A Date with Data
Eight Is Great: Meet the Ohio IDEA Data Team
June 7, 2023
Dates are one thing, but sometimes it’s fun to bring along the whole gang. In this week’s A Date with Data, host Amy Bitterman does just that, sitting down with the entire Ohio IDEA Data Team to talk strategies for the collection, analyzation, reporting, improvement, and use of IDEA data. Things are getting crowded in the Buckeye State, but there’s always room for you to come along.
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You can contact us via the Podcast page on the IDC website at https://ideadata.org/.

### Episode Transcript ###

00:00:01.51  >> You're listening to "A Date with Data" with your host, Amy Bitterman.

00:00:07.34  >> Hey, it's Amy, and I'm so excited to be hosting "A Date with Data." I'll be chatting with state and district special education staff who, just like you, are dealing with IDEA data every day.

00:00:19.50  >> "A Date with Data" is brought to you by the IDEA Data Center.

00:00:24.46  >> Hello, thank you for listening to "A Date with Data." We are doing something a little different today, and I have Ohio's whole IDEA Data team joining to share how they are working together to collect, analyze, report, use and improve their state's IDEA data quality. I'd like to introduce our guests from the Ohio Department of Education. We have Jo Hanna Ward, who is the Director, and Joe Petrarca. I would like to introduce our guests from the Ohio Department of Education. We have Jo Hanna Ward, who is the Director, and Joe Petrarca, who is the Associate Director in the Office of Exceptional Children. Also from the Office of Exceptional Children, we have Matthew Loesch, Ashley Rector, Shauna Schramke and Debra Shirley, who are all Education Program Specialists, and also Kaellen Craft and De'Ja Roundtree-Gibbs, who are Data Administration Managers in the office of Data Quality and Governance. So welcome to all of you. I wanted just to start things off by asking you to tell us how you work together as a data team. What does that look like?

00:01:35.71  >> Well, I'll go ahead and start. I'm Joe, one of the associate directors in our office. Then I'm going to push this off to the team for them to finish answering. So the team works together very closely. This is one of the closest teams I've ever worked with, and part of that commitment that we have to providing quality and excellent data is constant communication, whether that's virtual, in person when we get together, email, chat. We do all of that, and that's how we are able to move our process, procedures and our product out the door. Who wants to follow up with that?

00:02:17.74  >> I can, Joe. So this is Kaellen Craft, one of the data managers who works very closely with our wonderful data team. So I think our setup is very unique, that we have a set of education program specialists that work very closely with the data managers, and I think it's a really interesting setup because we definitely bounce ideas, woes, a lot of woes [Indistinct], work, challenges off of one another. It's not as though we are really siloed. I think our silo comes just by the nature of the work that we do, whether we're pulling data for our program office and then the EPSes are analyzing and synthesizing and putting the data together, but we still work very closely together. There's a lot of collaboration on all of the products and services that we provide.

00:03:17.62  >> This is Ashley. I'll build a little bit on what Kaellen shared. We are a fairly young team. We've only been around for about 7 years. However long Matthew and I have been in the department, that's about how long our team has existed. And we started out with just the three of us, Matthew, me and a supervisor and one data manager at that time, and we have grown now to have, gosh, I want to say three data managers on the special education side and one on the gifted side. And then four of us on the data team within the program office. That's Matthew and I kind of on the data, the more technical, methodological side with the calculations, and then Debra and Shauna are both kind of spearheading all of the monitoring of those indicators.

00:04:09.84  >> Great. Yeah, you have a really great structure, it sounds like. I think that's a big reason we were hoping to have you all, of course, on the podcast to talk about this kind of unique way of handling your state's IDEA data, where often we see one data manager in a state, maybe there's two, and that's their role in totality. And others maybe don't know a whole lot about what they're doing and vice versa, so it's just a really unique setup, and it sounds like there's a lot of great collaboration going on that really helps drive the quality of your data that comes out.

00:04:50.88  >> It really does. And in our office, we're really large. We're the largest office at the department, and we have ... Alone in our office, we have seven sections, of which our data team is one of, and we make those purposeful connections with each of our sections because the data drives everything that they do, in each of those sections. And one of our sections that we work closely with is our Urban Support team, and they provide support to 11 urban districts in Ohio. And the data that this team calculates and puts out is important in helping our urban districts move forward with their initiatives as well as the initiatives that we have with them. So it's ... And so we make those purposeful connections not only with our office, but among the department as well, so sharing that data with our Preschool office, Office for Early Learning and School Readiness as well as our offices that we connect with on a regular basis, like our Graduation office. And of course, then, the connections that we make all of our stakeholders in Ohio, which are many.

00:06:10.40  >> Mm-hmm. Yeah, it seems like it's a culture within your office of collaboration and really kind of built into the system, so that's wonderful to hear.

00:06:22.28  >> Yeah, it is, and that's one of our values as a team, is ... and we do ... We did some mini strategic planning not too long ago, and that was one of the values that we explicitly stated was collaboration.

00:06:37.38  >> It's very intentional about it, which I think makes a big difference.

00:06:42.12  >> Yes. Yes, and intentional with each other as well. Nobody is kept out of the loop on anything.

00:06:48.82  >> Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

00:06:49.89  >> We believe in shared leadership in our office, and that's set by the example made by our Director, Jo Hanna. And so it's not just us making the decisions. We make the decisions as a team, and yes, there are some that land with the team, some that land with me, some that land with Jo Hanna, but we're all involved in that decision-making at some point or another.

00:07:15.46  >> Hmm. Yeah, I love hearing that. I'm going to come work for you guys, I think. What are some of the real advantages that you have found to working together as a team, and are there any challenges too?

