine, then we're on to the next one. That process generally plays out in two-to-four weeks.  The odds that software that is engaging in September will still be engaging in May, or even December, are slim-to-none.

Arnett's basic insight is sound; teachers don't use software that isn't useful to them, particularly if the time involved in setting it up, getting it to work and getting students comfortable with it is just too big a chunk of the limited teaching time in the year.

There are other issues that Arnett doesn't look at. A huge factor is time--how much will it take the teacher to learn the program, and how much preparation will the program require for use. There are, for instance, programs that allow for game-like quizzing and questioning, but which require hours of physically entering the questions into the program. A good review idea would be to have students write questions on note cards, and then the teacher can enter all of those questions into the program, requiring an hour or two of prep time. Or the teacher can just use the note cards, requiring zero hours of prep time.

The problem at the root of much unused software is the district's procurement process. The surest way to keep software from being used is to keep the teacher--the actual end user--locked out of the procurement process. When the software is purchased by people who aren't going to use it, it almost always turns out not to be useful. As Arnett notes, "A good sales pitch may get a product through the district office's front door," but it won't get the software used in a classroom.

Note: a quick peekaboo session does not fix this. It takes time and use to determine if software is really useful or not. Having teachers "look this over" for an afternoon, or even for a week, is not good enough.

If your district is going to purchase software, it needs to be software that teachers will actually want to use because it helps them do their jobs. The only people who can make that determination about the software is the teachers themselves. If they aren't involved in the procurement process, and if that doesn't include time for training and use of the software, you are wasting a ton of taxpayer dollars on software licenses that will gather a bunch of cyber-dust.

I spent 39 years as a high school English teacher, looking at how hot new reform policies affect the classroom.

There’s a Reason Why Teachers Don’t Use the Software Provided By Their Districts

By: Thomas Arnett
Original Post from Education Next

Earlier this month, education news outlets buzzed with a frustrating, yet unsurprising, headline: Most educational software licenses go unused in K-12 districts. The source of the headline is a recent reportby Ryan Baker, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Learning Analytics. Baker analyzed data from BrightBytes, a K-12 data management company, on students’ technology usage across 48 districts. That data revealed that a median of 70% of districts’ software licenses never get used, and a median of 97.6% of licenses are never used intensively.

The findings unveil a clear disconnect between district software procurement and classroom practice. To be clear, not all software is high quality, which means teachers may have good reason to not adopt some software products that fail to deliver positive student learning outcomes. But for quality software tools that can yield breakthrough student outcomes, underutilization is a huge missed opportunity.

So when districts license high-quality educational software, why might teachers still choose not to use the software at their disposal? Some of our latest research at the Christensen Institute offers answers to this question.

Understanding teachers’ ‘Jobs’

In September, my colleagues and I released a research paper that explains what motivates teachers to change how they teach. Drawing on the Jobs to be Done Theory, we interviewed teachers to discover the ‘Jobs’ that motivate them to adopt blended learning or other new approaches to instruction.

According to the theory, all people—teachers included—are internally motivated to make changes in their lives that move them toward success or satisfaction within their particular life circumstances. The theory labels these circumstance-based desires as ‘Jobs.’ Just as people ‘hire’ contractors to help them build houses or lawyers to help them build a case, people search for something they can ‘hire’ to help them when ‘Jobs’ arise in their lives.

Through our interviews we found four Jobs that often motivate teachers to adopt new practices. Three of these Jobs seem relevant for explaining why licensed software often goes unused.

Job #1: Help me lead the way in improving my school. Teachers with this Job are eager to demonstrate their value as contributors to broader school improvement. These teachers will be interested in using district-licensed software when it 1) seems like a viable and worthwhile way to improve the school as a whole, 2) seems simple and straightforward to share with their colleagues, and 3) offers them an opportunity to help shape the direction of school improvement efforts.

Job #2: Help me find manageable ways to engage and challenge more of my students.Teachers with this Job are generally confident with how teaching and learning happen in their classrooms. But they have a few students each year who they struggle to reach. They are often open to software as a way to engage those students. But that software must not only be worthwhile for their students, but also practical to incorporate into their current practices and routines.

