What we did
An opportunity to innovate
With cars driving themselves and robots returning your library books, Silicon Valley is one of the most innovative regions in the world. But innovation isn’t always reflected in the performance of its schools. With inconsistent resources, tight budgets, and an increasingly diverse population, there’s a substantial achievement gap—38 percent—between economically disadvantaged students and their more privileged peers.
Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) partners with districts, educators, and other organizations to raise underserved students’ performance in school and get them prepared to succeed in college and their careers. SVEF is especially focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
We can share our insights and impact to bring programs to larger audiences and help more students succeed in school, college, and their careers.
A clearer view
The SVEF team needed clear insights to understand—and share—students’ progress and the impact of education programs. But the team had over 75 spreadsheets that they were updating, and pulling from, manually.
“Many nonprofits like SVEF have to enter data manually with incoming information from many sources,” said Julie Thomson, a data and analytics consultant at Slalom. “We wanted to help create a single source of truth and empower SVEF with the tools to pull the insights they need immediately.”
Slalom partnered with SVEF to do just that. We started by asking the SVEF team a lot of questions about their goals and challenges. Then, we identified some quick wins to make a big impact right away. For example, we provided data collection templates with drop-down lists—like gender options instead of free text—and other best practices to make incoming data consistent across 70 districts.
“We got an objective look at areas where we could improve,” said Gucci Estrella Trinidad, Program Evaluation Director at SVEF. “Slalom helped us see opportunities to build in more processes and controls.”
Visualizing the impact
With discounted Tableau licenses from Tableau Foundation and free licenses from Alteryx for Good, we were able to help SVEF bring three years of its data together and gain insights it couldn’t before.
We leveraged Alteryx for natural language processing—i.e., fuzzy matching—to help identify a single contact based on a number of different attributes that may be in the system. For example, a student’s name could be entered as multiple records: Jim Jones, James Jones, James C. Jones. With fuzzy matching, all information for every student—grade, summer programs they participated in, test scores, etc.—was consolidated into one trusted record.
We then hosted a “viz-a-thon” where Slalom consultants met with SVEF representatives to understand their needs and draft Tableau data visualizations that answer critical questions for SVEF staff, donors, and educators.
We got an objective look at areas where we could improve. Slalom helped us see opportunities to build in more processes and controls.
Elevating the data
We looked closely at SVEF’s data for Elevate [Math]—a summer program that helps third- through tenth-graders boost their math skills before the next school year. The students take an assessment before and after the summer program to measure what they learned by being in the program. Now, using the new student records and Tableau visualizations, SVEF can share that data back with educators.
“Slalom modeled the power of the Tableau tool,” said Trinidad. “We can create more dynamic visualizations that allow for a deeper dive into the data, more practical analysis, and the ability to ask questions of the data as opposed to having a static graph on a screen. That's something that I have leveraged for other SVEF programs.”
SVEF can now tell districts when students struggle with certain math concepts. And, at the high school level, districts can use the data to place students in the right math class.
Going further together
Together, Slalom and SVEF modernized SVEF’s entire data approach. “With the help of Slalom, there really has been greater awareness about there being a whole data lifecycle,” said Trinidad. “Now we think about preparing for the data collection all the way through—and then processing the data, analyzing it, reporting on it, archiving it, and making that an ongoing cycle.”
Slalom and SVEF worked closely at every step, making sure the SVEF team would be able to manage the processes and tools on their own in the future.
“SVEF is better able to examine program impact, and we can improve our programs so that we’re continuing to address student needs,” said Trinidad. “We can share our insights and impact to bring programs to larger audiences and help more students succeed in school, college, and their careers.”