Published on 25-Mar-2011
"Now we can instantly pull reports when we have a meeting with partners to show them exactly where their students are with their test scores without going through the hassle of trying to gather data and build a report. We have specific pre-built reports to handle ad hoc requests from management and schools." - Diana Wilhold, Director, BJC School Outreach and Youth Development
Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Smarter Analytics
The list of risky behaviors among young people is long, well known and, if not successfully addressed, has troubling ramifications for our collective health and well-being. But shaping effective prevention programs for this hard-to-reach group is one of the hardest challenges facing schools. That’s why many turn to professional health educators at local healthcare organizations to help address the most pressing health risks for young people.
BJC School Outreach and Youth Development wanted to provide schools with meaningful intelligence about the effectiveness of its health curriculum, but was hampered by antiquated, in-house data analysis and reporting tools.
BJC School Outreach and Youth Development replaced its patchwork of spreadsheets with IBM SPSS Statistics, enabling the department to create detailed and flexible reports based on tens of thousands of student assessments a year.
• Aided compliance with national and the CDC goals on upholding standards for school-based health prevention education • Provided greater value to the schools by offering verifiable data on what works with their particular student population • Eliminated tedious, time-consuming data entry, enabling staff to focus on higher-level program planning and delivery • Replaced guesswork about the effectiveness of its programs among students with real information on changes in knowledge and behavior • Strengthened the agency’s ties with the community and offered a showcase for its outreach programs
The list of risky behaviors among young people is long, well known and, if not successfully addressed, has troubling ramifications for our collective health and well-being. Among the findings of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey among high school youth: 41.8 percent drink alcohol; 46 percent have tried tobacco while 20 percent are daily users; 20 percent have been bullied in the last year; and 23 percent do not participate in physical activity for more than an hour a day.
But shaping effective prevention programs for this hard-to-reach group is one of the hardest challenges facing schools. That’s why many turn to professional health educators at local healthcare organizations to help address the most pressing health risks for young people. Educators at St. Louis-based BJC School Outreach and Youth Development, for example, have been teaming with area schools to deliver information-packed health education programs for kids.
To ensure the courses stay on target, the organization tracks student progress through regular assessments – and it uses IBM SPSS Statistics to help interpret and communicate the results. The reports generated by the solution have enabled BJC School Outreach and Youth Development to refine its health education programs for maximum effectiveness, giving it an edge in working with schools.
Reaching 80,000 kids
A unit of BJC HealthCare, BJC School Outreach and Youth Development is dedicated to creating effective risk prevention programs for a mix of public, private, and parochial schools in Missouri and Illinois. Each year, the organization’s 15-member team of health educators presents grade appropriate programs to some 80,000 K–12 students in 300 schools.
“Our purpose – the whole design of our department – is based on developing and creating health education prevention programs that are brought directly into school and can be integrated according to the schools’ academic guidelines,” says Diana Wilhold, director, BJC School Outreach and Youth Development. “Everything we develop is based around the core competency areas that young people need to understand and learn from a health standard.”
Making it meaningful
BJC School Outreach and Youth Development programs are designed around the CDC’s six highest-risk behaviors among youth: fitness, nutrition, substance abuse, tobacco, safety-intentional or unintentional injuries, and sexual behaviors. The organization excels in its educational outreach by striving to make a real difference in the lives of students. “We really want it to be meaningful and informative for the kids – for them to learn something,” Wilhold says.
To make sure its programs are in fact meaningful, BJC conducts assessments before and after each four-, six- or eight-week class and tracks the progress students make – in terms of their knowledge of health issues as well as their behavior. Given to 7,000 students a year, the assessments employ a mix of knowledge-based and behavioral questions. Students also fill out a course evaluation that gives the organization feedback on their perception of course content and instructor performance.
According to BJC health educators, the assessments replace guesswork about changing student knowledge and behavior with hard numbers. Until 2007, however, educators were hampered in their ability to analyze these changes with any degree of specificity. An in-house solution that relied on spreadsheets proved limited and cumbersome: data needed to be entered and sorted by hand and reports were limited to broad-brush findings for a single class.
