Raju Varanasi, Director, Data Intelligence & CIO
Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
schools centralized on one data hub
improvement in student retention
Automated data from 43,000 students and 8,600 staff members
With eighty schools encompassing eighty-six hundred staff members and forty-three thousand students, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, in Western Sydney, Australia, has a massive amount of data to analyze and keep track of.
Raju Varanasi, Director, Data Intelligence and Chief Intelligence Officer, oversees a team of six data analysts and a data storyteller that provides teachers, staff, and principals with data and insights around the following:
“Schooling requires real-time feedback — we need to know immediately and not later how a child is doing,” says Varanasi. “Why would you wait twenty-four weeks to understand how your child is doing? Data and analytics allow us to catch things as they happen in real time. Behind the data there is a story and context.”
“Previously all our data was in disparate places, and we kept everything in disorganized Excel spreadsheets. It used to take hours and sometimes even days just to pull the proper data for staff, and we’d waste time in long meetings just to discuss our findings.”
Varanasi and his team needed a solution that would not only help them be more efficient and connect school data together, but also allow them to dig deeper into their data so that they could better understand outside factors that impacted for example, student attendance and retention.
The combination of Alteryx and Tableau is transforming schooling, therefore transforming how children learn
“We turned to our partners at MIP to help us implement Alteryx, as we discovered it through Gartner’s Magic Quadrant and knew that it would be the right solution,” says Varanasi. Pre-Alteryx, it was a disparate and fragmented world of individual data sets. However, no one was tying it back to the student. With Alteryx, we’ve been able to bring the data back to the student through their ID. We have created a holistic view of the student and Alteryx is the glue of it. Now, all principals from our 80 schools have access to the same information.
Powered by the Alteryx Gallery, teachers, counselors, and principals can access a central hub that provides them the ability to select the data they need from their school and department. Data sources are vast, but Varanasi and his team have mapped those sources to every school and user. One prime example is the process by which attendance data is captured. School teachers actively enter attendance daily on their iPads, which then feed into their Amazon Web Services cloud. From there, Varanasi’s team of analysts pull the data and work their magic to then feed it into user-friendly Tableau dashboards. From there, teachers, principals, and staff can look at student attendance data directly at their fingertips, allowing central access to all essential personnel in the school system.
“The combination of Alteryx and Tableau is transforming schooling, therefore transforming how children learn,” says Varanasi. He and his team believe that data uncovers the context behind students and their families, or what Varanasi calls “real human issues.” One such example was detecting a pattern among African refugees who lost shelter and arrived with no permanent place to live. The data can go beyond numbers and identify those human issues such as at-risk children and most vulnerable children.
By automating the process of gathering and analyzing data from all 80 schools, principals and staff all have access to one central hub of data to glean insights and take action
By digging deeper into insights, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta can see what factors may be contributing to student engagement and wellbeing, and customize learning accordingly.
Catholic Education can predict test scores and attendance rates by uncovering trends that point to better or worse outcomes
“We can predict insights that can make a difference in the lives of students and their families by diving deep into the data,” says Varanasi. “An example of this is that we are able to identify students who are academically at risk (e.g those with additional learning needs, students from non-English speaking backgrounds), and we modify the learning plans so they are customized for the student. We’ve seen that attendance level go up from 64% to 70%. Our dashboards have made a huge difference for the attendance coordinators who oversee these students using attendance dashboards every day.”
“We see the changes that occur every week and almost every day. Suppose there is an issue in the family, we can catch small blips in the data and we have created alerts which enable our principals to call the families to learn what has happened. Or if there is an exit (a family removing their child from the school), the principals get an alert, and we ask them to tell us why the families leave.”
“We see data as a way to impact lives. Data becomes the crucial ingredient to sense the levels of student and parent satisfaction, and that is what Alteryx does for me. After three years of using data and removing the pain points in the enrolment process, we have grown by 1.5% and continue to monitor student exits. That can be attributed to data-driven approaches to service management.”
We have created a holistic view of the student and Alteryx is the glue of it.
Looking ahead, Varanasi says continuing to use data and analytics will be crucial in order to continue growth. “If we can use data to improve the parental experience, there is a return on that,” says Varanasi. “We are improving the connection with parents and the learning experience of the students. We’re also talking about using tools for quality reconciliation, such as better communications and alerts to keep us informed. Alteryx is going to be vital in ensuring our system of checks and balances operate smoothly.”