Published on 13-Oct-2009
"A picture is worth 1,000 words, and that saying applies here. The IBM Cognos solution has created many new opportunities for our district to use data." - Harold Rowe, Associate Superintendent, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District
Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District
The IBM® Cognos® solution, chosen for strategic and operational factors, had the ability to meet the district’s analysis and reporting needs, and also to be transparently integrated with its Achievement Management Systemdata warehouse.
Aggregate data to obtain real-time, highly accurate, consolidated views of student, school and district-wide academic information so administrators can have more insight when making decisions.
The IBM Cognos 8 BI system allows the district to have widespread, real-time access to student, school and district-wide data from a single access portal.
Real-time line of sight for teachers’ and administrators’ reports; continuous access to key data; rich integration with multiple data sources; complex report generation in 20 seconds
The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (CFISD) is a school district in unincorporated Harris County, Texas. The district covers a 186-square mile area, including a small portion of Houston, the City of Jersey Village and unincorporated areas in Harris County. With 50 elementary schools, 16 middle schools and 11 high schools that educate more than 104,000 students, the district is the third largest in the state.
Cypress-Fairbanks is also the largest “recognized” school district in Texas, with 63 out of 74 campuses receiving an “exemplary” or “recognized” rating from the Texas Education Agency in 2009. (These accountability ratings are the two highest categories from the state agency, which rates all public schools, charter schools and school districts in the state.)
In early 2009, Cypress-Fairbanks realized it needed to have more data on operations – its schools, students and classes – to be made available on the fly, when people needed them. Previously, many staff employees spent painstaking hours writing custom programs to do analysis, but that bogged down response times, and valuable time was spent on reporting instead of analyzing the data. Both a data warehouse and comprehensive reporting tool were needed to provide more structured information in more timely fashion. The school district also needed easier navigation in its systems and wider availability for teachers and administrators.
Additionally, there was a need to consolidate the development and maintenance efforts and provide a single source for all data, so the district could provide just-in-time data in an easy-to-use format. Cypress-Fairbanks previously used IBM Informix®, and while the solution was adequate for most its needs, school officials realized a business intelligence (BI) solution would elevate its reporting to a higher level.
Cypress-Fairbanks decided to implement the IBM Cognos 8 BI system because of both strategic and operational factors. The district wanted to make better use of data from its Achievement Management System (AMS), relied upon for years by educators. The system, which consists of a large data warehouse used to track performance of students and teachers, and a curriculum management component, is used to give more insight into the data. At the same time, Cypress-Fairbanks wanted to present one single version of the truth for better analysis of outcomes and areas for improvement.
After it implemented IBM Cognos 8 BI in summer 2009, Cypress-Fairbanks quickly started using the solution as part of AMS. There are approximately 200 users of the IBM Cognos solution, including some teachers, school principals and administrators at the central office who track and analyze student achievement. The district plans to expand its user base significantly in fall 2009 to include more than 7,000 teachers.
At the outset, to encourage user adoption, Margaret Reed, Director of Information Services at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, provided extensive training on features and functionality. The collaborative approach assured smooth and seamless implementation, backed by the expertise of consultants from Coppell, Texas-based DecisionEd Group, an education-focused systems integrator that helped Cypress-Fairbanks with ramp-up. Data is now more meaningful, and school officials are convinced they made the right decision. Test scores, attendance and behavior data are just a few of the many aspects Cypress-Fairbanks educators can access through the solution.
“We’re getting people focused more on important reports that are beneficial to our staff, and how to use them to increase and improve student achievement,” says Harold Rowe, Associate Superintendent at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.
In terms of access to the system, there are three distinct tiers: the first level is teacher access, which allows access to reports only for the students they instruct; the second level is school-based, which allows access to reports only for the students enrolled in that school; and the third level, which is used by administrators, is full district access with unfiltered access for reports for all students. Regardless of the level, users can select from a number of student listings, graphs, and summary reports, and within each report, select filter and sort options to meet their needs.
Cypress-Fairbanks school officials are now looking at data in many new ways that are proving to be beneficial for students and operations alike. For example, with the new solution, administrators can create a report to show how many students failed their high-stakes, state-mandated tests but passed classes, so school officials can see how many students might be underperforming in certain areas. Other reports show high-level and technical data about the relationship between student achievement and attendance and behavior. Regardless of the report, educators are able to increase and improve student achievement by using the data for more in-depth analysis. What’s more, powerful dashboards provide essential management information for the superintendent’s office.
“A picture is worth 1,000 words, and that saying applies here,” Rowe says. “The IBM Cognos solution has created many new opportunities for our district to use data. This approach is truly getting at a business intelligence level where individuals take ownership – they spend more time analyzing data themselves.”
The reports grant users quick access to data from the past three years in the format they require. In most cases, highly detailed reports are generated in less than 20 seconds. Reports can be viewed in several interactive formats, all of which are easily readable for non-technical users. With the IBM Cognos system, users are able to measure performance against a number of internal and external benchmarks. The district can use the IBM Cognos solution to analyze and report on its own data, and also compare itself to other school districts around the state.
“What the IBM Cognos system has allowed us to do is process information meaningfully and rapidly, by placing it where it exactly needs to be,” Rowe says.
Based on this success with IBM Cognos 8 BI, the district has plans to expand its reporting capabilities to include data from finance in winter 2009-10. School officials will be able to link costs, programs and initiatives into the same easily readable reports that it has been delivering to educators with the same amount of success. With that expansion, there is potential for even more insight into operations.
About IBM Cognos BI and Performance Management
IBM Cognos business intelligence (BI) and performance management solutions deliver world-leading enterprise planning, consolidation and BI software, support and services to help companies plan, understand and manage financial and operational performance. IBM Cognos solutions bring together technology, analytical applications, best practices, and a broad network of partners to give customers an open, adaptive and complete performance solution. Over 23,000 customers in more than 135 countries around the world choose IBM Cognos solutions.
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Cognos 8 Business Intelligence
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