Walking the Data Walk: Reflections on a KnowledgeWorks Board Meeting

Topics: Community Partnerships, Early College High School, Education Policy

The KnowledgeWorks board of directors talks through data with staff members.

“Driven by Data” may be a decade old – school people may be tired of data rooms – but the power of data to drive great conversation and insights was abundantly clear at our quarterly KnowledgeWorks board meeting in Cincinnati this week.

The agenda carved out an hour for the board to engage with eight operating units, and each team presented about three posters of key outcomes data to us. We walked in pairs and trios from team to team, with less than 10 minutes with each group, actively reviewed the data and peppered the teams with questions. A lively exchange resulted.

Some of the things I learned:

  1. KnowledgeWorks only claims to have influenced a state or national policy when it actually is involved in drafting language for legislation or regulation. In a sector abounding in white papers, this is a very rigorous definition of outcomes!
  2. 30 percent of the students involved in the Ohio Early College High School project, including 10 schools, obtain an associate’s degree upon graduation from high school. Imagine if we could replicate that success elsewhere!
  3. Despite yearly fluctuations, the StrivePartnership in Cincinnati is showing strong gains in its collective impact work when looking at the data in a time series. I was particularly interested in the pioneering early childhood work they are driving, but also in the flat performance in 8th-grade math. Perhaps a program targeting digital math interventions will help them move those numbers up!

We gathering together as a board and debriefed the data walk. Several clear themes emerged:  we would love to tell the individual stories of our work better, so that we can encourage others to follow these bright spots. Secondly, we asked ourselves as a board about our resource allocation policy and how it was related to the outcomes.

KnowledgeWorks has long been known for its attention to data; it was terrific to have board members “walk the walk.” In this case, “the data walk.”