- Institution Type: After School STEM Program
- Topic: STEM
- Region: Portland, Oregon
“Now I can look at the data at any time, and see right away if we are off base in enrollment and act more quickly.”
—Tong Zhang, Oregon MESA Executive Director
Oregon MESA is a pre-college academic program hosted by Portland State University that equips underrepresented students with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), invention, and 21st-century skills. MESA reframes these skills into how students can help others in their daily lives, connecting academic work to their real lives and aspirations. As a result, they are better prepared to graduate from high school, enroll in postsecondary education, and compete in a global marketplace. Oregon MESA serves over 400 students and their families annually.
Challenges: Scaling, Accuracy and Access
In the past year MESA has grown from 18 to 30 high schools and is now in 3 regions in Oregon. With this growth came the need to prioritize a database that would address some existing challenges and have additional flexibility to add performance goals. Some of the specific challenges were:
- Limited access to data, there was only one person at the org who was “in the system” and was responsible for everything from data entry to reporting.
- Different types of data were not linked. Student demographics were not linked to attendance, making it more difficult and time-consuming to produce reports showing who is served and where the program was having the greatest influence.
- More schools meant more data entry. One person was not going to have the capacity to continue to enter data as the program increased. MESA needed a system where additional staff could be trained to enter demographics, attendance and event information.
A database on the Grouptrail platform that houses student demographics, attendance and other program data on a single student record:
- Access: Program staff each have access to customizable dashboards and reports for answering questions about programming from stakeholders. No more funneling data requests through a single data person, shaving hours and sometimes days off of the time it takes to answer program questions.
- Accuracy: From enrollment to equity, MESA staff can now see which students they reach most effectively. With attendance and demographics linked to a student record, their data is more accurate and specific than before.
- Scaling: No longer are 400 student files entered in by a single person. Using permissions settings MESA is allowing school-based part-time staff to enter program information for each of their students. The site administrator monitors data quality, completion, and controls access, limiting certain access for registration periods.