Q&A with the Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo

A Discussion About Baseline Data Reports

12.13 BaselineReport Data

Michigan College Access Network regularly advises local college access networks about the importance of developing publicly accessible data dashboards or baseline data reports. By establishing and communicating common measures and their baseline data, LCANs are better able to determine priority areas and increase organizational alignment, improving the community’s college access and success system. The transparent communication of shared data also helps members of the LCAN and the community at large to maximize collaboration and impact. 

MCAN frequently receives requests for examples of data dashboards and baseline data reports. The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo – a cradle to career education effort that includes the Kalamazoo College and Career Action Network – has recently published a fantastic example of a baseline data report. MCAN interviewed Amy Slancik, Director of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, to learn more about The Network’s efforts in producing the report. We hope that by sharing this information, LCANs will feel less intimidated by the process of developing their own data dashboards and reports!

Q 1:  How did The Network’s leadership team decide which content to include in its 2015 baseline data report? 

A 1:  As a member of the StriveTogether national partnership, we were encouraged to consider releasing a community baseline report so that we could have a fact-based, metric-driven report to rally the community. We conducted research on other cradle-to-career community baseline reports. We also had many discussions about what we want the report to say about our community’s current reality in terms of educational outcomes.

Q 2:  How does the Kalamazoo College and Career Action Network (CACAN) intend to use the report? 

A 2:  The data in the baseline report indicates significant gaps in college readiness between economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students. This data supports CACAN’s decision to design intentional strategies that support low-income students by steering the network in a direction that serves the highest-need students of Kalamazoo County.

Q 3:  How was the report designed? Did the leadership team have initial thoughts on how it should look or did you let a creative team present ideas?  

A 3:  After doing our research on baseline reports released by other communities, we left the design work up to our communications team. The Learning Network’s communication team consists of a writer and a graphic designer. Our data team, including the Upjohn Institute, provided lots of data to be included. Feedback was then gathered from The Learning Network’s Leadership Council.

Q 4:  Approximately how much time was spent in the development of the content and supporting a designer to produce the final report? 

A 4:  It was probably about six months in total.

Q 5:  What was the budget for producing the report? 

A 5:  When staff time, printing and postage are considered, we spent roughly $19,000 to produce the report. The majority of the $19,000 was spent on contract time with our writer and graphic designer. 
Note: MCAN strongly believes that all LCANs should develop a data dashboard or baseline report. However, we realize that $19,000 is a significant expense for many organizations. The report can be as simple as a well-written, publicly accessible Word document, or a professionally designed full-color, print publication, as shared by The Learning Network. The important point is for LCANs to share this valuable data with their communities, and do it in such a way that it receives positive attention!

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Q 6:  How will the report be updated year-to-year? 

A 6:  Each year we will provide a Baseline Report Card that updates the community-level outcomes and highlights the contributing indicators or small changes that contribute to needle-moving results. The Report Card will also highlight gaps and opportunities in the community, and show where the community has room for improvement.

Q 7:  Where is the baseline report available? Can community members easily access it?

A 7:  We share the report regularly via social media outlets and it alsocan be found on our website.The report is also available in print and has been shared both in the community and across the state.

Q 8:  What suggestions do you have for Local College Access Networks as they prepare their first public dashboard or annual baseline data report? 

A 8:  As you can imagine, developing a report this in-depth takes a great deal of time. We really encourage everyone to plan for extra time in the draft refinement process. Be sure to gain buy-in from key stakeholders throughout the process and not just after it is developed. The data being shared in a baseline report may paint a bleak picture for the community. It is important for community partners to share the story together because it is our collective reality. If partners are not bought in from the beginning, it may appear as though they are being blamed for the results. In order to ensure that our students are reaching their full learning potential, it is essential to have the community come together as a whole to solve the problem. We also recommend having a clear purpose for developing the report and a plan for how it will be used in the community.

Additional information about data dashboards, including samples, can be found in MCAN’s latest publication, “Charting the Course Second Edition: A community’s guide for increasing educational attainment through the lens of collective impact.” MCAN’s own dashboard community report also is available online.


Jamie Jacobs headshot 2013Author: Jamie Jacobs, director of capacity building
Posted: March 2, 2016 

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