Data Driven Leadership

Beyond Compliance: Using Education Data to Serve Teachers and Students

Guests: Nicholas Handville, CIO, Georgia Department of Education | Dr. Keith Osburn, CIO and Deputy Superintendent of Technology Services, Georgia Department of Education

Education change-makers know that when data empowers, it’s much more powerful than data that merely meets compliance requirements. Chief Information Officer for the Georgia Department of Education Dr. Keith Osburn and Chief Data Officer Nicholas Handville are doing just that by giving data back to educators across the state in formats that facilitate its use as a valuable decision-making tool. In this episode, they share how they’re providing accessible, timely, and actionable data products that teachers and education leaders can use to make the best decisions for their students. They explain the critical role of system interoperability, modernizing data infrastructure, and establishing trust with all stakeholders.

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Education change-makers know that when data empowers, it’s much more powerful than data that merely meets compliance requirements.

Chief Information Officer for the Georgia Department of Education Dr. Keith Osburn and Chief Data Officer Nicholas Handville are doing just that by giving data back to educators across the state in formats that facilitate its use as a valuable decision-making tool.

In this episode, they share how they’re providing accessible, timely, and actionable data products that teachers and education leaders can use to make the best decisions for their students. They explain the critical role of system interoperability, modernizing data infrastructure, and establishing trust with all stakeholders.

Throughout the conversation, we explore tangible ways data reshapes educational landscapes by shifting from a compliance to a value-driven model, particularly post-COVID. Keith and Nicholas emphasize the need for an accessible approach, tailored to support schools and districts regardless of their starting capacity.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The importance of enabling system interoperability
  • How to shift data’s purpose from compliance to empowerment
  • What modernization means for educational data and infrastructure

In this podcast:

  • [06:00-13:00] Shifting the education system’s mindset around data
  • [13:00-17:00] Shifting the education system’s mindset around data
  • [17:00-23:00] Shifting the education system’s mindset around data
  • [23:00-28:30] Enabling system interoperability
  • [28:30-36:07] Driving education with AI

Our Guests

Nicholas Handville

Nicholas Handville

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Nicholas L. Handville has worked in education in both the public and nonprofit sectors for over twenty-five years. His career in the field has included working as a teacher at the elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels; an applied researcher and analyst for nonprofits and government agencies, a project manager and program administrator; and associate superintendent for a state education agency.

Nicholas joined the Georgia Department of Education in 2014. In previous positions at the Department, he served in key roles for the creation of the ESSA-required school and district comprehensive needs assessments and the College and Career Ready Performance Index CCRPI (the state’s federally-required accountability system). He is currently the Chief Data and Privacy Officer and leads the unit responsible for delivering value through data to all agency stakeholder groups.

Nicholas has a B.S. in elementary education from Florida International University, an M.S. in economics from Florida Atlantic University, and an M.P.A. in public and nonprofit management and policy from New York University.

 Dr. Keith Osburn

Dr. Keith Osburn

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Dr. Keith Osburn is the Chief Information Officer and Deputy Superintendent for Technology Services at the Georgia Department of Education. Spending the early days of his career as a Chemistry and Physics teacher, Dr. Osburn was introduced to the world of technology and soon found his passion in its value to improve education. With over three decades of service in education, he advocates for technology’s potential to revolutionize education. Now as the CIO, Dr. Osburn has outlined an aggressive five-year comprehensive plan to modernize the agency’s technology infrastructure and data collections processes to help usher in 21st Century practices that will ensure the availability of modernized equipment to support teachers’ and students’ classroom and learning needs.

Under Dr. Osburn’s leadership, the agency has embraced technology standardization, especially 1EdTech’s interoperability standards and has been the industry leader in leveraging CASE. These efforts earned the Georgia Department of Education the coveted Platinum Learning Impact award in 2018 for this work and the Silver Learning Impact award again in 2022.

