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Criticism of Say Yes Syracuse and what it means for Say Yes Buffalo

In January, the American Institutes for Research released an analysis of how Say Yes to Education in Syracuse utilized school data to improve outcomes for students. It's conclusion presented some findings that were rather critical of Say Yes Syracuse and raise questions for Say Yes Buffalo:

From the project’s initiation, however, many conditions for productive data use were not in place in Syracuse. For example, existing data resources were not comprehensive and did not lend themselves to analysis and evaluation goals; leadership regarding data resources was not consistent; little support for administrators’ and teachers’ data use existed; and some educators in SCSD considered the burden of additional data collection to outweigh the benefits.

Information system challenges and decisions about use of data became powerful barriers and, despite efforts to share data, various partners did not become fully engaged, nor were they able to reap the benefits anticipated in the data work.

The report also said adjustments and corrections have been made in Syracuse and that Say Yes Buffalo is learning from Syracuse's missteps. We asked David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo, for his response to this. (We asked for a short response but he gave us a long one.) Here's some of what he said:

"Many elements of the Say Yes Buffalo partnership are modeled on what has been successful with implementing Say Yes Syracuse.  Other elements are original to our chapter based on what we learned by evaluating what could have been done differently in Syracuse.

"Syracuse does not have in place a comprehensive system to collect, share and analyze data related to student performance.  When the Say Yes Buffalo partnership was established, bringing the school district and other partners together to develop a comprehensive data tracking system was one of the first things we did.

"As a result, in partnership with the Buffalo Public School District we launched the Student Management System, which for each student combines district data on their attendance history, disciplinary history and academic record with input from the student themselves, their parent or guardian and teachers on the status of their personal health, wellness and behavior.  The data is used to generate individual student growth plans for every student.  It tells school staff when and where a student is on track or off track; and if they are off track it guides a process to connect that student with support services to bring them back on track.

"Beyond creating the Student Management System, the Say Yes Buffalo partnership also committed to sharing on a public review of data. When the Say Yes Buffalo partnership was formed, we publicly stated that data related to these measures would be released in a transparent manner on a regular basis to hold us all accountable. Baseline metrics were released at our public Community Leadership Council meeting in November. All of the information will also be posted on our website."

Below is the full January report by AIR on the use of data in Syracuse.

-- Sandra Tan

AIR-Say Yes Analysis


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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |