Unfogging the Mirror: Getting the Most of your Data using Dashboards

Interactive data dashboards are an important tool that SPR uses to enhance data accessibility, transparency and quality. Data dashboards provide diverse program stakeholders with a quick and timely snapshot of where they are in relation to program goals and desired outcomes. When data is transparent and accessible, it can be used to inform decision making and it can also motivate partners to ensure that data entry is complete and accurate.

SPR is using a data dashboard in a multi-year evaluation of community colleges funded under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. The grant funds career pathway programs, with the goal of building greater alignment between the work of the colleges, employers, and formal industry credentialing programs.

Data Dashboard - Age Information

As illustrated in the snapshot below, the dashboard, which was created in Tableau, provides up-to-date information on participant demographics, enrollment, and outcomes such as placement wages. The dashboard is interactive, so that users can look at outcomes for individual colleges, groups of colleges, or the consortium as a whole.

Data Dashboard - Employment OutcomesData Dashboard - Outcomes Data

The dashboard is an important tool that is strengthened by ongoing engagement with key stakeholders. The evaluation team has been working in an ongoing way with college stakeholders to help them interpret and draw implications from the data, as well as to improve data quality. We engage them in an iterative process described in the visual below.

Flow Chart of Process for Encouraging Quality Data

High quality data serves as a foundation for meaningful discussions among stakeholders about whether they are reaching the right target population, how students are moving through career pathways, and the types and the quality of jobs students are being placed into. Furthermore, data accessibility provides stakeholders with the opportunity to ask questions of the data and the evaluation team, which in turn helps to improve the metrics that are being used to assess progress. In this way, dashboards are an instrumental tool for strengthening programs and assisting stakeholders to achieve their goals.

This blog post was written by Heather Lewis-Charp, Senior Associate, and Sarah Thomason, Associate, of Social Policy Research Associates.