He is a strong advocate for all of Georgia’s K-12 technology workforce helping them grow to understand and embrace their critical and importance role as technology leaders. Setting this vision has helped Dr. Osburn usher in several new and innovative programs to support their growth including a new Emerging Technology Leader mentor program, training over 200 digital literacy ambassadors, providing cybersecurity training to every public school district in Georgia, and to create the first of its kind state-wide professional learning environment and online community to enable schools and district leaders a platform to collaborate and share ideas regardless of their location in Georgia


Curt Merlau [00:00:02]:
Why is data so often used as a gotcha, especially in education? As a former teacher, administrator, and now consultant, it's a question that I ask myself all the time, which is why we're here. I'm Dr. Curt, and this is my takeover of Data-Driven Leadership. In this four-episode miniseries, I'll be joined by several industry experts who have made their mission to hunt, seek, and destroy the systemic barriers to learning. Through it and data, we'll share how it and data can not only meet unmet needs, but can actually accelerate opportunities when done the right way. In my role, I work with many state education leaders across the country, which in turn exposes me to a wide variety of new and exciting strategies. I look forward to bringing you these amazing leaders to share those strategies with you. Let's bring people, policy, and technology together so that data can be our greatest ally.

Curt Merlau [00:00:57]:
Let's dive in.

Curt Merlau [00:01:01]:
I'm really excited about today's episode with Dr. Keith Osburn and his colleague Nicholas Handville, both with the Georgia Department of Education. We've had the pleasure of working with the Georgia Department of Education for several years now, and I have just been amazed by both Keith and Nicholas's leadership and their emphasis on empowering teachers and administrators through data. And the department there is really doing some fantastic, amazing work, and I'm excited for you to listen in on today's episode. I hope that you learn something today, even though you may not be working in education, but we all have a vested interest in making sure that our students and our educators and our communities thrive. So enjoy this episode. Nicholas and Keith, welcome. Thanks so much for being on the show today.

Keith Osburn [00:01:53]:
Curt, thank you so much. We look forward to the opportunity. Thank you so much.

Curt Merlau [00:02:00]:
We have had the pleasure of working alongside all of the great things that you're doing within the Georgia Department of Education. It really has been a lot of fun and just coming alongside all of your modernization efforts and really appreciate the time you're taking out today because you're both very busy, gentlemen. So thank you again, just getting into it for our guests. Can you provide, Keith, maybe to start with you, an overview of how the Georgia Department of Education is currently leveraging data as a service to schools across the state in the operations within the agency or just in the decision-making processes within the agency?

Keith Osburn [00:02:44]:
Certainly, Curt, happy to. And I'll start first with the vision and the mission of our superintendent, who really has the charge to us has really been to move the agency, the Georgia Department of Education, from that compliance and regulatory stance of yesteryear to one that's more of service and support. And so this story really is very parallel to that, is that we began to kind of think about the unit of technology services and what is our role to support those strategic initiatives.
The first thing that we realized is that we're in the business of collecting data, very much summative data, and heretofore that's been very much driven by either the enacting of a law or a policy or whatnot, at a great cost of our districts, who really, at the end of the day, got nothing from that. They just were told, you have to submit these data. And we begin to think about that and say, well, in the role of service and support, how can we energize that? And so really, we began to kind of think about that.
The first thing that we did was really do kind of an organizational reimagining where data collections became analyses and reporting, because one of the things that we recognized were that our districts, regardless of size, and we've got some incredibly large districts, we've got some very small districts, everybody is submitting data. And so we begin to think, how can we provide a service back to them? And so what we begin to kind of think about are how can the department of education, and specifically, this is where Nicholas's team come into play, how can we begin to think about the fact that you're giving data to us as required by those, but because of new questions, because of the frequency of those questions, and certainly the fact that you're wanting to use those data to better inform your own strategic plan, we've begun to really think about how can DOE leverage its resources, including not just our technology systems, but some of the expertise that we have in house to begin to enable reporting some analyses.

