The company is appropriating a tool for local government to use at the K-12 level.
ClearGov, a startup known for delivering interactive statistics dashboards to local governments, is moving to also serve K-12 school districts.
The business has launched its new line of stat dashboards in Massachusetts, where — following its business strategy for cities — it has pulled data from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to set up more than 400 school district portals. Now, school districts have the option to “claim” their portals and pay for additional data, control of the content, and a back-office feature for generating statistics, charts and graphs.
“Data analysis and benchmarking have become a critical yet arduous component of our budgeting and planning process,” Andrew Keough, superintendent of Easton Public Schools, said in a press release. “ClearGov for Schools delivers time-saving analyses and powerful insights for our administration.”
The dashboards offer student counts and details on funding and expenditures, as well as performance measures such as SAT scores and graduation rates. The idea, according to ClearGov CEO Chris Bullock, is to put data in context so stakeholders in a school district can understand what’s going on in their schools.
The idea for the portals sprung from conversations the company had with an existing municipal customer, the town of Framingham, Mass. The municipal government spent more on education than similar cities in the state. But there’s good reason for that — Framingham School District serves more English language learners and special education students than similar districts nearby. Ergo, its staffing costs are higher.
“The data was really able to help them craft a story, not only to the town and residents, but has really empowered them with data they can bring to the state level to advocate for additional funding,” Bullock told Government Technology.
The dashboards put an emphasis on comparisons to similar school districts so people can understand what the numbers mean — students in Framingham School District, for example, graduate at a lower rate than in similar districts but have better SAT scores. The algorithm the company uses to determine similar districts takes into account student count, household income and proximity.
Benchmarking against similar districts is important, Bullock said, because simply putting up numbers might open up a government to giving people misleading impressions.
“I really think that’s the reason some municipalities are afraid of transparency, they figure that people will look at charts and graphs and not understand the full picture," he said. "So we really try to add context."
So far, Bullock said, the company has signed on 20 school districts to claim their portals. Among the upgrades ClearGov offers are checkbook-level expenditure data, student demographics and more detailed test performance analysis.
“Building public support is critical in today’s society,” said Michael Welch, superintendent of Dedham Public Schools, in the statement. “There is so much data on schools available to the public that it is overwhelming for the average parent and taxpayer. Telling our district’s story in a clear and compelling manner can help proactively address the public’s increased appetite for information and get everyone on the same page.”
Bullock declined to say what other states the company might look to launch its school district tool in, but ClearGov, a GovTech 100 company, already has local government-facing efforts underway in 20 states including Massachusetts.