In partnership with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the research and evaluation team at Metro Nashville Public Schools has developed a mock-up dashboard that, when finalized, will enable educators to bring data from different sources together so as to generate standard reports of actionable information to support students for college and career readiness.

One of several city school systems to receive a Dell Foundation grant under the Effective Assessment Data Management project, Metro Nashville was tasked with addressing the essential question, “Are our students who will graduate on time college- and career-ready?” Through a grant from the Gates Foundation, the district has developed a counselors’ dashboard aligned with EdFi Unifying Data Model standards, which—once it goes live—will be nationally available through the EdFi data community.  

The dashboard will provide counselors and teachers with class-wide and individual student information on credit accumulation, course grades, ACT test scores, attendance and behavior. The data enables counselors to identify composite trends as well as situate students at a glance in one of four categories: at risk for dropping out; on track to graduate but not college-ready; college- and career-ready; or advanced.

While significant research has been done on dropout prevention and on college readiness indicators, relatively little guidance is available on actionable indicators that show whether students taking alternative postsecondary pathways are career-ready: on track to attain a living wage within three years of high school graduation. Metro Nashville Public Schools hopes to address this using a longitudinal study drawing on the P20 Connect TN Data System that links education and workforce development data, to look at career outcomes for MNPS graduates from 2013 onward who are not successfully enrolled in a postsecondary institution.

The team hopes to identify which educational indicators are most predictive of career success and what cut points to use for interventions. To this end, researchers will look for possible correlations between earning a living wage of at least $25,000 three years after graduation (or not), and such educational indicators as GPA, grades in key courses, ACT scores, attendance, and discipline. Because the longitudinal data already exists in the P20 system, researchers could complete the analysis within a few months of receiving access to the data.

The ultimate goal is to understand where and how to intervene to help ensure non-college bound students have robust postsecondary plans and are prepared to pursue them. Student ACT outcome projections, based on state testing as early as fourth grade, have proven 80% accurate and very hard to budge. The challenge that MNPS hopes to resolve is how to best prepare students who are not college-ready to succeed in the workforce, without falling into the pitfall of tracking. Most school counselors’ caseload does not provide an opportunity to sit down with individual students to assess their postsecondary options, yet such individual support is needed and must be developed over time.

Personnel Required

For this project, the following individuals participated:

  • Executive Director of Research, Assessment, and Evaluation
  • Director of Information Management and Decision Support
  • Manager of Business Intelligence
  • Data Analyst
  • Director of Research and Evaluation
Population Served

Students in Metro Nashville Public Schools, Pre-K through grade 12. 

Project Focus

The focus of this project was to develop a dashboard based on the state’s P20 longitudinal data system to determine how to create career-ready indicators, especially for students who are not enrolling immediately in postsecondary institutions.


The group is still in the early phases, but getting preliminary, unlimited access to the data was a huge, multi-year project taken on by the Director of Information Management and Decision Support.

Additionally, navigating the proposal submission process was a substantial accomplishment. 

Important Factors for Success

The Director of Information Management and Decision Support’s persistence, and also a group of people (the data team) that remains interested in the work and asking questions.

Having the consistent and regularly occurring PAS group discussions helped maintain focus on this initiative.

Requirements for Success

The team has had no additional resources other than being allowed to use a portion of their work time on this initiative. 


The plan was to submit a proposal by Spring 2019 to use the P20 system for a series of logistic regressions. From there, the group mentioned above will convene and decide whether and how to flag students meeting certain criteria in the data warehouse.

Overcoming Challenges

The major hurdles the team has faced include having to reiterate requests for data access and carving out time for the work.

Future Goals

For next year, through a different grant, counselors will have a dashboard that helps them determine whether a student is meeting all graduation requirements. The hope is to add the college/career ready on-track flag to this report, along with the at-risk for dropout flag, by the beginning of year two. In year three the team will refine the cut marks, based on the data collected. 

Major Takeaways

Develop relationships with the key data owners. Once the data is available, the technical portion of the project will be relatively easy to complete. 


At the Pathways to Adult Success October 2019 Conference, Metro Nashville Public Schools representatives share their experience building early warning systems over the long term.

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