Keith Osburn [00:04:48]:
And you'll hear us talk about some of those. I'm sure, as we go through this, that really we're returning back to them their own data. But this time it's been in a palatable and a format and analysis in which they then can internalize and use those data.

Curt Merlau [00:05:03]:
Thank you, Keith and Nicholas, I want to hear some specifics from you in just a moment. But first, Keith, I want to just touch on a couple of things you said, especially for our listeners who may be not as familiar with the education sector and the history that we've had with data over the last decade and even longer. You mentioned compliance, and really, we date that back to the No Child Left Behind base, where we got really serious about looking at data largely from those state tests that happen once a year. We call them summative tests, but other data points as well. And so what you're referencing is kind of what I've described to folks as a pendulum swing, where that initial compliance, accountability driven. Now we're seeing more of this swing to data as a service. How can we collect? And I love how you now frame it, analyze the data in a way that is in service of our schools and our teachers to help them make those critical decisions day in and day out. And when I was a teacher, I was teaching back in the days of the data war room, right, where you had printouts of Excel charts throughout an empty classroom, and you'd walk around and you would just consume all of this data.

Curt Merlau [00:06:23]:
It was so overwhelming. And now what you're talking about is bringing that back into the schools in a digestible, just-in-time way. And I love that. And I'm very encouraged by what I see from the field and in particular from your department of education and doing just that, of shifting the mindset, that data as a compliance tool instead of data as just a teaching tool.

Keith Osburn [00:06:50]:
We refer to it, I'll quickly say we refer to that as really a shift in culture. And the shift is really the mindset. Like you said, it's no longer saying, with data, how did we do? But instead realizing that with data, we can say, how are we doing? And now you see, suddenly that really puts the focus back on what's happening inside of the classroom. It empowers the teacher, not just the administrator. But you see now, with data, we're really to do a much, much better job at really enacting through technology services, empowering of the teacher, powering of the pedagogical conversation, but also still continuing to give our school leaders and our district leaders those types of data, specifically now, so that they can begin to think about data to enhance the conversation that's happening. How incredible a day it is for us to live, that we have the availability of these technology tools and expertise in-house to be able to do these things.

Curt Merlau [00:07:48]:
Yeah, definitely agree. And, Nicholas, in your role as a chief data officer, which I should note is pretty unique, to have that role and that title in the state department of education, tell us about how you're thinking about data and in particular what you and your team are in the midst of to fulfill that vision that Keith just described.

Nicholas Handville [00:08:09]:
Yeah, it's interesting you say that. I believe, I'm not entirely sure, but I believe I was the first person at a state education agency to hold the title, but certainly not to do the work, right? And I think there are a few states that have since actually gone in the direction of having someone hold that title. So I don't think I'm the only one at this point. But it's interesting when you think about what is the role of a chief data officer, a chief data and analytics officer. It really is to work across the enterprise, in the corporate sector, to work across the enterprise, to drive value from data. And I think the same is true in a state education agency, right? That ultimately your job is to work across the entirety of the agency with various stakeholders.

Nicholas Handville [00:08:55]:
We've talked a lot about schools and districts so far, but really, when we talk about driving value through data, certainly schools and districts and their respective staff and educators are at the top of that list. But it's also agency leadership, agency staff, the various programs that we all have as state education agencies, from special education title programs and all the others, but also those external partners. And those external partners stakeholders can be other state agencies within your state. It can also be other states’ agencies. Right. And so we obviously, in doing the work of modernization, see value in really building stronger bonds and relationships with other SCAs and with other state agencies within Georgia. And I think as we do that, the core mission of that work is how do we derive value from data for years and years and years? Go back to No Child Left Behind. You go back to when ESSA was authorized.

