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Case Study

An Early Warning System at Chapel Hill ISD

Dr. Josh Tremont, Executive Director of Curriculum, shares how his district uses data to provide targeted support to the students who need it most.

Chapel Hill ISD Hero Image

District Background

“We’re seeing a huge return in our investment in individualizing and tailoring supports to each one of our children.”

Dr. Josh Tremont, Executive Director of Curriculum at Chapel Hill Independent School District, sees firsthand the importance of data to help educators make decisions. About 80% of the students at Chapel Hill ISD come from families of low socioeconomic status. “What comes with that is a great deal of responsibility, and we have to be super intentional with the supports and the services that we provide, because we know that our children are not always going to get those gaps filled in at home.”

Providing those targeted supports requires principals and teachers to actively look at student data to identify at-risk students, make programming decisions, and then track results. Up until a few years ago, that meant manually downloading data from their student information system, assessment scores from the state, and other data points, then plug the data into a spreadsheet, and filter and sort it. “It was so time consuming. It almost takes a data analyst, someone who can just close their door and grind these reports out,” says Dr. Tremont.

Frontline’s Student Analytics Lab

Chapel Hill’s Executive Director of Finance already had experience with Frontline Education’s Business Analytics software and encouraged Dr. Tremont to look at Frontline’s Student Analytics Lab. The system’s capabilities for providing an early warning system for students who may need additional supports caught the eye of district leadership. Chapel Hill ISD’s superintendent had experience with such early warning systems from his time as a principal, but accessing the data had been time- and resource-intensive. He saw that quick access to the data would be invaluable.

Faster Access to Data

Now, Chapel Hill ISD has been using Frontline’s Student Analytics Lab for two years. The system refreshes nightly, automatically pulling data from the district’s student information system and includes their chosen national assessments. “With the snap of a finger, we’re looking at the same data, but we’re not spending countless hours disaggregating that data or collecting it,” says Dr. Tremont. “We try to take the manpower out of this, right? What we want to do is be able to hand the data report to someone and let our educational leaders and our specialists make actionable decisions, rather than spending countless hours on getting the data itself.”

Dr. Josh Tremont Photo

“Frontline being able to speak to our programs and have nightly automated uploads is invaluable. Because once we have these screeners, the data is there the next morning, we can go on with our routine day, and we’re not on the sidelines trying to pull out the numbers and filter it and sort it.” 

Dr. Josh Tremont
– Executive Director of Curriculum

An Early Warning System

Chapel Hill ISD’s early warning system looks at each student’s attendance, discipline record, and grades. “We are using Frontline’s Student Analytics Lab, specifically the early warning system, to really take advantage of individualizing and tailoring our supports instructionally for each one of our children,” says. Dr. Tremont.

His team is currently coaching principals to see how students performed last year and then place kids with the highest needs with the teachers best equipped to work with them. “We have some teachers, for instance, whose own children have dyslexia. Those teachers tend to know a little bit more about the learning that takes place and those supports that can help accelerate their instruction.”

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Note: All data in the above dashboards has been obfuscated.

Visualizing the Data

Dashboards in Student Analytics Lab allow district and campus leaders to identify what’s working and what isn’t. “Why are we outperforming in an area here? Why are we underperforming? And from a financial standpoint, what supports can we then provide to help those areas instead of just perhaps spending money without intentionality behind it?” Examining not just letter grades but screeners, unit tests, attendance, and behavior helps them come up with creative ideas, such as holding some classes on Saturdays or paying high-performing teachers to tutor after school, and tailor those efforts specifically to students who have the highest need.

Example: Intermediate School

Every three weeks, Dr. Tremont downloads a list of students identified in the early warning system and divides the list up by homeroom class. This facilitates conversations between the homeroom teachers and building leaders. The system pulls the data from multiple sources, saving him from having to run separate reports on attendance, behavior, and grades. “We’re able to simply copy and paste, and then it re-sorts it by the homeroom teachers. Then our campus leadership team is able to meet with those teachers to say, ‘Talk to me about Nicholas. I saw he was out. Has his attendance improved? Who do they live with? What special programs do they get? What services are we providing?’”

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Note: All student data has been obfuscated.

Principals coach teachers through a list of questions to ask and answer about each child on the list:

Advisory Questions for Homeroom Teachers

  • Do you know your students’ names? There is nothing that gets the attention of a student more than their name.
  • Do you know or have a sense of their family and level of support at home?
  • Do you know their history? Do their parents have a court order for custody? Has there been a loss of home or homeless period?
  • Do they have excessive absences?
  • Are both parents in the home?
  • Do they live with a guardian?
  • Who does not have a Media Release?
  • Who is the designated pick-up person for this student?
  • What is your established communication with your families? Remind / Talking Points / Dojo Academics
  • How did they previously perform in math and in reading for STAAR?
  • For their unit test history, what was their last known reading level? What is their performance in BOY Renaissance Reading and Math?
  • What are we doing to address the gaps we see in reading/math? When are kids receiving gap time? What materials are we using to reteach gaps?
  • How are we monitoring and assessing those gaps?
  • Are we creating more gaps by not teaching adequate science and social studies vocabulary, academic concepts and content?
  • Are they in special programs? Gifted/Talented / Special Education / 504 / Speech only / Dyslexia
  • Do they have a medical condition? 504 or Emergency Action Plan from the nurse?

As teachers reach out to students and their families, Dr. Tremont said the rapport they build (“Hey, we missed Nicholas today — is he doing okay?”) makes a difference. “What we found is those immediate contacts are more meaningful than if it was a secretary or an admin assistant reaching out. If it’s that homeroom teacher that sees and instructs that child every day, it’s going to mean more to that parent that, ‘Hey, someone cares about my child.’”

“That intentional rapport with students, monitoring every single child from multiple lenses — and not just how are they performing academically, because we know if a student is at school more, they’re going to learn more. Students are in the classroom more when they’re at school physically and they’re not a behavior concern. They’re going to learn more.”

Dr. Josh Tremont
– Executive Director of Curriculum

The results speak for themselves. After only one year of using the early warning system in Frontline Student Analytics Lab, Chapel Hill ISD has seen tangible improvement. “Performance-wise, we’ve seen huge turnarounds, and specifically at our intermediate campus.”

Two years ago, the intermediate school had been identified as requiring targeted improvement based on students’ State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test results, which were below the state average for all standards in 2022. In 2023, every single STAAR assessment indicator saw improvement from the year before, and the school met or exceeded the state average in 7 out of 10 areas. Similar results could be seen across the entire district as well.

Table: Chapel Hill ISD saw impressive gains in STAAR assessment scores across the district from 2022 to 2023. The intermediate school’s results are called out in the red rectangle below.
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“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be. We would love for all of these to be green. But we feel like we’re trending in the right direction. We feel like we’ve got some resources, routines, and systems in place that are helping us get there,” says Dr. Tremont.

“It’s really allowing us to tailor and individualize our supports to meet the needs of every single one of our children. I think every district says that’s what we want to do, right? But are we really doing that?” Access to the data enables them to have conversations every day about what individual students need to be successful.

Looking to the Future

Dr. Tremont believes that they are only starting to see the results that access to this data will enable. “We feel we’re going to exponentially grow now that we’ve got some routines and resources behind us.”

His team is still working on customizing dashboards in Student Analytics Lab to help them improve their CTE program, align more of their practices, and pull in additional data that will enable more specific academic dashboards to show how students are progressing within the same school year. He would like to measure how after school tutoring is impacting student performance for those who take part in it.

All this work has a common theme: making data easily accessible and meaningful to the people who need it to create the programs that will make a difference.