Job #3: Help me replace a broken instructional model so I can reach each student. Whether from perpetually low test scores, low graduation rates, ongoing student behavior issues, or a general sense that learning lacks joy and passion, teachers with this Job struggle constantly with a sense that they aren’t living up to their responsibilities to their students. For these teachers, software can be a powerful resource for helping them transform their instructional models. But that software needs to offer new approaches to teaching and learning, not just new takes on traditional textbooks and worksheets.

Accounting for the 70% of unused software licenses

We suspect that in many cases, quality software goes unused because it either fails to align with teachers’ Jobs or fumbles at delivering a good solution for meeting their Jobs.

For example, teachers who are looking to lead the way in helping their schools improve (Job 1) likely don’t look first to software as a way to fulfill their Job. Their school improvement instincts typically orient them to look for new instructional programs, not silver bullet software. To meet their Job to be Done, software providers need to start by offering an evidence-based set of practices that will help schools improve on key metrics. Then, once they’ve made the case for new instructional methods, they can discuss how software tools help to facilitate those methods.

As another example, teachers in search of manageable ways to engage and challenge more of their students (Job 2) could find a lot of benefit in the multimedia-rich and game-like aspects of many edtech products. But software platforms that are great for engaging students may yet fail to get used because teachers find them hard to incorporate into daily lessons. Software developers, hardware suppliers, and district technology teams all need to consider things they can do to make it easy for teachers to incorporate software into their lesson plans and then manage devices during class.

As a third example, consider a teacher who is frustrated by a sense that he is failing to meet the needs of most of his students because he feels stuck teaching to the nonexistent middle of his class (Job 3). The right software could be a powerful platform for helping him create individual learning pathways and mastery-based progressions that meet each of his students where they are. But if the software available from his district just supplements whole-class, direct instruction, that software won’t fulfill his Job.

Explaining why 97.6% of software licenses are never used intensively

One significant finding from our research illustrates another potential pitfall for software utilization. When new software licenses come down from the district office without clearly communicated benefits for teachers or pedagogical support, many teachers likely take a quick look and conclude that the software doesn’t fulfill any of the first three Jobs for them. Nevertheless, they feel compelled to use the software, at least occasionally, so as to not set a bad tone with their administrators. They do what they need to do to check the appropriate boxes on their teacher evaluation rubrics, but they don’t actually use the software enough for it to make a difference for them and their students. The new Job that the software creates for them amounts to, “Help me not fall behind on my school’s new initiative.” This insight likely explains why even though 30% of software licenses that get used, only 2.4% are used intensively.

In education, money isn’t easy to come by, which makes it especially frustrating to learn that many districts spend money on software that doesn’t get used. The district staff members who make software licensing decisions surely don’t intend for their purchases to go to waste. But yet, as Baker’s report illustrates, there is a disconnect between software purchases and classroom adoption. A good sales pitch may get a product through the district office’s front door. But only by helping teachers fulfill their Jobs can high-quality educational software make it through the classroom door and into the hands of students. In short, software only gets used in classrooms when it meets a Job to be Done for teachers.

Most Educational Software Licenses Go Unused in K-12 Districts

By: Colin Wood
Original Post from EdScoop

Most educational software licenses purchased by K-12 schools are never used, according to research published this week.

Educational software usage data was collected from 48 school districts and more than 390,000 students by a San Francisco-based data company called BrightBytes and then analyzed by a small team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Learning Analytics. The team, led by Associate Professor Ryan S. Baker, found in results published Thursday that a median of 30 percent of software licenses were used by students, while 97.6 percent of licenses were never used “intensely,” a term used to describe at least ten hours of use between assessments.

Baker told EdScoop his advice for schools is that “if they’re not going to use it, they shouldn’t buy. There’s definite overspending going on.” To avoid waste, he recommended schools first ensure any software purchased is being used, and then ensure that it’s effective.

“Ideally, a school district should be using what they buy and how much is it being beneficial,” Baker said. “Maybe you can’t know that in advance, but you certainly can know that a year later.”

Though Baker’s advice may sound obvious, his research shows that even where software licenses are being used, it unlikely they are being benchmarked. Across 1.8 million licenses examined, virtually no correlation was found between how much an app was used and how effective is was found to be.

Some apps were found to be more effective than others. But the point of engagement in the classroom can be disconnected from those in charge of making purchasing decisions, Baker said, citing his own anecdotal experience as a parent.