Nicholas Handville [00:09:59]:
In each of those cases, it was a step forward in terms of how do we not just use data for compliance purposes. Right. Schools report data to districts, districts report data to the state, the state reports data to the feds. That's been in place for a while. Certainly, it has increased in volume over the last 20 years, but increasingly, especially since COVID hit, there's this awareness that we cannot just do compliance work. We have to derive value out of the data we possess. And that is true at the classroom level, at the school level, at the district level, certainly for us at the state level. And so I think there is increased, not just a desire on our part, but increased expectation from our stakeholders that we be able to derive value in a timely way and not just give back to our stakeholders a table of data, right, but provide data products, data services, data supports that allow them to not have to be data experts, but rather to focus on their day job.

Nicholas Handville [00:11:03]:
And so whether that is a teacher in the classroom, a district administrator focused on a specific program, or someone here at the state agency, they should not have to spend 10, 15, 20% of their job trying to get value out of data. Our job is to fast-track that for them. So you have principals and teachers, and you have program managers at the state that can use a dashboard, use a product, and quickly derive the insight, the value from that work. And that's how we ultimately bring value from the data that we have. And we know that we're successful when the users of our data, product, services, and supports are quickly able to say, given what we know empirically through data, here's how our decisions need to change. Here's how our practices need to change. Here's how our policies need to change. And if we don't serve as a dotted or sometimes thick straight line between data and those practices, then we're not successful in our work.

Curt Merlau [00:12:07]:
Nicholas, you've touched on something that I've said repeatedly, even on this very podcast before, which is the power of data is not in the data or in the dashboard or the spreadsheet. It is in the conversations that happen around the data. And what you were just describing is that pendulum swing right from compliance. Now, the service orientation, and you mentioned ESSA. ESSA replaced, as Every Student Succeeds Act, it replaced No Child Left Behind in 2015, and it has extended more flexibility to states in how they design their education structure and how they measure performance. And so what I'm hearing is that with that passage of ESSA in 2015, and since states are now having to shift their focus and their posture, I guess, around data, and what I heard you describe was really like this customer service approach that you find in the corporate setting. And tell me more about that. Yeah.

Curt Merlau [00:13:19]:
What's that mean for you all?

Nicholas Handville [00:13:21]:
So here's the way I think about this every day, and I love the way you framed it, with greater flexibility comes the likelihood of greater differential and outcomes. Right? Those who have the capacity and the skills are going to do well. Those that maybe struggle in terms of capacity will struggle further. And so when you think in the state of Georgia, we have a number of districts here that I would put their sophistication and capacity around, leveraging data to support these outcomes. Among the best in the country, no question.

Curt Merlau [00:13:55]:

Nicholas Handville [00:13:56]:
But we also have several small state charter schools that are also LEAs, and they don't have the economies of scale. They don't have a data team. They might at best have one person who's also the math teacher or also like five other roles, and they need support from the state. Not in a punitive way, we're not mandating to them, but simply, let's build… the same way in the classroom. We want to be able to support the best-performing students, the students who know the most to be able to continue to grow and not just flatline, but we also have to have the supports for the students who are struggling. And it's not that they don't know how to do their jobs. They do. But in some of those, you lose one person and you've lost two years of momentum.

Nicholas Handville [00:14:41]:
Right. And so how do we build this network of supports that any LEA across the state, and I would even extend that down to the school level, that at the district level, they have a portfolio of products that are a combination of what is built in house within the district and what the state provides. And they get to decide how do we bring those together to best meet the needs of our district and best meet the needs of our school. And so the days of the one-size-fits-all all approach, those are long gone. We all know that. And we think intentionally at the Georgia Department of Education and Tech Services, the idea is we have to have the mind of the corporate sector. Keith and I have said many times, at the end of this modernization work, we want to be on par with a Fortune 500 company. We don't need to be on par with the top five.

