Activate ED: Using Data in Education to Raise Student Achievement

By: Korynn Schooley
A new collaboration of education organizations matches top business and data analytic talent with Fellowships in schools nationwide. Hear one Fellow’s story on why Activate ED can help transform education in America.
When I started my Fellowship at Fulton County Public Schools (FCS) in the summer of 2011, the district was already known for their strong commitment to data use. In fact, they were the only K-12 system in the world to be inducted into Harvard Business School’s Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame.
FCS is one of the largest districts in Georgia, and in 2010-11, about 44 percent of FCS students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. FCS schools had been collecting data about college enrollment for some time, but they had yet to use that data for knowledge sharing, or to come up with innovative solutions for college enrollment.
The Strategic Data Project, a part of Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, had selected me as a Fellow to serve at FCS and help them implement data-based decision making in their district.
I was excited to bring my own passion for education to a position where I knew I could make a substantial difference, and to a school district that was open-minded about using data in new ways. I was also privileged to work with Christopher Matthews, also an SDP Fellow, to help FCS use data more efficiently.
The first thing we did at Fulton was run a countywide College-Going Diagnostic. We were particularly moved by data that gave us a better understanding of how our high school graduates were faring after high school. Our analyses showed us how many FCS graduates were enrolling in college the fall after their high school graduation and within two years after graduating.
Our data also showed large variations in college enrollment by high school, even when we were comparing students with similar eighth-grade math and English language arts achievement.
While we were reviewing, discussing, and sharing the diagnostic data, I started talking to my Strategic Data Project cohort members and advisors, and realized that what we were seeing with our high school students and college enrollment was a phenomenon called “summer melt.” This is when high school seniors who intend to go to college fall through the cracks during the summer months and do not enroll in the fall. In a way, it was comforting to know that this wasn’t an atypical situation in our schools.
Once we came to this realization, we decided to highlight the importance of the role of counselors in student success. We created a new program called Personalized Assistance for College Enrollment (PACE). This program focuses on hiring counselors to provide personalized support to graduates over the summer.
We knew cost would be an issue, so in the first year we limited the program by focusing on the six high schools with the highest summer melt rates. Guidance counselors helped students find additional financial aid, fill out necessary forms for housing or courses, or whatever else students needed in order to successfully enroll in and begin college in the fall.
By working together and tapping our SDP network, we were able to address most of our challenges, and I think the end result is what we all wanted. PACE increased on-time college enrollment for economically disadvantaged students in the program by 8 percentage points, potentially having dramatic impacts on these students’ futures for the long term.
The Strategic Data Project is part of a new collaboration of education organizations dedicated to helping transform education in the U.S. Activate ED brings together SDP, The Broad Residency in Urban Education and Education Pioneers. 
These three partners find top talent in business leadership and analytics, like Korynn, and place them in school districts, charter schools and education nonprofits nationwide. The new Activate ED offers a single place for talented young professionals to find a Fellowship or Residency.
Fellows like Korynn help raise student achievement, measure teacher success and push innovation in schools. Activate ED has an alumni base of more than 2,000 leaders who have worked to ensure that all students get a quality education.
Visit to learn more.
Korynn Schooley serves as the Director of School Governance and Flexibility with Fulton County Schools in the metro-Atlanta region of Georgia. In this capacity she is leading the district’s transition to a charter system, a unique form of district governance in the state of Georgia.

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