00:07:28.65  >> This is Matthew. I'll jump in on some of the advantages. So something that I really love about our team, and I think is kind of unique about the way it's structured, is that we have the opportunity to get the perspective of somebody working with data at all different points. So we have our data managers, that they're really very knowledgeable about how the data is collected and how it's stored and what we can get from the system and what we can't. And then the data specialists on our team, we kind of know how it's ... how the data's typically used by the program office, and often, maybe we know the best way to kind of explain and communicate the data throughout the office, knowing the caveats that would probably be important to include and any kind of ... just any kind of things that we might want to make other people in our office aware of before they're communicating with the districts. And then our district support specialists, they kind of know the common questions and pitfalls from the districts, and so they can kind of take a look at that data from that perspective and thinking about how are districts often being tripped up by this. Is there anything that we can clear up and make a little bit more streamlined so that the districts can understand it better and then they can have an easier time using the data as well. And another thing I would say is a big advantage in our team is that we get lots of opportunities for peer review. We can have multiple people, multiple eyes taking a look at the data for accuracy, which certainly helps to make sure that we have the most accurate products going out the door, but I also think it really helps as far as having a lot of people with different perspectives can really help with coming up for ideas for improvement, thinking about new processes, new approaches, new safeguards and just any kind of new way to use the data. It's really helpful to get all different perspectives on that.

00:09:16.82  >> Great point.

00:09:18.77  >> And I guess I could say, just as far as challenges goes, we've kind of already touched on it a little bit, but certainly more communication is needed. We always have to make sure everybody's at the table, and we really want to make sure that we don't have anybody feeling like they don't at least get input and have the opportunity to weigh in because it's so important, just because we all have such different bodies of knowledge and different specialties as far as the data and using it and caveats and all of that. So it definitely can be more challenging with scheduling and communication, just making sure that everybody's included in the loop, that we get everybody at the table and looking at everything and not leaving people out in the cold, for example.

00:10:02.50  >> Mm-hmm.

00:10:03.92  >> I can add on with a challenge. We do have a lot of data needs across the office, outside of just our federal reporting requirements, and there are ... We sound like we're a large team, but there really are only, at most, two people at each point in the data process that are working on each point. So we have our data managers, Kaellen and De'Ja, who are primarily working on our special education indicators. We have an early learning data manager and a gifted data manager, who are kind of working on other parts. And then Matthew and I are the only ones that are touching kind of the formatting of the data quality checks and the methodology between the data managers and what you see as the final product. And then only Debra and Shauna are monitoring all of those indicators for all of the districts in the state, so I would say that, I guess, it kind of has its pros and its cons, right? It's good because it's easier to get people at the table. It's easier to have a smaller team with communication, so that structure is good in that way. And then, I guess on the other side of that, is that there are only two of us, so if one of us is on vacation, then everything else in that process falls to that other person.

00:11:18.79  >> Mm-hmm.

00:11:20.58  >> Which is why no one's allowed to go on vacation.

00:11:24.76  >> Sorry.

00:11:25.82  >> Yeah. I think we've done a lot of cross-training, and that helps, but again, that's a strength with this team. Everybody's willing to step in and step up when we need to, and yet, again, it's a small team that, in the end, is going to have over 4 million data hits. That's a lot for such a small team to do, and plus, it's a lot to monitor those with basically two of our team members. Another challenge is we collaborate and communicate across the department and the office. It's kind of keeping and making sure that our data is front and center to the other places that it needs to be within the department. And it's a good thing, and it's also a challenge as well. And that's ... Part of it is timing. We're all busy. Each office is busy, and we're a state agency, a large one, in a large state. And everybody has their own initiatives, so it's making sure, too ... I think another challenge is making sure that the data is connected in meaningful ways to everybody so that they can see it, so that they can see that by looking at the data ... and I'm doing air quotes ... just for students with special needs impacts everything. It impacts their achievement. It impacts the districts' overall achievement. It impacts our state determinations as well, and we're trying to make it so it's not just something in isolation.

00:13:04.65  >> Yes, for sure. It needs to be a full Department of Education priority and discussion, not just isolated within ... yeah ... special education. And it sounds like you all are very aware of some of the challenges with having this kind of team approach, but you really have struck a nice balance of that cross-training piece of it and then still having, though, those different perspectives, like Matt was talking about. So kind of having both backups and also maybe folks who aren't quite as immersed in the day-to-day but can be a sounding board and brainstorm and give feedback and have some idea of kind of what's happening in this other area that maybe they're not as immersed in.

00:13:52.45  >> Yeah, it really helps just given the diversity of our team. So Matt and Ashley are really experts in looking at the data and spreadsheets and compiling all of that, and Debra and Shauna's expertise comes in from a classroom perspective. And as we begin looking at perhaps what could be root causes of things or helping districts with the monitoring and development of any of their plans, that's where their expertise comes in. And it's really been helpful, I think, to have those different perspectives. What also is helpful is that we have a director who continually beats the drum about the students that we serve in our office and their achievement and how important that is, and that they are important ... It's important because they are all of our students, not just students with special needs first. And I think that's a great concept for educators to have.

00:14:52.57  >> I want to build on what Joe said, is when Shauna and I are monitoring Joe and Jo Hanna, leadership has really given us the permission to move forward and see what we've learned through monitoring, so that we can identify trends across the state and how we can use that and how we can do better and working with our state support teams within their regions to see, do we have pockets of things that can be addressed to help ...

00:15:16.62  >> Thank you for listening to part one of my conversation with the Ohio data team. Please join us on the next episode for part two of our discussion.

00:15:27.09  >> To access podcast resources, submit questions related to today's episode or if you have ideas for future topics, we'd love to hear from you. The links are in the episode content, or connect with us via the Podcast page on the IDC website at ideadata.org.