Nicholas Handville [00:15:34]:
It's never going to happen. But let's be on par with, like, 499. And in terms of the way they leverage data, in terms of how they understand data and the role to their, what they would call customers, what we call stakeholders, if we can do that, then we've built an ecosystem where we're driven by bringing value. Right? Call it customer support, call it stakeholder support. We're driven every day in the work we do and the decisions we make and the products we build by how do we support our stakeholders, schools, districts, communities, parents, other state agencies, to get value out of those data, rather than this one size fits all approach where we just say, hey, we have this product. Everybody has to use it the same way. That simply does not work anymore.

Curt Merlau [00:16:24]:
And, Nicholas, what you're describing is really about making it accessible, and there is an equity to that and making sure that your ruralest schools can access and leverage their data just as well as your large districts across the state. And I want to come back to you in a moment, Nicholas, to talk more about how you're actually making that happen through a thing called Ed-Fi, which is probably a new term for most of our listeners. But before I do that, Keith, I want to ask you, we've heard the word modernization used today, and we hear it a lot. What does modernization mean in terms of a data and IT shop within a state department of education?

Keith Osburn [00:17:08]:
So it's two things, certainly. There's the technical aspect of that. Georgia has a long, successful history, I'll add, of working with, let's say, historical and longitudinal data and those types of things, something that well over a decade that we've had a presence in doing that to the role that we talked about earlier, that collection of that summative information for our lawmakers, for those that are in policy, our state board and others. Certainly from that standpoint, really, the modernization, at least of that piece really is the whole idea of looking at systems, looking at infrastructure design, retooling that in such a way that we can now, as I mentioned earlier, shift that mindset of simply not necessarily just being summative, but now able to endorse this new kind of transmogrifying role, if you will, from not just summative but also some formative data. We certainly get as early as this morning, we woke up with new questions. Our legislators are in session right now, and it's not uncommon for Nicholas and I to get a question just with a, hey, we need this quickly as you can get that. So you see that formative push is really them desiring of data and thus the recalibration of systems to be able to, number one, gather that data. And as you mentioned, you'll hear Nicholas talk a little bit about what we think that looks like, but also gathering systems together and redesigning our infrastructure in such a way that we can do new things.

Keith Osburn [00:18:35]:
What would it be? What new things could we discover if we could take pedagogical information about learning and add fiduciary information that we give? How are we spending our dollars for the purposes of pedagogical and influencing through analysis and reporting the ability for us to do a better spend, those types of things. That's that infrastructure design. The second piece of that is really helping people change their culture about the way that they think about data, the way that they think about doing their work.
As you've heard Nicholas say heretofore, in the absence of data, it didn't negate the ability for people to do their work. What we're doing is empowering them now with data. But what comes with that is this need for us to modernize the way that they approach their work. And this is where we talk about digital literacy and really getting to that point where they understand exactly what they can do with data, first, understanding the presence of the data that's coming to them, the analyses and the reporting app. But then how do we use those data successfully? How do we integrate that? The long and short of it is at the end of the point of modernization.

Keith Osburn [00:19:46]:
We're quick to say that maybe prior to 2019, technology was still very much kind of a gee-whiz-bang. It was kind of believe it or take it or leave it kind of thing during the pandemic, and certainly post-pandemic. We see now that technology is mission-critical. And you see that the criticality of technology also requires with that this modernization, this modernization of approach, to think about the fact that it has to be included within strategic planning. It's not a contingency option. So as people or administrators are sitting down thinking about how are we going to do our job, what are our initiatives, and then we think about the tools that are available, what are the repertoire of tools that we have. One of those is technology. That's that modernization of thinking.

Keith Osburn [00:20:33]:
Now, from that standpoint, for them to use that successfully to better do their jobs.

Curt Merlau [00:20:37]:
As your colleague at the Indiana Department of Education, Dr. John Keller, has always know everything becomes an IT and data project at some point. And I think you're spot on. It has to be early on. It can't be an afterthought, or we have to kind of do away with the old thinking of IT being the hardware and the wires. Right. It's so much more than that. And I love how you framed modernization because that can be such a big, untangible term for so many folks.

