CMSD Moves to Identify At-Risk Youth
The Dispatch

Original post from The Dispatch

By: Sam Luvisi

Columbus Municipal School District will soon have a way to track students for success as young as kindergarten.  
The CMSD Board of Trustees approved a service agreement at its meeting Monday night for BrightBytes, a San Francisco-based education analytics company, which looks to consolidate student profiles across the board and includes an "early warning" system for identifying at-risk youth. The system starts at $21,000 for the first year of use, according to board president Angela Verdell. 
Currently, school data on students, like issues with conduct or dropout rates, are used as individual pieces of evidence, but the new program will allow the district to integrate all of its different data in order to highlight areas of concern -- down to acknowledging risk factors for students at the very youngest of grades, so that they may intervene sooner, according to Verdell. With a team of statisticians, analysts, researchers, thought leaders and practitioners, BrightBytes also looks at different data in the district, and will give recommendations on how the district should invest in technology to influence its outcomes.  
"This package will allow it to be seamless," she said, adding that it should take about eight weeks for the system to be fully integrated with schools across the district.  
The board also reviewed some of such data at the Monday meeting, including that there were more issues of student discipline this year than last.  
"We're up slightly over last year," said CMSD Deputy Superintendent Craig Shannon, of the data which compares 2014 to 2015, with 2015 to 2016.  
Some of the areas with the most tallied infractions include disruptive behavior, disorderly conduct, cutting class and tardies.  
The board also reviewed other standards of student and teacher conduct, including attendance records. 
Student attendance from November to December came to a total of 94.90 percent as a goal for all of the district's sites; the goal is 95 percent, said Shannon.  
"So we still have a little bit of work to do." 
Teacher attendance was also an area of concern, he said. Data shows for some schools, including Columbus High School, Cook Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School, and Columbus Success Academy had teacher attendance below the 90 percent mark in January. 
Asked by board president Verdell what might account for the large number of absences from educators, Shanon said there were a number of reasons. 
"One is maternity leave, which goes into teacher absence," he said, adding the recent flu season also captured many teachers, as well as children.  
However, he said the district is working with district schools to increase staff attendance.  
"We know it has one of the biggest impacts on student achievement," he said, of students having "the most qualified" person available to educate them at all times.