IBM SPSS predictive analytics changed all that, enabling BJC School Outreach and Youth Development to compile, sort and analyze thousands of assessment forms with relative ease. “I’m able to focus more on what the data is telling us rather than directing my energy at making sure the reports are accurate,” Wilhold says. “Automated statistical analysis and tools take a lot of the headache out of data manipulation, building tables, and showing relevant graphics.”
Moreover, IBM SPSS delivers valuable insights into the lives of students. “We can look at trends in the students’ comprehension of health risks and track whether our programs are improving behavior,” she says. For example, the analyses can monitor changes in students’ understanding of what kinds of beverages are healthy, and whether more students are actually making the right choice for lunch.
BJC packages the insights into colorful, graphics-rich reports, helping schools chart student progress and formulate initiatives for curbing risky behavior. Results from the assessments and course evaluations also alert BJC to potential problem areas – a test question that needs to be re-worded for clarity, perhaps, or a teacher that is struggling with certain classes.
The new analytical and reporting platform also improves BJC’s consultations with school administrators. “We can instantly pull reports when we have a meeting with partners to show them exactly where their students are with their test scores without going through the hassle of trying to gather data and build a report,” Wilhold says. “We have specific pre-built reports to handle ad hoc requests from management and our school clients.”
Filling in the blanks
Some of the questions in the assessments ask students to evaluate courses by filling in the blank with their own words. In the past, administrators simply didn’t have the tools to efficiently interpret these open-ended text responses; but with IBM SPSS Text Analytics they can quickly organize feedback and glean insights into student preferences.
The analysis lets the department quickly distill hundreds of text responses and build a representative profile of what students are thinking about course content and teaching techniques. “We have a solid view now of what the kids say they like and don’t like about our program,” says Jason Vander Weele, a school coordinator with BJC who creates many of the organization’s assessment reports. “The insights help us adapt our programs to what students really enjoy.”
Text analytics also helped Vander Weele interpret thousands of open-ended responses to a recent tobacco-cessation survey of BJC HealthCare employees, many of whom typed in the term “cold turkey” to describe their quitting method. Capturing that response using text analytics was a key to building a complete picture of employee behavior, and that term will now be factored into future surveys.
Administrators say that better assessments are helping BJC School Outreach and Youth Development improve the effectiveness of its healthcare curriculum. Among the successes, Vander Weele cites BJC’s 2009–10 alcohol and drug use educational program: “About 1,600 students took the pre- and post-test, and the mean was about 45 percent correct answers in the pre-test and 82 percent correct in the post-test,” he says. “That’s not guesswork, that’s good data that shows what we’re doing is working.”
Even more important, the solution is helping the organization achieve its primary goal of being of greater service to the community and contributing to the betterment of its collective health. “That’s really the key for us – to be able to see that we’re making a difference in the kids’ lives and having an impact on that classroom or school,”
Wilhold says. “Predictive analytics helps us to see the big picture in a variety of ways, and that helps us build and maintain stronger partnerships with schools.”
About IBM Business Analytics
IBM Business Analytics software delivers complete, consistent and accurate information that decision-makers trust to improve business performance. A comprehensive portfolio of business intelligence, predictive analytics, financial performance and strategy management, and analytic applications provides clear, immediate and actionable insights into current performance and the ability to predict future outcomes. Combined with rich industry solutions, proven practices and
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As part of this portfolio, IBM SPSS Predictive Analytics software helps organizations predict future events and proactively act upon that insight to drive better business outcomes. Commercial, government and academic customers worldwide rely on IBM SPSS technology as a competitive advantage in attracting, retaining and growing customers, while reducing fraud and mitigating risk. By incorporating IBM SPSS software into their daily operations, organizations become predictive enterprises – able to direct and automate decisions to meet business goals and achieve measurable competitive advantage. For further information or to reach a representative visit www.ibm.com/spss.
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
SPSS Text Analytics
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