Curt Merlau [00:21:07]:
And you spoke about, it's two parts. It's infrastructure and it's culture. And with the infrastructure, it's about bringing these systems together. And whether if we have kids, you have kids in the school system today or you've been through the school system, all of us can appreciate the sheer amount of data that can be captured throughout just a given day of a student. Right? And of a teacher. And there are so many different systems and platforms that they're using. I mean, I can think of just my oldest alone.

Curt Merlau [00:21:40]:
There's probably five or six different platforms that he uses on a school iPad, different apps, but then different systems that the teacher is using. And then your mind just begins to be boggled by how much data and input. But then they don't talk to one another. Right? They live in these silos. And so while the advent of these products and these dashboards has been so, has been great, this proliferation, what we've almost created is these layers of paint. We have to get meaningful insights out of those to get what you described, which I call it a holistic view of the student. More than just that point-in-time test.

Curt Merlau [00:22:20]:
We want to see all the points of a student to really appreciate the social-emotional aspect, the performance piece, that everything that goes into a student's day. And I also appreciate how both of you emphasize that data cannot take away from the art and the science of teaching. We can't unlink the two. And it instead is empowering the teacher to help accelerate decision-making or improve decision-making by just illuminating more to a student's learning journey. If you can't tell, I got excited there. I got on a little tangent. But on this topic of bringing systems together, people may not appreciate fully just how siloed data has been when it comes to schools sending state departments of education data and the Georgia Department of Education of one of several, many districts and agencies alike that are implementing the Ed-Fi data standard and technology suite. Nicholas, could you describe for us a little bit about what that actually is and what it means for Georgia in particular?

Nicholas Handville [00:23:31]:
Yeah, yeah, great question. And I'll give you a nontechnical audience, or answer rather. I'm sure that's what will most benefit your audience. And really, the simple definition of what Ed-Fi is for us in Georgia is it's a means to an end. And the end there is exactly what you said, Curt, that we are able to take data from these disparate sources, right? A student information system, an HR vendor, five, six, seven other places that these data may live. We're currently at the state level, or at least a year ago at the state level, and currently, in the case of many LEAs, many districts, they're not able to derive meaning across those domains because those systems do not talk to each other. Right?

Nicholas Handville [00:24:15]:
And so there's two major things that we are solving, two major hows that Ed-Fi addresses for us. Number one, at the state level, it serves as the backend architecture to be able to deploy a system where we're not only collecting data two, three times throughout the year, but really we're ingesting data from districts throughout the year as those changes occur.
And so again, as we think about a broader, wider set of stakeholders, if we have somebody who's a member of the state legislature, as Keith mentioned, our legislative session is going on, right now. Shouldn't, when they ask us, hey, can you give me data on insert topic here, we shouldn't have to tell them, we can either give you data for last year or we can give you data in three months. We need to be able to tell them we've got data that are current as of a few weeks ago. Here you go. And so that is a huge value add for our people in the state by increasing the frequency with which we can report out data. But the second piece is that we need to be able to build capacity to make meaning across all these various domains of data, both at the state level, but also at the district level.

Nicholas Handville [00:25:29]:
And so we're building out a local state level ODS—operational data store—where we can ingest those data from all the systems across the state. And we're pushing that into a data lake. And that data lake then houses all of the data elements we collect across the entirety of our ecosystem, on staff, on students. Any type of data we collect is all housed in one place. And so where two years ago, if somebody said, hey, can you give me data on A and B? And A and B don't live in the same ecosystem, it would have taken weeks to be able to pull that together and provide the information where now we can do that in a few hours.

