A Look Back at 2015

December 31, 2015 9:29 am

This was a huge year for us! Many changes took place at ProvPlan and DataSpark—some set in motion intentionally, some that occurred unexpectedly. Looking back, we’re satisfied that we helped inform, empower, and inspire innovative decision making in Rhode Island this year. Here’s a timeline of some of 2015’s important events, from our data-focused perspective.

January: A major data milestone as workforce data is integrated into the Rhode Island DataHUB. This achievement makes Rhode Island only one of six states in the country with a fully-linked data system that includes K-12, higher education, adult education, and workforce.

February: Central Falls School District is awarded a $3.68 million grant to implement a Restorative Justice project aimed at improving school climate and safety. ProvPlan and The Urban Institute are the data intermediary and evaluation team.

March: Providence native David Grenier joins the Information Group as our DevOps Director and introduces “agile development” project management to the team. This process which includes workflows through a two-week sprint process greatly improves overall operations.

April: ProvPlan publishes policy brief “A Look at Rhode Island’s Lead Hazard Mitigation Act.” The brief and accompanying infographics are shared extensively with community partners, key stakeholders, state policy makers and elected officials.

May: ProvPlan partners with the RI Department of Labor and Training (DLT) to apply for $5 million in federal funding to launch Apprenticeship RI – an effort to increase the number of registered apprentices working in high-growth sectors such as information technology, marine trades, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and cybersecurity.  Our data linkage capacity plays a big role in the proposal.

June: ProvPlan and the RI DLT are successful in securing $1 million in federal funds to support the RI DataHUB’s linkages of education, workforce and employment data!  Info Group staff are busy focusing on two civic engagement data stories – one on young voters and one on young adult volunteers.

July: Lots of staff changes. It’s announced that longtime ProvPlan deputy director, Andrew Bramson, will take over as Information Group director as Rebecca Lee bids us farewell to enjoy time with her new baby and chart a new life in DC. In addition, Joel Stewart MPH, Megan Swindal PhD, and Jenn Stoudt M.Ed. also join the staff at ProvPlan to build on our strengths in health and education data analysis and to launch more partnerships with researchers.

August: Whoa transition! Rebecca Lee says her final goodbye. Through our partnership with the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) network, Senior Education Data Analyst Nikki Churchwell earns a fellowship at the U.S. Department of Education and heads to DC as well. There are so many changes and new faces that we feel like we should be wearing name tags in the office.

September: A soothing sense of calm returns as longtime data analyst Kim Pierson returns from maternity leave and takes over as the Director of Data Analysis. Kim’s historical knowledge and past project experience provides a moment of Zen after a crazy summer.

October: The Info Group debuts its new name, DataSpark. The new name was created to take over the functions of the old InfoGroup and to give our data work its own umbrella. We are SUPER excited and take to Twitter under our new handle, @DataSparkRI, to spread the news and talk data.  We also launch a new website, datasparkri.org.

November: DataSpark hosts a successful #EdChatRI on Twitter that focuses on how teachers can better use data.  We also find out that Rhode Island is not successful in its attempt to secure a third federal grant to further develop Rhode Island’s statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS). Guess this means we’ve done a good job! We gratefully realize we now have the time to focus on other projects.

December: DataSpark takes a lead at a statehouse convening to demonstrate the power of linked data and partnerships. We publish two innovative new Data Stories through the federal Workforce Data Quality Initiative: one focusing on the education-to-workforce pipeline in RI and one on Health Care employment in RI. Here’s hoping the findings have a statewide impact in the New Year!