“A few years ago I remember talking to the person in charge of procurement at my kid’s school,” Baker said. “I said, ‘Why are you using this app? You know, it’s not very good.’ And the guy brushed me off. And I talked to the teacher who said, ‘Oh yeah, we know it’s not very good, so we don’t use it.'”

Similar disparities between expected usage and actual usage can be seen throughout the study. Many educational apps that are intended to be used for large amounts of time were found to be frequently used by a select number of students, while generalized district usage was “fairly low.”

A few licenses were identified as having high proportions (around 90 percent) of their licenses used, including those from Matific, Active Classroom, Canvas, Big Universe and Education City. More than 96 percent of Elevate licenses were found to have been used intensely, while the next closest intense-usage platform was Canvas, at 78 percent.

Districts that are buying edtech and not using it are wasting money, Baker said. On average, each student was found to have five software licenses, and the median cost of a license is $6.79. Costs for intensive users, the study found, can range from a few cents to more than $5,000.

Baker said there are two easy first steps districts can take to fix this: “Find out if you’re actually using what you’re buying, and find out if what you’re actually using is leading to better results.”

New BrightBytes Report Reveals Troubling Gaps in Ed Tech Usage

Insights from 392,603 students across 48 districts help address the question: “Is this app having a positive impact on student learning?”

San Francisco, CA - November 8, 2018 - Education data management and analytics platform, BrightBytes, today published its second annual Technology and Learning Insights Report which is authored by Dr. Ryan S. Baker, Director of the Penn Center for Learning Analytics, and examines the cost, usage, and impact of education apps, leveraging data captured by the firm’s Learning Outcomes module.

"BrightBytes’ Learning Outcomes module provides our school with critical, real-time data that informs our decisions when allocating resources, including our most precious resource: time. While surveys or staff meetings provide perceptions which may have some value, Learning Outcomes presents the objective reality of how software is actually being used," says Marcus R.W. Mead, Director of Administrative and Instructional Technology at Glen Lake Community Schools in Michigan.

The analysis, which utilized a dataset from 48 school districts serving more than 390,000 students and 1.48 million hours of usage nationwide, measured digital apps across three domains: investment (subscription cost, number of licenses, active/inactive users), engagement (student usage, session duration, frequency, and quality, as well as user perception), and impact (relationship between standardized test scores and student usage).

Key findings from the report include:

  • Usage rates matter, sometimes. Many apps had no association with growth in student learning, regardless of student usage rates. However, several apps were positively associated with gains in student learning. In short, usage of high-quality apps matters to potential app impact on student achievement.

  • Most purchased licenses don’t get used.  The degree to which licenses are used varies by app. The study found that a median of 30% of licenses are used by learners.

  • The number of licenses purchased does not predict the number of intensive users. 97.6% of licenses in this study were never used intensively (a learner who used the program for at least 10 hours between assessments), and the number of licenses purchased did not predict the number of intensive users. This suggests that some apps were more effective at converting licenses purchased into intense usage than others. Important to note that school implementation of apps can vary widely with different intended phasing-in of usage.

  • Many schools aren’t following the recommended “dosage” for apps to contribute to improved student outcomes. Many learners are not meeting the target number of instructional minutes recommended by ed tech app providers. The average usage was fairly low across schools and districts. It is likely that lower than expected usage may lead to less benefit for students than the apps are intended to produce.

  • There is a wide range in app cost per user. The study found there to be large variation in cost; the cost per user varies from under a cent per user to $393 per user (when omitting apps used by under 100 users), with a median cost per user of $6.45. This variance is not a surprise given the range of expected use and impact for each app.

The study uncovered some encouraging trends concerning the correlation between improved student math scores and 21 apps. The study found that these 21 apps, when used intensively, were positively associated with gains in math test performance. While this positive correlation does not mean that these apps were found to have caused the improvement in student math performance, this is an encouraging finding nonetheless.

“School and district leaders are faced with an ever-increasing selection of education apps, and the lack of easily accessible data makes it difficult to invest in the ones that demonstrate the greatest potential for ROL (return on learning) for students,” says Traci Burgess, CEO of BrightBytes. “Through the Learning Outcomes module, we are partnering with districts to provide on-demand access to this kind of analysis to surface insights that can inform strategic decision-making.”

To access additional highlights from the report, please visit the report’s interactive landing page here.


About BrightBytes: From complex integrations to actionable analysis, BrightBytes is the leading end-to-end data solution for education organizations. The BrightBytes platforms efficiently unify education data and combine top research and advanced analytics, delivered across easy-to-understand, intuitive dashboards, so educators can turn big data into big benefits for students.

Media Contact:
Tracy Kleine
P. 415.855.5000

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When Less Is More: Designing for Education’s Data Overload

By: Hisham Anwar
Original Post from EdSurge

A Toronto-based hospital had a problem. Training scenarios in the emergency room had gone poorly because doctors and nurses talked over each other and gave conflicting directions. Treatments were botched. Patient outcomes suffered.

As sometimes happens within large organizations, the instinct of administrators was to engineer a solution from the top down. But, as it turned out, interviews with ER nurses led them to a faster and less costly solution. They learned that despite their best efforts, there was confusion on the ER floor. Lack of clarity about roles had given rise to conflicting directions and lost time. Armed with this insight, team leaders were simply assigned bright orange vests to indicate that they were in charge.

The problem-solving process deployed by the hospital is referred to as design thinking, a process rooted in empathy that starts with listening. In a way that often feels intuitive to educators, design thinking emphasizes the importance of asking questions and understanding the needs of users and their problems before implementing irrelevant solutions. But in an ironic twist, it is a process that often eludes educators when it comes to informing decisions.

The challenge stems, in part, from what is fast becoming data overload for school and district leaders, who struggle to make sense of data that is siloed, messy, and hard to find.

In recent years, districts have spent millions on the integration of disparate data systems. Interventions and assessments have moved to the cloud. Student information systems track and report on a multiplicity of variables. Most districts can now find granular data on a wide range of metrics from school nutrition to student behavioral patterns and beyond—yet the data overload dilutes actionable insights. So, while districts are often awash in data, they are starved for wisdom.

The blame lies, in part, at the feet of education entrepreneurs, whose instincts led them to serve up volumes of data in search of simple solutions to challenges that eluded educators for years. Rather than ask questions or define problems that schools are actually trying to solve, we have expected our users (e.g., teachers and district leaders with little time to spare) to somehow derive meaning from thousands of data points in a way that relates to their day-to-day challenges and opportunities.

It’s as though we expect the mere presence of data to present solutions. When answers fail to materialize, we start off in search of more or better data, rather than clearly defining the question being asked. And in our obsession to get data systems to “talk to each other,” we’ve lost sight of what we’d actually like them to say.

This is a problem mired in the vestiges of an No Child Left Behind-era accountability paradigm that fixated on the results of high-stakes tests, more so than instructional practice; outcomes, rather than early indicators that might suggest eventual results.

But a growing number of school districts are beginning to flip the script. It’s an approach enabled by the introduction of school quality and success indicators under the Every Student Succeeds Act that have more instructional relevance than NCLB-era mandates and mantras. District and school leaders now balance proficiency scores with other metrics such as chronic absenteeism rates or success indicators (like enrollment in advanced or remedial course offerings) that invite a richer reflection upon the components of a holistic education.

They’re starting not with the provisioning of data, but with defining the questions they are trying to answer. In the process, they’re learning that unlocking the potential of data-driven decisions requires not necessarily more data points, but rather a way to present relevant data to different roles in ways that are accessible and communicable.

In Shelby County Schools in Memphis, Tennessee, school leaders are working to ensure that 80 percent of seniors are ready for college or a career by 2025. This requires that the district work to answer essential questions on teachers’ minds: “What are the unique challenges each student in our district experiences, and how can we objectively detect even the most subtle signs of risk before a student becomes disengaged?”

Using a design-thinking approach, Shelby County’s leaders put into place and mobilized a system directly mapped to answering these questions. Through targeted, real-time data on student performance that is easy for end-users to understand, teachers, principals, and administrators in the district are now better able to identify and intervene with necessary supports early and often.

Making sense of data isn’t easy. But districts like Shelby County are leading the way through design thinking by asking the right questions and defining just what problems they are facing. By letting data inform the answers within those parameters, they are designing impactful solutions that can better serve their students.

School District Issuing Surveys to Complete Picture about Home, Classroom Technology Use

By: Brad Fuqua
Original Post from Philomath Express

The Philomath School District plans to issue surveys to teachers, students and parents from Oct. 10-24 to try to create a complete picture of technology use for learning both in the classroom and at home.

