Our IT team is at the center of our work and supports so much of our innovation and growth. To give you a sense of the types of projects we’re currently working on, check out the two spotlight projects below.
Spotlight Project #1: Student Achievement Management System
“This system is at the very essence of achieving educational equity. It lays the foundation for a data-rich contextual experience that actually improves corps member instruction …motivating them to set big goals for their students and encourage their students to meet those goals.”
- Rachel Doppelt, Senior Managing Director of Business Analysis, IT team
What is SAMS?
Teach For America’s 9,000 corps members are reaching almost 200,000 students this year alone.
To ensure our corps members are effectively measuring and advancing student achievement, our IT team collaborated with other teams on staff to build the Student Achievement Management System (SAMS). SAMS is a one-of-a-kind data collection system, and the most complex and complicated custom project the team has completed to date.
How It Works
SAMS allows us to quantify Teach For America’s impact on students across the country, providing a more effective platform for teachers to set student achievement goals and track progress against those goals throughout the year. Moving away from a fixed bucketing system, SAMS provides a much more contextual way to set goals.
- Setting Student Achievement Goals: Using SAMS, a teacher begins by referencing a benchmark calculator to set goals for the school year. This calculator takes a range of factors into account, including a student’s baseline test scores and their state of residence. The benchmark calculator, developed by statisticians on the IT team, is based on regression modeling that takes in the factors mentioned. The user interface is simple: teachers simply input each student’s information and then receive an updated set of goals customized for each child.
- Tracking Progress: SAMS also provides additional monitoring and tracking resources that act as a teaching map, informing teachers whether each student is falling behind, meeting or exceeding initial expectations. For example, the student achievement tracker, utilizing single sign-on and internal systems integration, tracks individual academic progress. Teachers input ongoing testing data throughout the year to ensure each student’s profile is current. Based on fluctuations in testing scores, each teacher can be more in tune with each student, ensuring they are getting the support they need.
Our hope is that by 2013, SAMS will not only strengthen corps member’s teaching experiences, but will provide a rich pool of data that will inform changes to how we support our corps members and their students.
Equally important is how this tool will help support our fundraising efforts. The organization’s financial success and overall reputation relies heavily on our measurable impact on student achievement. SAMS helps us quantify our results.
- Java based platforms
- Oracle database
- Multi-tiered architecture (stored procedures, pre-sequel, RESTful web services)
- IBM web sphere portal
- Combination of HTML, CSS, J Query on the UI
- Business Partners: offered subject matter expertise, including teacher training and product development
- Database Administrators and Developers: identified relevant information for data system directors to compute and determine ideal format for teacher usability
- Data System Directors: created SAMS’ benchmark calculator tool, based on regression modeling
- Front End Developers: oversaw development of CSS, HTML, and JQuery to produce innovative interface of user pages
- Middle Tier and Web Service Developers: processed content for Java platforms
- User Experience and Interface Professionals: developed communication and instructional design for teacher interface
- Portal Developers: improved operating processes and aid in developing SAMS’ infrastructure
- Quality Assurance Directors: tested the holistic system and ensure its success for data quality and usability
Spotlight Project #2: Teach For America Constituent Tracker [TFACT]
“SalesForce is a pretty cutting edge solution and the fact that we are implementing it is, well, kind of awesome. Our foray into the cloud will impact the whole organization.”
- Keith McLeod, Managing Director, Project Management
What is TFACT?
With our organization’s steady expansion over the past 10 years and continued growth on the horizon, our IT team is focused on building efficient operating systems. One such system is TFACT, a solution that centralizes and integrates relationship management data isolated within teams throughout Teach For America. This data is essentially our external contact list and includes information on hundreds of thousands of applicants to our teacher corps, staff applicants, and major funders and supporters.
Over the years, each team within Teach For America has generated and updated its own lists, and sent emails, letters, events invitations, and more to individuals on those lists. With our ever-expanding set of constituents and initiatives, we needed a system that centralizes this information so that we can be more coordinated and strategic in our outreach efforts. TFACT is that system.
The Process Thus Far
- SalesForce and Informatica: We chose SalesForce and Informatica as our all-systems configuration and implementation partners. SalesForce made sense because its technology can be customized to meet our specific and unique business needs. It replaces our old CRMs (customer relationship management systems) and financial systems and allowed for the transfer of all information held in the various systems to one master data hub.
- The Consolidation Process: System Analysts on our IT team mapped data across various legacy CRM systems, scrubbing and de-duping data in between to ensure our new system is clean. We are utilizing SEQUAL framework in this data migration effort. The next step is to configure the master data hub to “talk” to our existing in-house systems, keeping all data current and streamlined. This in turn will allow everyone at the organization an accurate 360˚ view of a single contact scrubbed from the various old CRM systems.
Operating in the cloud will increase our relationship management efforts. Staff members from any team—Recruitment, Legal Affairs, Growth Development and Partnerships, Human Assets, Alumni Affairs, Marketing + Communications, or Admissions—will access current and accurate information about a contact in a single click. This will allow all of us to be smarter about who we reach out to, and when and how we reach out to that person. Ultimately, TFACT will strengthen our relationships and increase our impact within our partner communities.
“This project has been quite a professional challenge—the kind that really stretches your knowledge. I am proud of my team for [addressing] these challenges: the sheer volume of components that need be coordinated, the complexity of the data, and [coordination] across many different sub-teams within IT.”
- Michael Vinokur, Senior Managing Director of Enterprise Data Services
- More than 50% of the IT Team are involved in the system integration
- Estimated users: over 1,000
- Largest project ever tackled by IT Team
2013 Award Winner
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