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Attending the 2015 PDE Data Summit

Jodie BurtonShortly over a year ago, I was hired by Questeq to be the new Application Support Analyst, at Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District. In this position, my primary responsibilities have circled around maintaining our student information system, MMS, PIMS data reporting, and supporting our teachers and staff in any questions or issues they have with the multitude of software programs we utilize. However, the majority of my time is focused on ensuring that our data is accurate and being properly reported to PIMS. Over the past year, I have attempted to integrate more trainings on MMS and PIMS, data quality meetings with our administration regarding PIMS, and have developed several user guides on our different software, all in an attempt to improve the understanding and quality of our data within our district.

Recently, I was very fortunate to have Questeq send me to the PDE data summit, in Hershey, PA. I was asked to attend to determine if the summit was beneficial and worth continuing to attend and send employees to each year, hereafter. The summit is held annually by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, in the hopes of gathering individuals from across the state who share a responsibility in the PIMS process. Each year the conference is centered on a theme, upon which the keynote speakers and informative sessions tend to be based. This year, the theme was “Moving Beyond Compliance: Getting Value Out Of Data”, the focus being that we, as school districts, should be concentrating on not just meeting the expected goals of PDE, but pushing even further by discovering specific areas we need to improve on, developing plans on how to do so, and attempting to achieve better data, and an even better goal than simply being compliant.

Each day, there were keynote speakers, and four one hour-long informative sessions, in which attendees were able to choose from between 10-12 sessions to attend. The topics of each session were very wide in range of focus, directing their subject matter to different target audiences. There were sessions relating to those in a more technical position of PIMS, sessions for administrators relating to how the data affects your school and money, and sessions relating directly to the PIMS uploading process. This made it so that anyone involved in the PIMS process would obtain useful knowledge in attending the summit, not just strictly those in a position such as mine, but those in positions of administration in the district, or those who input data, as well. For those employees who are new to the PIMS process, this summit would also be very beneficial, and can act as a hands-on training. It allows those new to PIMS to be taught directly by PDE themselves, and to be able to ask the numerous questions they will most likely have in the learning process.

Several of the sessions were presented by school districts, who developed a unique system to improve some area of their data. I was able to attend several of these, and obtained some new ideas and very valuable information. Hearing other districts, speak upon issues that we have personally faced in our own district, gave me assurance that these issues are widespread and not just singularly placed. Having similar issues as these presenters, I was able to obtain some new methods from them, on how to improve staff involvement, increase data accuracy, and potentially integrate more education on the subject.

One of the greatest benefits of the summit, though, I believe, was the ability to network with people from across the state that share similar job responsibilities as myself.  Throughout the summit, I frequently had opportunities to interact and discuss, with other attendees, topics such as, what SIS we utilize, the issues we face, and how we have each improved our PIMS process. I was able to obtain contact information from several people, who use MMS or other similar software, or share similar job responsibilities as myself, so that we may be able to turn to each other for assistance or insight in the future.

The summit as a whole was a very valuable opportunity. Each day contained educational experiences, and beneficial interactions with a variety of people. Attending this summit has given me new insight into problems we face as a district, and has given me new steps to attempt to integrate into our system to better our data, and further our goals. I considered it an invaluable experience, and would recommend it to anyone involved in the PIMS process.

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