Rob Singleton, the district’s director of instructional technology, said the surveys will be for teachers, students and parents in grades 3-12. The school district will analyze the results to provide targeted services, programs and professional development based on identified needs.

“We need to be able to prepare our students with 21st-century skills that can prepare them for college, training or work because that’s what the future is,” Singleton said. “We need to be able to be more strategic about how we go about that. By that, I mean we need to know where our strengths are and where the gaps are in both our teachers’ understanding and our students’ understanding of where their skills are — not just want they think they know but what they really need to know to be proficient and savvy and safe with all of these tools that we can provide and we use and what they might use.”

The district is conducting the surveys through BrightBytes Technology and Learning, a company that specializes in gathering targeted information through the use of what it identifies as its CASE framework. CASE is an acronym for four areas of evaluation — classroom, access, skills and environment.

Singleton estimated that the survey will take parents five to seven minutes to complete.

“We’re trying to get an idea of what kind of access they have to the internet,” he said. “We think that we might know that all of our kids carry around this little mini computer (cellphone) but that may not be the case and we might be sending digital homework and expecting all of our students to be able to do it through online access or even interfacing with their teacher online … Some of them may not be able to do so; we really don’t have a sense, we haven’t measured that in the community.”

The parent component of the three-pronged survey will serve an important purpose.

“We really want our parents to be part of the solution that we’re trying to come up with and be able to give us feedback about internet usage, access to a device, all of the things that they might need to have access to be successful,” Singleton said.

The teaching component is a big part of the information-gathering effort as Singleton and instructional support staff Jennifer Kessel learn about what they need to focus on to help support educators.

“It’s not like we’re putting a computer down and walking way — not that they did that before, but Jennifer and I throughout this year are going to be meeting with teachers about what are your goals for this lesson and what kind of support can we provide you in the classroom as you try a new technology tool for your kids that might enhance the learning that goes on?” Singleton said. “It doesn’t replace good teaching and the lessons and all of that, but it can add more differentiation so some students will be working at different paces with different content and we want to be in the classroom and supporting those teachers as they’re trying new things with technology.”

Singleton said the surveys all tie into three pillars that the district is focused on — RTI (Response to Intervention), AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination) and social-emotional learning.

Shelby County Schools Partners with BrightBytes® to Employ End-to-End Data Solution and Leverage Research-Based Predictive Analytics to Create Positive Student Trajectories

Tennessee’s Largest District will utilize BrightBytes’ DataSense™ integration platform to provision data and employ the Clarity® platform to evaluate student data across research-based frameworks, empowering educators to change student trajectories and inform teaching and learning  

Memphis -- October 2, 2018 -- Shelby County Schools (SCS) and BrightBytes, an education data solution organization, today, announced a three-year partnership to support the District’s efforts to leverage data to prepare all students for success in learning, leadership, and life. The partnership brings together the industry’s only end-to-end data management through analytics solution, and a large District with a vision to provide educators with high-quality actionable data to inform student learning and drive educator’s instructional and support decisions.  

The largest District in Tennessee, Shelby County Schools stands out for its commitment to improving the quality of public education for over 100,000 students. In 2015, the District launched their extensive Destination 2025 plan with ambitious goals to have 80% of seniors on track to learn in a postsecondary classroom or enter the workforce straight out of high school; 90% of students earn their high school diploma on time; and every student enroll in a postsecondary opportunity college or career-ready by 2025. In Spring 2018, SCS leaders looked to BrightBytes to provide a data-driven approach to ensure that all efforts and resources support the goals outlined in Destination 2025.

Shelby County Schools will employ the full BrightBytes product suite. The comprehensive adoption includes the organization’s data integration platform, DataSense, an IPaaS solution that will capture, clean, and translate all siloed, incommunicable data and house it within a secure centralized location for bidirectional flows for reporting and analysis. Chris Graves, the District’s Senior Manager for Decision Analytics and Information Management, believes that by providing accessible data in a single location, educators will be able to solve a number of previous data challenges, brought on by the number and complexity of the systems within the District. In the past, educators had to rely on data from multiple, disparate sources, and spent vast amounts of time compiling information rather than focusing on student learning. Centralized high-quality data will help educators track student data easily and ensure each student is on a continued path toward success. “The reason we’re attempting to integrate our data, make it easy for end-users to understand, and providing support on continuous improvement processes is so that every educator in our system is better meeting the needs of our students. Our hope is that by making these investments, our students are much more ready to compete for jobs and much better prepared to be active citizens in our republic,” said Bradley Leon, Shelby County Schools Chief of Strategy and Performance Management.

