Could FileMaker be the solution to truancy?

Posted by Justin Hesser on December 17, 2013

Schools around the country have seen FileMaker support their education efforts, providing meaningful data on student achievement and helping teachers contextualize performance and provide help when necessary. But in order for the software to help students, they have to show up to school in the first place.

Can a database drag a student out of bed and into the classroom? Not quite, but it might be able to do the next best thing.

That's the ambition behind an initiative by the Arlington County school district. Administrators have tapped ten teams of data scientists to analyze anonymous information and extract any meaningful trends that could help them to address their dropout rate. A panel of educators and analysts will judge the most compelling submission and offer up a huge cash incentive: $10,000. 

Arlington's truancy rates aren't terrible: they've been slashed from 13 percent in 2008 to just 6 percent this year. But the county is anxious to do more, understanding that every student should be put in a position to succeed. Crowdsourcing insights from outside data teams is a step in that direction. 

"Increasingly, people are considering this [data] a public resource. At the end of the day, it was created with public dollars," said Chris Kingsley, a policy analyst at the Data Quality Campaign. "If we can publish it and let other people come in and look at it, we can derive more value out of this data."

The teams will get access to information on assessment scores, schools attended, courses taken, grades, absences, demographic information and graduation status. If they're able to extract salient takeaways, it could push Arlington County's dropout rate even lower, a powerful benefit in its goal of providing a quality education for every student.