Big Data and Analytics Techniques for K-12

The future of analytics in K-12 education. Narrative will hook on the AltSchool, a chain of private for-profit "microschools" led by tech execs from Google, Uber, etc who are bringing that kind of big data use/analytics to classrooms, for better or worse.
AltSchool CEO Max Ventilla, standing, and CTO Bharat Mediratta hope to bring the big-data and analytics techniques of their former employer, Google, to the K-12 arena. —Ramin Rahimian for Education Week.


In the article in Education Week, by Benjamin Herold (2016), The Future of Big Data and Analytics in K-12 Education, discussion is made on the future of big data and analytics for K-12 education.

As stated, “Over the past decade, big data and analytics have slowly crept into the world of public education. Versions of the unobtrusive, real-time, embedded-in-everyday-activities collection of student-learning data now being pioneered by AltSchool and others are touted in the federal government’s new National Education Technology Plan.


According to the US. Department of Education,

“The plan calls for schools and districts to:

  • Redesign teacher preparation programs to shift from a single technology course to thoughtful use of technology throughout a teacher’s preparation and minimum standards for higher education instructors’ tech proficiency.
  • Set an expectation of equitable access to technology and connectivity inside and outside of school regardless of students’ backgrounds.
  • Adopt high-quality openly licensed educational materials in place of staid, traditional textbooks.
  • Implement universal design principles for accessibility across all educational institutions and include these principles within teacher preparation programs.
  • Improve technology-based assessments to allow for embedded delivery within instruction and making near real-time feedback for educators possible.
  • Establish a robust technology infrastructure that meets current connectivity goals and can be augmented to meet future demand.

“Ventilla has attracted top talent from his old employer, as well as leading companies in consumer technology and some of the top independent schools in the region.” (Herold, 2016)

In the article by Marco Della Carva titled, Zuckerberg, Tech Investors Fund Altschool Initiative, “Education reform just got a $100 million boost from a range of high-profile tech investors including Mark Zuckerberg and Laurene Powell Jobs.

AltSchool, a 2-year-old software-fueled elementary school initiative started by ex-Googler and Aardvarkfounder Max Ventilla, announced Monday a $100 million Series B round led by a mix of established venture capital firms and powerful social-good investors. To date, AltSchool’s has raised $133 million.”

“The AltSchool team has already prototyped and deployed some of the systems inside its own schools.  AltSchool’s 50-plus engineers, data scientists, and developers are designing tools that could be available to other schools by the 2018-19 school year. “(Herold, 2016)

“AltSchool is a combination of technologists and educators joining forces to help teachers do their job better. They want to get away from the lectures and toward small-group education.”

AltSchool aims to keep the traditional teacher-student and student-student relationships intact while using software to allow teachers to better assess the individual learning needs of each student, says Ventilla.” (Della Carva, 2016).


As stated in the article, Data Dashboards a High Priority in National Ed-Tech Plan by Malia Herman, “The National Education Technology Plan released in December 2015 by the U.S. Department of Education emphasizes a high priority for states, school ditricts, and educational technology companies to expand and improve the use of learning, or data, dashboards.

The push for wider and better use of data dashboards—which allow educators to examine and connect relevant student data from multiple sources—is growing stronger as schools scale up the use of personalized learning.”

There are 6 key elements that are offered as guidelines for the successful implementation of dashboards:

  • Understand the Audience
  • Master the Purpose
  • Connect Dashboard and Content Providers
  • Choose Data with Students in Mind
  • Organize Data into Logical Groups
  • Start Simple, Then Grow Sophisticated

The above list are practical and standard issues that are addressed in the creation of any software application. However, being that this is new waters that are being entered, developed and implemented. the major obstacle that stands out to be the most is cross compatibility integration across products or as stated, “Connect Dashboard and Content Providers

As continued in the article, “Edi Cox, the executive director of online learning for the 42,000-student Horry County district in South Carolina, said her school system used a data dashboard for 1½ years, and it was “phenomenal” because it helped teachers customize their practices by using updated student data.

Then teachers started using content providers that hadn’t been integrated into the dashboard, forcing the district to temporarily halt its use…

There is a huge need for the digital-content providers to work with the data-dashboard providers,” Cox said. “It’s a lot of effort. People have to come together.

Fisher said schools need to be aware of what interdependencies they are building into their dashboards that could raise costs.

She suggested making content providers aware of the need for their data to work with a dashboard during contract negotiations, and, if possible, making dashboards flexible enough to accommodate different kinds of content providers.

Horry County’s Cox said teachers have more data than they know what to do with. Being able to feed the data into a dashboard that can automatically group students based on their needs is critical. But it has to be done right. “If you give too much information, there is no way a teacher is going to be able to deal with that in real time,” Soloway of the University of Michigan said. “For mainstream teachers, that dashboard has got to be incredibly succinct.

To prevent overwhelming teachers with learning analytics, he recommended that schools should start with a simple dashboard, then roll out additional layers of data as teachers become more comfortable with them.”

I agree with the above statements and while the U.S. Education National Educational Plan offers fantastic direction and insight, more details and assistance in the practical applications of the directives would be helpful.

Overall, there are a lot of new and innovative research, creations and implementations for and because of big data and analytics. We are still rising up to the peak and hopefully the results will continue to be successful, ground-breaking and enriching but come to a stabilizing point so everyone can take a breather and do some analysis, self-reflection and study of the actual advantages and disadvantages of the newone technologies we are learning about, creating and using.


Della Carva, M. (2016). Zuckerberg, Tech Investors Fund Altschool Initiative. USA Today. Retrieved from

Herman, M. (2016) Data Dashboards a High Priority in National Ed-Tech Plan Retrieved from

Herold, B. (2016), The Future of Big Data and Analytics in K-12 Education. Education Week. Retrieved from

US Department of Education. (2015). 2016 National Education Technology Plan. Retrieved from


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