The District also has adopted the BrightBytes Clarity data analytics platform to translate complex data into fast actions that improve student learning. The widespread buy-in of both the BrightBytes’ 21st Century Learning suite and the Early Insights suite will allow educators to leverage advanced data analytics, such as predictive analytics, machine learning, and psychometrics, to support work around specific areas, like ensuring students graduate on time and are prepared for the rigors of postsecondary environments, and to inform technology initiatives that drive student learning safely. This analysis is delivered across easy-to-understand visualizations and intuitive dashboards so educators can take a proactive approach to creating a positive student trajectory. “This new platform will provide real-time data on the performance of our students allowing teachers, principals, and administrators to be more prescriptive at identifying the necessary supports. This will correlate directly to increased student achievement of every scholar in our care at SCS. This type of knowledge is a game changer for our entire community as we produce successful and responsible citizens to help Shelby County thrive in the future,” said Brian Stockton, Shelby County Schools Chief of Staff.  

Over the last several weeks, BrightBytes and SCS have been collaborating during training sessions, engagement activities, and professional learning opportunities to ensure implementation is seamless for the upcoming school year. The engagement approach is very interactive, and focuses on going into each school, and providing guidance to teachers and administrators to ensure they have critical information at their fingertips. To date, the training teams have delivered nearly 60 sessions to approximately 2,000 school personnel over the course of July and August, with many more scheduled in the coming months. Traci Burgess, CEO of BrightBytes, said, “It’s inspiring to see a district as large and diverse as Shelby County Schools have so much buy in across the entire organization, especially for such a wide product offering. We believe that by collaboratively addressing everything from data integration to analytics, SCS will be able to successfully use data to drive learning and leverage quantifiable metrics to support initiatives for improved student outcomes. The District is setting an incredible example for other large districts to follow.”


About Shelby County Schools: Shelby County Schools (SCS) is the largest district in Tennessee and one of the 25 largest public school systems in America. We serve over 100,000 students across 160+ schools and are the second largest employer in the Memphis area with nearly 12,000 employees. We are committed to improving the quality of public education in our community and equipping our students to succeed in college and careers. By 2025, 80 percent of seniors will be on track to learn in a postsecondary classroom or enter the workforce straight out of high school; 90 percent of students will earn their high school diploma on time; and every student will enroll in a postsecondary opportunity college or career-ready.

About BrightBytes: BrightBytes, the leading end-to-end data management solution for education organizations, provides educators with the power to turn big data into big benefits for students. With the data integration platform, DataSense,™ BrightBytes enables educators to cleanse, integrate, and bi-directionally manage complex data from multiple systems. The decision support platform, Clarity®, then analyzes and organizes meaningful data across research-based frameworks to deliver visualized, actionable information that drives student learning.

Media Contact:

Please send media inquiries for Shelby County Schools to
Please send media inquiries for BrightBytes to Candace Lopes,

Interoperability Challenge Solved: How Lawrence Public Schools Improved LMS Adoption by 48%

Original Post from Tech & Learning

Many different school districts have the same data challenge. They have data, but it can’t be shared across systems. Educators are often dissatisfied with data management as it requires data to be input multiple times across both the SIS and LMS. For busy teachers this is inefficient and time consuming.

Lawrence (KS) Public Schools had this exact situation. Faculty and staff were frustrated by the inaccessibility and usability of the data to impact student learning. Initially, district leaders turned to their technology team to build an inhouse data integration platform that could connect their LMS to their SIS. After a year of effort, the task force wasn’t able to arrive at a solution.

Their LMS provider recommended the DataSense solution from BrightBytes and within days, the SIS and the gradebook were connected. Integration was seamless and data immediately started moving and updating in real time.

When teachers discovered that they only had to enter data once, LMS usage across the district increased by 48%. DataSense was able to track student movement in classrooms through nightly updates, making changes available to teachers each morning. As adoption rates improved, the district’s culture improved as well. Educators were happy to focus on teaching rather than manual data entry.

Dr. Terry McEwen, director of assessment, research, and accountability for Lawrence Public Schools, said that DataSense, solved multiple data management problems. “It’s more thatn a full-time job to complete the work that DataSense does,” he said. “So, it’s both a time-saver and a money-saver for us.”

