On Microsoft’s On The Issues blog today, I wrote about how we, as a society, cannot accept the current and alarming rate of high school dropouts. Students need not only a high school diploma but further education to be able to compete and succeed in today’s increasingly challenging global workforce. And schools need to do a better job taking action with the student and teacher data they are collecting to drive decision making that will help optimize learning outcomes for students.

We’ve released a new white paper here, detailing how our partners are using the Microsoft’s Education Analytics Platform to build new solutions with business intelligence and predictive analytics. Choice Solutions, Mizuni and VersiFIT are working with schools across the U.S. to provide technology that turns static information into useable, actionable knowledge to improve student performance.

The idea behind this solution was really born out of conversations Microsoft had with community colleges initially.  If you consider the fact that community colleges make money primarily on student enrollment fees, they are really motivated to figure out when, how and why a student chooses to drop out. When I met with ITT Technical Institute last year, they told me because they use the same curriculum every year…they know to the precise day in a course where there’s been a higher spike for dropouts, because there's a specific tough topic, module or test. So they take a hard look at the curriculum to figure where students begin to struggle and figure out what they can do to better prepare students ahead of time for the content.

Now, a lot of schools use the same standard curriculum and lesson plans year after year after year, but they don't apply data the same way to identify students who are showing signs that they are not challenged, disinterested, or not tracking the lessons and are confused. Another good example is Florida Virtual School, one of the early pioneers in online learning in the U.S. Because students are taking online courses, they can monitor a lot of things that are going on with those students.  They can see when the students take courses and log into the system, how long it takes to complete a class or course, etc…and they use that data to identify when a student might need extra help with a teacher or a tutor.

These are all good uses of how schools can use data…and this cannot only be applied to the dropout problem, but it can also be done for career development, personalized learning curriculum…as well as using technology to identify the quality of the learning environment to enhance the management and environment of school systems.

In partnership with the National Dropout Prevention Center, Microsoft is hosting an online community in the U.S. Partners in Learning Network to extend the conversation on this critical topic (sign in and join the NDPC-Dropout Prevention Community). I hope you join us and share your feedback, ideas and success stories.