A Dashboard is Not a Plan: User-Centered Design, Digital Credentials, Case Management, and Progress Monitoring in DeSoto ISD

Read the full article here at Getting Smart 

User-Centered Design, Digital Credentials, Case Management, and Progress Monitoring in DeSoto ISD
By: Dr. D’Andre Weaver and Dr. Eric J Ban

While education leaders focus on equity, they are also seeking to understand student performance and student needs. A line of questioning could look like this:

    • What % of students show up in a 2- or 4-year college by gender, race, ethnicity?
    • What % progress to college completion and living wage workforce entry?
    • What did we do here in the school district to ensure their success and how can we do more of that? Was it rigorous courses, extra-curricular participation, a caring adult mentor, an authentic work-based learning experience, or helping them complete their financial aid and select a well-matched college option?

Now more than ever, education leaders are seeking more holistic insights to support students on their college, career, and life journey. Technology vendors are responding to this need by showing up with promises of educational equity via new and exciting dashboards. A dashboard is not a plan. DeSoto Independent School District (ISD) will develop new and exciting dashboards as the result of a plan to address educational equity through user-centered design, digital credentials, case management, and progress monitoring (dashboards).

Now more than ever, education leaders are seeking more holistic insights to support students on their college, career, and life journey.

User-Centered Design:

    • Students: A portrait of a DeSoto graduate has been defined by and with students to outline important skills, credentials, and currency. Students are then setting college and career goals and need routine insights from their data to understand how they track against those goals. Finally, students are developing the power to define their narrative and place themselves on the market for scholarships, college, and jobs.
    • Educators: A data map defined by teachers, advisors, and administrators has been developed against the DeSoto portrait of a graduate to include a holistic view of the student from attendance, academics, engagement in extra-curricular, career experiences, mental health, and basic family needs. Next, case management functionality is defined by educators with clear data governance so that adults in the building see the appropriate information they need at the point of decision making.
    • Administration: Defines the data and visualizations to track progress across key district indicators in real time. This data is tightly aligned with the student portraits, the specific work that teachers, counselors, and advisors oversee, and district equity goals. This activity creates the requirements for the “Dashboard”.

Digital Credentials: Students and parents own their data in the form of a comprehensive learner record (CLR). This is a digital wallet where students can build their profile or narrative that results in a “verified Linked-In.” Students set goals for their future and the school district writes routine information to their digital wallet that helps them see and understand if they are on track to reach their goals. The learner record also has a college enrollment fast pass where students upload all their verified documents like their transcripts, fee waiver form, proof of residency, and others where our regional colleges and universities accept the “fast pass” to direct enrollment.

Case Management: Educators don’t log in to a dozen different systems at DeSoto ISD. They log in to a customer relationship management (CRM) tool where the data they defined from the student information system (grades and attendance), the learning management system (completing assignments), assessment vendor portals (PSAT, ACT, AP), college and career guidance systems (college goals), state financial aid systems (financial aid), college systems (dual credit), social and emotional learning referral systems (basic needs and mental health referrals), all converge around a common student record. This CRM allows educators to build tiered support and cases for students so that a counselor, a teacher, and an administrator more securely and safely share information on a student with shared accountability.

Progress Monitoring: DeSoto ISD leadership now can view the plan for educational equity in a beautiful dashboard. The important point is that the data that feeds the DeSoto ISD dashboard emerges from the plan to support the needs of every student by empowering students and the educators who support them. This type of progress monitoring is truly improvement science, where the people doing the work have addressed the root causes of our inequitable student journeys and have the real-time data and tools to effectively intervene.

IT & Data Resources: School districts have one set of IT and data resources. Think carefully about how these resources are leveraged. When most are rushing to build a dashboard first, it requires the same amount of time to move data into a digital wallet and a CRM that will feed the dashboard as it does to move all that data into a dashboard.


Assessing the performance and needs of your learners helps to sure equity remains your epicenter. Student support can come in many forms though note that while a dashboard is not a plan, developing one is the result of a plan built for all learners in mind.

Dr. D’Andre Weaver is the Superintendent of DeSoto ISD.

Dr. Eric J Ban is the Executive Director of Economic Mobility Systems.

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