Geographic information systems data, or GIS, is making districts smarter about everything from safe walking routes to enrollment. A geographic data analysis program, developed by GuideK12, lets schools pinpoint students’ homes to determine the safest routes for large groups of kids walking from the same neighborhood.
The Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Louisiana, meanwhile, is using GIS data to cope with declining enrollment as students have transferred to two charter schools outside the district’s control. Louisiana’s voucher program has further created an incentive for parents to send their children to independent schools.
These developments have left some public schools with far fewer students than other schools in the district, says Calcasieu’s Chief Technology Officer Sheryl Abshire. Abshire uses GuideK12, which allows her to map the race, gender, achievement scores, and exact addresses of all the district’s students. With this data, she says she can better balance school populations by transferring students from one building to a neighboring school that needs more students.
“We run all the scenarios, and now we’re able to more quickly make decisions based on actual information, not on hunches,” Abshire explains. Chief Financial Officer Karl Brucchaus says the process represents a quantum leap from the days “when our personnel were using push pins on a map to redefine a school zone.”