In fact, DataSense has been so successful in changing data practices that district leaders have audited other data programs to identify additional areas where DataSense could improve efficiency and provide insights for instruction and student learning.

As they look to the future, district leaders hope to add additional systems onto the DataSense platform so they can decrease human interactions with data and minimize the potential for human error.

Watch this video to see the power of data interoperability in Lawrence (KS) Public Schools or read the case study here.

New Software Aims to Track Struggling SCS Students, Identify What Helps

By: Jennifer Pignolet
Original Post from The Memphis Commercial Appeal

As an assistant principal, Velvet Jeter knows the students who are struggling the most at Brownsville Road Elementary. 

The ones who are at a moderate risk of falling behind or developing disruptive behavioral issues, however, sometimes go unnoticed until there are major problems requiring time-consuming and expensive interventions.

A new software system Shelby County Schools is deploying throughout the district this fall aims to identify those students, and for all students receiving an intervention, identify what does and does not help them. 

Often, Jeter said, "we feel like we're giving them the right prescription, but we're not."

"I think it helps you know exactly what is in your building," she said. 

The SCS board approved a contract for nearly $2 million this spring with an education technology company called BrightBytes to implement the new data system for the next three school years. 

School leaders spent this week learning to use the software to identify children who may be at risk for dropping out of school or experiencing other academic delays. 

Chris Graves, the district's senior manager for decision analytics and information management, said the software combines data that teachers already report across the district and pulls it into one place, accessible to the leader of any school. 

In a high-poverty district like SCS, where students frequently change schools, the program allows a teacher to quickly learn about a new student, Graves said.

And instead of just seeing report cards and discipline records, the system rolls together additional data like how often that student was absent or tardy and how they performed on state tests to determine if they are at a low or high risk for falling behind. 

The program uses historical data from across SCS to compare current students' progress with those who have graduated and were considered ready for college.

Too often, Graves said, data across large school districts and even in school buildings is reviewed in silos, and the "whole child" is not considered. 

The system also tracks what interventions have been tried with each student. A child who has failing grades, for example, may struggle most in early classes because of issues with transportation.

The new system would identify that issue and explain what has been done in the past to try to mitigate the problem. 

The question the system ultimately tries to answer, he said, is "What is the support they need to be on track for graduation, to be ready for college?" 

The district has ambitious goals through Destination 2025 to have 80 percent of seniors ready for college or a career, a 90 percent graduation rate, and 100 percent of students who are ready for college or a career enrolled in a post-secondary opportunity. 

The new data system, Graves said, will help the district understand what works and does not work to reach those goals, and can identify common problems or issues that many students face.

For Craigmont High Principal Tisha Durrah, the program is a chance to be proactive about interventions, whether a student needs tutoring, behavioral coaching, emotional support, or weekly reminders about the importance of arriving to school on time. 

On Wednesday, during a training session at Bolton High, she was able to look up the students who will be walking into her building in three weeks. She was already planning how to address her students' needs.

"We can start looking at having parent meetings on the front end," Durrah said.

Second Year of School Financial Information Available on Website

By: Callie Jones, Journal-Advocate News Editor
Original Post from The Journal-Advocate News

Spending of schools and districts featured on easy-to-understand financial transparency web portal

A second full year of financial information is now available on the Financial Transparency for Colorado Schools Website that presents school and district financial information in an easy-to-understand format.

The web portal was launched last year populated with financial data from the 2015-16 school year, the latest available. Now, information has been added from the 2016-17 school year.

Data for RE-1 Valley School District shows the district spent $9,082 per student in 2016-17, slightly below the state average of $10,196 and down from $9,396 in 2015-16. Total spending was $32,475,822, while total funding was at $31,436,583.

Buffalo RE-4J (Merino) School District spent $11,543 per student in 2016-17, its total spending for the year was $3,684,531 and total funding was $3,846,183; Frenchman RE-3 (Fleming) spent $13,130 per student, its total spending was $2,709,095 and total funding was $2,794,981; and Plateau RE-5 (Peetz), spent $18,319 per student, its total spending was $3,117,260 and its total funding was $3,072,908.

The website,, was created in response to legislation that required the state to present financial information for every school district, BOCES and most schools in Colorado. Lawmakers sought a way to provide the public with a deeper understanding of how education dollars are spent in schools, districts and BOCES.

