3 Ways K-12 Leaders Use Data to Advance Equity

By German Freiwald | February 17, 2021 | , , | Education, K-12 Education

K-12 leaders are continuing to adapt through the pandemic and respond to evolving student and family needs. Many are using data in new ways to provide holistic support, make strategic decisions, and resiliently tackle the many challenges their communities face today. 

In a recent conversation with Steve Clay, the Executive Director of Analytics, Strategy, Assessment and PEIMS of El Paso ISD, and Jaymie Lollie, the Community School Manager of Frick United Academy of Language (part of Oakland Unified School District), we gleaned three takeaways about how they’re using data and technology to advance equity. 

1. Create a Data Culture That Directly Supports Your Mission

El Paso ISD serves over 55,000 students in west Texas, with more than one-third having limited English proficiency. “Our mission is to prepare every student for higher learning and careers to empower them as knowledgeable and engaged citizens, innovators, and drivers of a robust, bicultural economy,” says Clay.

The district has been on a journey to make data actionable for school leaders. Over the years, it became clear the team needed a robust analytics solution to help serve students more equitably. “Using Tableau has been a great experience, and one that deftly ties into our mission to graduate all students ready for college and career,” says Clay. “We can leverage insights to see what pathways our students are taking, as well as popular academic choices.”

Clay also shares that a key part of the data culture at El Paso ISD is listening to school leaders. “We continuously ask our department heads what their challenges are and how they are accessing information. We then build solutions with Tableau that meet their needs through data visualization,” says Clay.

Teacher and young students sitting at a table and wearing masks

A key part of the data culture at El Paso ISD is listening to school leaders.

“Using Tableau has been a great experience, and one that deftly ties into our mission to graduate all students ready for college and career.” – Steve Clay, Executive Director of Analytics, Strategy, Assessment and PEIMS, El Paso ISD”

Similarly, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is committed to using data to visualize and illuminate who each child is holistically. Serving over 36,000 students with 33% being English Language Learners and 71% eligible for free and reduced-price lunch is no small feat.

“Equality is everybody getting the same thing. Equity is making sure everyone has what they need to get to the same space and for some that takes more. My role is to ensure our students and families are equitably supported so they can thrive,” says Lollie. “Coordinating the programs and services that students need both in and out of the classroom is key to supporting the whole child, and the Salesforce platform helps us do just that.”

Girl smiling leaning against colorful wallr

Many K-12 leaders are using data in new ways to provide holistic support, make strategic decisions, and resiliently tackle the challenges their communities face today.

“Equality is everybody getting the same thing. Equity is making sure everyone has what they need to get to the same space and for some that takes more.” – Jaymie Lollie, Community School Manager of Frick United Academy of Language, OUSD

2. Use Technology and Data to Deliver Equitable Support

OUSD uses Salesforce to manage its multi-tiered systems of support. The Salesforce platform helps Lollie and her team quickly and efficiently connect students to services — even during school closures. 

“You need actionable data to address the right problems students are facing so they don’t fall through the cracks. Salesforce gives us a single source of truth for each student — we can triage individual student needs, connect them with support services, and see where there are gaps which are all really important. As a Community School Manager, these insights are critical to providing equitable student support.”


With the pandemic, coordinating equitable support at El Paso ISD became even more important with many students at risk of falling behind as schools moved to remote learning. Clay and team created a series of dashboards for tracking and reporting learning activities using Tableau.

“Having dashboards and being able to quickly export customized reports helps us engage school administrators,” shares Clay. “As soon as we notice problematic numbers, we can share the list of students who aren’t engaging, coordinate plans, and better understand what additional support is needed for both staff and students.”

El Paso ISD recently brought some students back to school in person while others continue learning remotely. “We are now taking two types of attendance and using dashboards to visualize data to ensure all students are supported no matter where learning is taking place.”

3. Use Data to Drive Clarity, and Technology to Foster Collaboration

Lollie says that using data to boost staff collaboration is a top priority. “Hallway conversations are huge at schools. We lost those once the pandemic hit, but the concerns surrounding our students are still there,” she says. 

“Using the Salesforce platform, we are able to capture key concerns and equip staff — counselors, teachers, social workers — with the data they need to get to the root cause of the problem. They can then collaborate to best support each child whether it’s an attendance, behavior, or food security concern.”

“Having an automated feedback loop has been really powerful for us,” adds Lollie. “Staff know what is happening with each referral they submit for their students, which was a point of concern for our teachers. They now have visibility into how each referral moves towards a successful outcome.”

At El Paso ISD, every interaction with school leaders is a learning opportunity. “No matter what meeting I attend, I take notes and work to understand the team’s needs,” says Clay. “Being consistent and trying to get data into people’s hands has helped us foster collaboration that ultimately supports student success.”

To hear the full conversation with Steve Clay and Jaymie Lollie, watch the on-demand webinar.


About the Author

Germán Freiwald, K-12 Industry Solutions Director

As the K-12 Industry Solutions Director at Salesforce.org, Germán Freiwald works to find and understand unmet needs in schools and districts. He then guides his team through a process of developing human-centered solutions that use Salesforce’s world-class technology to best serve schools.