Tools for K12 educational leaders to leverage data to develop future-focused strategies

Forecast5‚Ñ¢ Analytics helps improve academic return on investment in today's challenging budget environment
By: | Issue: March, 2018 | Thought Leadership
January 29, 2018

How can district administrators make more efficient, effective and strategic decisions?

There is data available to support many of the decisions that school administrators make every day. Often though, it takes time to manually gather and model that data. If a project uses 80 percent of its timeline to gather and model data, that leaves just 20 percent of the time to actually analyze it. Forecast5‚Ñ¢ Analytics tries to flip that paradigm to make data gathering and modeling the minority of the project time, giving school administrators more time to analyze the information. This provides a better chance of developing a superior solution to a given problem. Our products have the capability to pull information together faster, as well as to create clear and effective presentations that are better understood by stakeholders.

What are school districts missing when it comes to leveraging data to find new resources, increase operational efficiency and strengthen decision-making processes?

Many school districts buy or maintain transactional systems. Those systems are good at storing information, but not good at analyzing it. We are not proposing that districts buy new systems. We can mount our products to the existing student information systems or financial accounting software that school districts already have, to give them the benefit of analytical systems but without a major investment in a new platform. Another common problem is relying too heavily on spreadsheets. We do use Excel in our tools, or we allow a client to attach to Excel, but Excel has some fundamental limitations when it comes to modeling complex scenarios. We have a database solution with an Excel-like interface for a stronger, faster and more flexible tool.

What is the advantage for school districts of drafting multiyear projections and simulating immediate “what if” scenarios?

Our team has attended hundreds of school board meetings and listened to questions asked during budget presentations, and I always felt there would be a lot of value in modeling out some of the questions and answers in advance. We wanted to build out systems that could tackle a multivariant scenario analysis and put that into a format that a CFO or school administrator could use to provide an immediate answer to questions across various scenarios and variables. The advantage of drafting a multiyear projection is that it will help decision-makers understand that something that is affordable this year might not be as cost-effective five years from now. We offer technology that allows school districts to generate a base-budget scenario, and then create multiple scenarios off that base, to immediately compare the differences between all scenarios in a visual report.

How important is it that school districts compare performance and spending against their peers?

It is so critical. Ten or 15 years ago, we had a growing economy and there were far fewer limitations placed on school budgets. What performance benchmarking does for school districts is that it allows them to look at their budgets and understand how other school districts are managing their budgets. That might help either confirm a strategy or see where there might be cost-saving opportunities.

For example: If your district is spending $1,000 per student for transportation, but similar-size districts with similar geography are spending only $600 per student, performance benchmarking and technology can identify an opportunity to re-evaluate your transportation strategy and save money.

Benchmarking is also very valuable in evaluating expenditures and benefits, such as health insurance or collective bargaining and teacher salary schedules. We’ve developed new statistical models, which give administrators insight into the concept of an academic return on investment.

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