Curt Merlau [00:26:06]:
I often say it's like the universal language, and it's a way to put it all in like terms. So now when we need to share information between these systems, we can do it much more efficiently, effectively, and bring that data then back into the teacher, into the classroom in just in time before we would take the tests in the spring, and then we would get that data in the fall. Well, that's too late. I can't influence much then at that point in time. And so if folks are interested in learning more about Ed-Fi, you can check out They have a lot of really great resources and open source kind of community and code. And I'm excited to see how Georgia evolves with Ed-Fi.

Curt Merlau [00:26:55]:
Before I ask my last question, Nicholas, was there anything more you wanted to add to that end of this implementation that the Georgia department of Ed has undertaken?

Nicholas Handville [00:27:05]:
Well, I'll reiterate a point that you made, which is an essential piece of all of this is the concept of interoperability. Right? It isn't as simple as just plugging in one system to the other and saying, okay, now talk to each other. You have to actually build out standardized approaches to data elements and naming conventions and all of that. Right? And so we've done that hard work, at least a lot of it at the state and work with districts to do the same. That's the foundation, interoperability and being able to pull these data together, that's the ground floor upon which everything else gets or the foundation upon which everything else gets built. The other thing I want to emphasize, because this is not just an SEA story.

Nicholas Handville [00:27:43]:
It's not just a story about what Georgia is doing at the state level. It's a local story as well, because the same way we have the state level ODS operational data store, we are going to work with those districts that are interested. It will never be a state mandate, but those districts that are interested to build a local ODS, where they have a landing zone that's based on the same principles with Ed-Fi around interoperability and standardization, where they can dump not just data that they have to report to the state, but data across all their various platforms so they can make meaning locally above and beyond what we do for them.

Keith Osburn [00:28:19]:

Nicholas Handville [00:28:20]:
And I think that's essential because a lot of, we talk about culture a lot here in capacity building. We don't want to just do this work to make GaDOE better. We want to do this work to support districts in building their capacity for deriving meaning locally through data as well. And so I think that will be an essential piece of this work over the next five.

Curt Merlau [00:28:41]:
Fantastic. Absolutely. And you mentioned that interoperability and achieving interoperability through the Ed-Fi data standard is the ground floor to everything else. Which leads me to my final question for both of you. Given the advancements in technology, especially just the huge acceleration on AI that we have seen, how do you foresee these technologies like AI shaping the future of education analytics, and what opportunities do they present for educators and administrators? Keith, we'll start with you.

Keith Osburn [00:29:18]:
Yeah, man, that's a fantastic question. And I think that is the question, right? Right now, everybody has that very question of know, how is this going to be a part of? How is it going to influence me? How is it going to influence my practices? The first thing that we like to say, and I want to double down on something that we said earlier, and that is that we believe in the power of the educator. We believe in the power of the school leader. We believe in the power of the district leader. And so what we look towards is ways to better enable them to do the great job that they do. And now that's the answer to this, is really thinking about, the fact is that technology evolution is absolutely on the fast track. We're seeing these tools come to play every day.

Keith Osburn [00:30:04]:
We are challenged internally to really just simply keep up with those. And so our position has been exactly what you said, Curt. The best way for us to figure out how this thing is going to influence it is to find ways to enable it to influence some of the things that we're doing. A couple of things that you've heard me mention already. First is that we recognize that we are now education is moving into a digital first. I like to say in 2019, a teacher reached for a textbook. In 2024, she reaches for technology. And as a result of that, we say she's digital-first.

Keith Osburn [00:30:40]:
So now we begin to think, what are some things that we can do with these tools to better empower that teacher? Well, the first thing, let's talk about this. What is she looking for through technology? She's looking for resources. You yourself talked about this tsunami of data, the tsunami of resources. So why can't we use those tools to challenge the optimization of those resources, calibrate it, organize, arranged in such a way that they're immediately palatable and usable by the know. By the way, what have we done by doing that? We have really mitigated against the loss of learning. You heard Nicholas say, heretofore, the teacher has been spending 15, 20, even more of her time just preparing for the ability for her to do her job. What if technology said, we'll get that stuff out of the way so that you can start doing your job immediately? And we think this is a great way for us to do this. We've worked with our teaching and learning department and internal.

