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Blog Teachers Supporting Teachers Uses Data Storytelling to Drive Actionable Change for Students

Data supporting Teachers Supporting Teachers

Data Storytelling for Good, a Narrative Science initiative to showcase society-improving uses for data storytelling technology, is proud to partner with Teachers Supporting Teachers (TST), a Chicago-based organization with a mission to mobilize and support leaders in education to have a lasting impact in their schools.

We started Data Storytelling for Good because we believe Narrative Science, while focused on building innovative and impactful products in its day-to-day, can bring immense value to the mission of making our communities and the world a better place. We know that one of our greatest assets is the software that we develop. Data storytelling technology in the hands of organizations doing good can achieve an even greater impact in other industries as well, such as education. Our employees bring a unique set of skills to this fight as well. We have a company full of people who understand how to use data to drive better decisions and outcomes.

We are excited about our partnership with TST because it brings both of these aspects to light.

“Narrative Science has revolutionized how we ask our teachers and coaches to engage with data. Quill has condensed and summarized the most important points of what can feel like an overwhelming amount of information. Our teachers are now better equipped to identify trends in their schools and create actionable change for students. Furthermore, Dan and the team at Narrative Science were willing to go above and beyond to help us create beautiful dashboards and provide backend tech support!” – Pallavi Abraham, Executive Director of Teachers Supporting Teachers

Why is this a problem?

Teachers leave urban schools due to a lack of meaningful leadership opportunities.

  • 50% of teachers nationwide leave within the first five years, negatively affecting student outcomes.
  • Teachers are 50% more likely to leave urban environments predominantly serving students of color.
  • Teacher attrition costs $7 billion annually.

Therefore, the need that TST aims to fulfill is to create long-term opportunities for teachers to lead and grow while staying in the classroom.

  • Teachers with under 10 years of experience now make up 45% of the overall teaching force.
  • Less than 40% were encouraged to remain teaching at their school.

Here’s the backstory

Narrative Science first needed to understand the metrics that drive performance and decision-making for TST, how data is collected, and what artifacts are created from that data. From there, we could assess how we could best help in our mission.

In meetings with Pallavi Abraham, Executive Director at TST, we learned the overarching metric is retention of teachers where ‘teams’ of teachers exist in many districts across Chicago Public Schools. Each team of teachers has a coach whose main annual goal is to make sure that all the teachers on their team choose to remain as teachers.

Teachers take surveys twice a year with questions aligned to the 5Essentials* (Effective Leaders and Collaborative Teachers). Teacher coaches and executive-level decision makers find strong survey results in these areas that are heavily correlated with increased teacher retention. For schools in general, strong showings on at least three of the five essentials are 10 times more likely to improve student learning than schools weak on three or more of the five essentials. TST uses the overall scores in the five focus areas as benchmarks for measuring school performance.

Tools and Approach

TST uses Tableau to visualize the survey data and uses a manual process to both gather benchmark values for all of the CPS schools they have teams at and format individual reports for all of their coaches.

“As teachers and coaches, we are inundated with information around how our schools and students are progressing. The quick summary of the data allowed me to narrow my focus, pick out high-leverage trends and therefore become a better team leader.’ – TST Teacher Liaison

Data Storytelling for Good Involvement

Through several sessions with Pallavi, we identified the places where we could utilize our products and expertise.

  • Quill for Tableau: By providing access to Quill, our product that puts stories in dashboards, teachers and other stakeholders could now automatically generate narratives to explain their data-driven visualizations. This will help TST make informed decisions about how to adjust programming or other variables to help drive teacher retention.
  • Automating Data Acquisition: By creating and handing over some python code, TST can save valuable hours by automatically pulling the data it needs off the internet rather than having staff copy and paste values.
  • Dashboard Brainstorming and Tutoring: The Data Poet (aka our Analytics Manager, Brent) and I, spent several hours in our office with TST whiteboarding and creating new impactful dashboards that combined:
    • Adding new data sources to the existing data model.
    • New visualizations to highlight the most important metrics and comparisons to benchmarks.
    • New methods for customizing dashboard layouts to streamline per-team reports.

The Result

The best part is that the only investment required was a few hours of Pallavi’s time (granted, her attention is a valuable commodity). TST utilizes their current Tableau investment and no additional software or consulting hours were charged to the organization. At the conclusion of the project, TST is now better equipped to make decisions and recommendations to their coaches.

*The 5Essentials were developed by the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools. Past research has shown that schools strong on at least three of the five essentials are 10 times more likely to improve student learning than schools weak on three or more of the five essentials.

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