Personal ed

Big data could help close achievement gaps between underserved students and their peers in the Silicon Valley region.

Educational intervention often takes a blanket approach, noted Rodney Ogawa, UC Santa Cruz professor emeritus of education. But a regional database that draws information from public schools, online educational program providers, and health and human service agencies could enable detailed analyses that lead to personalized education plans.

With a $356,542 National Science Foundation grant, Ogawa and his colleagues built partnerships for the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust, a database for San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties.

One impetus for this project was a study, published in the American Journal of Education by Ogawa, Betty Achinstein, and Marnie Curry, of three predominantly Latino high schools with high rates of college-bound students. Despite intensive efforts, those at-risk students often weren’t prepared to academically thrive in college.

There were organizational barriers to students’ success, said Ogawa. He thought: Why not use data the way they do in medicine or astronomy to breakdown boundaries and answer intractable questions?

“The goal is to begin personalizing educational services so that the kids and families most at risk for poor outcomes in schools and elsewhere can be able to begin to turn the corner,” said Ogawa.