Imagine yesteryear’s classroom: old fashioned desks that are perfectly aligned and a teacher lecturing the entire class period. The 21st century classroom has become blended, flipped, and collaborative in nature, yet, counselors still review the same D/F reports they did 50 years ago. We must evolve our practice as we have evolved other aspects of education by leveraging modern technology to bring a more innovative, proactive and holistic approach to student services.

Over the past 15 years, there have been many efforts by schools, districts, states and foundations to create technology and leverage data to better identify students that need additional support so that we can help those students when there is still time to take corrective action. There are a variety of tools such as early warning systems that identify at-risk students by analyzing attendance, behavior and grades and a growing selection of data dashboards that provide almost limitless ways to slice and dice data coming from every corner of the school.

Yet with all of these advancements, I still hear the same frustrations from district leaders around the country: lack of clarity in how we identify students for assistance and apply interventions, the need to go to five different screens in three different applications to get one holistic view of a student for a troubleshooting meeting, and few if any ways to understand what actions had a meaningful impact on student success. And even if I meet a colleague who is lucky enough to have some tools in place that help with these issues, those tools are never connected to the other tools they have that allow them to take action and communicate with all key stakeholders, including students and parents.

Practitioners need an effective end-to-end solution for identifying risks and opportunities, recommending solutions, taking action, and tracking efficacy. Moreover, this system should not be exclusively focused on students at risk. All students sit somewhere on a continuum of risk and opportunity. All students have student support needs of some nature and our goal is for all students to become future ready. A modern and holistic technology system for student support can be used not only to minimize negative outcomes by helping students who are struggling, but it can be instrumental in maximizing positive outcomes for students who are thriving as well as those in the middle who sadly often escape our notice.

A system that leverages improved data interoperability and modern practices for integrating data with action can reshape how we work effectively with students — both individually and in groups. Using a more holistic and integrated system will allow us to be more efficient and effective with our limited time and deliver more proactive and personalized services while keeping practitioners and clinicians focused on personal relationships with kids rather than tracking data points on dashboards.

I work with countless school professionals who are looking for more ways to use data. But just having more data, even if it is packaged in nice charts, can be overwhelming. There are more data systems than ever and more data flowing through them than ever. How do we make data accessible and actionable for daily use? How can we do this while deepening human relationships rather than retreating behind dashboards? Those are the questions I’m excited to work on every day and I believe a great answer to those questions is soon within reach!

Matthew Liberatore

Matthew Liberatore

Matt Liberatore is the director of professional learning and student services for Township High School District 214, president-elect of the Illinois School Counselor Association, and senior advisor to Intellispark.