Keith Osburn [00:31:35]:
We have a knowledge and resource management team where we've created and standardized. Again, that interoperability piece is so huge where our academic standards are in an industry-recognized format. We're looking for ways now to optimize resources so that they carry metadata associated with the standard. The teacher doesn't have to get a resource and say, let me align that to the standard. What's next? Some of these incredible tools now where we can take the power of big data, which heretofore, we knew our counselors, our school leaders have access to those data. They know how to work with those data, but they're challenged with the amount of time it takes to really look through. How neat would it be if we could build systems where we literally said, we'll do some analysis of those data in such a way that we give you a heads up and say, hey, maybe you want to do a second glance. Look at this.

Keith Osburn [00:32:28]:
A counselor whose ratio maybe is 1400 or more to one to one counselor. How empowering would it be if we could feed her data that says, hey, here might be 30 kids that you might want to look at? We believe you, the counselor, you know best. But maybe here are some indications that this student is worth a second look. These are some things, I believe, that these new tools are suddenly going to avail this opportunity for us. The thing what I started with is what I'll end with. And that is to say that, again, what we're looking for is to say, how can we, through the world of technology, how can we empower the teacher, how can we empower the counselor, the wraparound services, our school leader, and our district leaders. We stand fast on the fact that we know that technology can do that. Nicholas, you want to add to that?

Curt Merlau [00:33:17]:
I love it.

Nicholas Handville [00:33:18]:
Yeah, I'll stick with AI, right? I mean, that's the answer. If you ask anybody in the country, anybody in the world, right. Know where are the big opportunities and the big challenges. AI is like at the top of that list for sure. And I don't think there's any question right now that we are living through an AI bubble and an AI hype cycle. And five years from now, we'll look back and say, can you believe we thought AI was going to solve this problem for us, right? But it's also undeniably clear that AI is here to stay and it will change the fundamental way in which we work. Much like the Internet did, we had the AI booming, or, sorry, booming. It changed the world, it changed the economy.

Nicholas Handville [00:33:59]:
And those who were focused on driving value and solving real problems succeeded, flourished, and became some of the biggest companies in the world. And those who just treated it like this kind of toy solution for something didn't last very long. And I think there's two essential pieces here for us as a government agency, as a state education agency, which is we have to stay focused as we push for AI solutions on what brings value to our stakeholders. And we have to make sure we're not doing anything to lose their trust. And so data privacy and data security as we push this AI work at the state level is critical. The last thing we want to have happen is that a parent or a principal or someone feels that the state is not being good stewards of student data. And so it's essential for us that really this work be driven by value generation and ensuring that all of our stakeholders have trust in us, that we are doing what is right by those students and being extra careful with their data and not making decisions that ultimately violate that trust. Because then it sets the work back by many years.

Curt Merlau [00:35:13]:
Absolutely. I think it's safe to summarize it's people, process, technology. We can all get real excited about the technology and the flashy dashboard or product. You all are setting the example of when you do it right, when you think about process and people, and technology, the three things can harmonize really well. And so I just want to say thank you so much for joining us. And thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of the education miniseries. I'm Dr. Curt, your host.

Curt Merlau [00:35:45]:
Be sure to follow Data-Driven Leadership on your preferred podcast platform, and don't forget to rate and review share how these discussions on education data are making a positive impact in your organization. And stay tuned for our next episode, where we'll continue our exploration with more education experts.

Curt Merlau [00:36:02]:
As we close out, I leave you with a question. How can you bring together people, policy, and technology in a way that will drive change? For more from me, you can connect with me on LinkedIn at the link in the show notes. And for more from Resultant, sign up for our education practice newsletter at /education. Jess will be back next week with more from Data-Driven Leadership.

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