In 2010, House Bill 1036 required districts to post financial information online, including budgets, financial audits, check registers and credit card statements. In 2014, the legislature enhanced that legislation with House Bill 1292 that required each district and BOCES to post financial data so it can be displayed in an easy-to-understand way.

The Colorado Department of Education partnered with BrightBytes®, a San Francisco education analytics firm, to build the website.

In 2017, every district and BOCES in Colorado provided their own data to populate the site. Districts identified as small/rural with fewer than 1,000 students and that had no charter schools were required to post district-level financial information only.

The data is presented in two domains, spending and funding:

• The spending domains show investments classified by three key categories: learning, operations and construction - making it easy to understand how dollars are being allocated.

• The funding domains enable visitors to see funding by local, state and federal sources.

Visitors to the site can compare information at the school-, district- or BOCES-level through a side-by-side view of up to four schools or education organizations at a time. Since its launch on June 30, 2017, the website has garnered 93,818 page visits from a total of 11,656 visitors.

BrightBytes Named ISTE 2018 Best of Show Winner for Two Solutions

T & L Announces ISTE Best of Show Winners

For the fifth year, Tech & Learning is presenting its prestigious awards program that honors great products at ISTE 2018. The products below were selected by an anonymous panel of educator judges, who scoured the exhibit hall floor during the conference in Chicago.

The judges rated their impressions on a sliding scale, evaluating areas such as quality and effectiveness, ease of use and creative use of technology. They then met in person to decide which technologies will have the most impact in the classroom and deserved to be named Best of Show.

"Once again, the ISTE show floor was inundated with edtech—from the latest in makerspace gear to sophisticated upgrades of district-wide enterprise assessment software,” said Tech & Learning’s Managing Director of Content, Kevin Hogan. “And once again, our expert panel of judges kicked the tires. It's a yeoman's task and the winner's should know that the honors are legitimate."

BrightBytes' Early Insights suite and Learning Outcomes module were among the winners, and will be featured in the August issue of Tech & Learning. 

See the full list of winners here!


BrightBytes Recognized as Finalist for 2018 Microsoft Education Partner of the Year Award

BrightBytes Recognized as Finalist for 2018 Microsoft Education Partner of the Year Award

San Francisco, Calif. June 11, 2018 BrightBytes, today, announced it has been named a finalist in the 2018 Microsoft Education Partner of the Year Award. The company was honored among a global field of top Microsoft partners for demonstrating excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology.  

“We are honored to be recognized as finalists for the Microsoft Education Partner of the Year Award. The BrightBytes DataSense integration platform provides an easy way for school systems to unify and utilize all purposeful data among software applications. With DataSense driving Azure Consumption, our aligned efforts drive a powerful solution that embeds our K-12 education expertise into Microsoft technologies, and creates innovative solutions that significantly impact the successful outcomes for students. For more than three years, Microsoft has been instrumental in many of our largest co-sell opportunities, and we look forward to continuing to work together to deliver effective solutions to improve the way the world learns.” Said Traci Burgess, CEO of BrightBytes.

Awards were presented in several categories, with winners chosen from a set of more than 2,600 entrants from 115 countries worldwide. BrightBytes was recognized for providing outstanding solutions and services in Education.

“Our ecosystem of partners is crucial to delivering transformative solutions, and this year’s winners have proven to be some of the finest among their peers,” said Gavriella Schuster corporate vice president, One Commercial Partner, Microsoft Corp. “We are pleased to recognize BrightBytes for being selected as Finalist of the 2018 Microsoft  Education Partner of the Year award.”

The Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards recognize Microsoft partners that have developed and delivered exceptional Microsoft-based solutions during the past year.

About BrightBytes: BrightBytes®, the leading end-to-end data management through analytics  solution for education organizations, provides educators with the power to turn big data into big benefits for students. With the data integration platform, DataSense™, BrightBytes enables educators to cleanse, integrate, and bi-directionally manage complex data from multiple systems. The decision support platform, Clarity®, then employs advanced analytics, including machine learning, psychometrics, and predictive analytics to organize and visualize actionable data across research-based frameworks to drive student learning.

For additional information:
BrightBytes Communications Contact: Adam Davy, 720.341.3938,
Learn more about winners and finalists: