Data analysis and governance don't always seem like the most riveting topics of conversation, but they're important in many ways.
At the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), there are lots of employees who work with data frequently, including sensitive or protected information.
Some of these people are members of the Analytics, Insights, and Metrics (AIM) group, which was formed in 2019 to serve as a data advisory group to SDCOE leadership and staff members. The group includes representatives picked by the SDCOE leadership team from across the organization with a variety of backgrounds and a singular common link: They all work with data.
"Collaboration between members of the group is important for a few reasons," said Dr. John Watson, data scientist and organizer of the data team. "First, by sharing work on data projects with peers in other divisions, members have already found ways to share technologies and improve problem-solving. Second, because there are similar approaches to working with data, specifically student data, collaboration is leading to standard methods and some best practices related to data analysis and reporting."
AIM members work to foster a culture of data literacy, review data projects, and promote the visibility of data projects.
"Attending the AIM group meetings gives me a chance to share information, learn about other data projects at SDCOE, and collaborate on data issues and best practices," said Nancy Baum, data reporting coordinator in Integrated Technology Services.
One of the big topics of conversation for the group currently is data governance, which is essentially making sure that sensitive data is treated in a safe and legal way.
"Data governance is a term that people aren't necessarily familiar with, but they should be," Watson said.
Focusing on data governance helps ensure that SDCOE has the procedures and tools it needs to safely manage, project, and use data.
Last year, the group developed a data strategy plan that focused on how to provide data services to school districts that help improve student learning. This year, the AIM working group is creating support for employees who work with student data, including a data governance guide and training about safe handling, transmission, use, storage, analysis, and deletion of student data.