Case Study

Pointing kids in the right direction to change their lives for the better.

About the client. Compass for Success is a collaboration of 35 school boards and 22 First Nation communities across the Canadian province of Ontario. The organization provides centralized data warehousing and analytics services that help schools to monitor student performance and improve achievement. The Compass for Success software solution brings relevant and timely data to teachers and education administrators to guide their work, improve student outcomes and help kids to succeed.

Graduating from high school isn’t just about getting a diploma — it affects everything from job opportunities and future earnings to quality of life. To increase graduation rates and improve student outcomes, Compass for Success developed an analytics solution that enables schools to identify at risk kids, offer them support and help them to succeed.As part of its drive to boost graduation rates, Compass for Success wanted to give teachers a deeper understanding of their students’ needs and abilities, and enable them to offer better support.Compass for Success worked with KPI Digital and other IBM partner organizations to enhance its powerful analytics platform that gives teachers unprecedented insight into each and every student’s experience.

Real numbers, real results.

Data-driven insights into
& behaviour

Helps drive
success & reduce
dropout rates

Enables schools to
easily identify
at-risk students


Keeping kids in school.
The reasons for staying in school are clear: high school dropouts typically find it harder to gain employment, earn less, and report a lower quality of life than graduates. Around 8.5 percent of young people in Canada do not get their high school diploma — something that Compass for Success is determined to change.

Diane Findlay, Manager at Compass for Success, begins: “When people think about graduation and dropout rates, they tend to focus purely on those high school years and forget about the elementary school experience. But education is a continuum, and the progress that a child makes during grades one to three in particular has a huge impact on whether or not they graduate from high school.” For example, studies have shown that 16 percent of children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade fail to graduate on time. To increase graduation rates and improve student outcomes, Compass for Success wanted to give schools — both elementary and secondary — deeper insight into students’ experiences. Diane Findlay explains: “Because teachers usually only see their students during class, they have no idea how those kids are performing in other classes, let alone what is going on at home. We have seen instances of students going through serious personal and family issues — which affect every-thing from attendance to concentration and behaviour in class — and the school didn’t have a way to identify the problem. If teachers aren’t able to work together and pick up on clues about why a child starts behaving unusually, or offer adequate support, students’ performance is likely to suffer.” “As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. It’s not just about their grades and report cards, but what goes on at home, too. We wanted to enable schools to better identify students who are at risk, for whatever reason, of being left behind, so that teachers can step in and take action to stop them from falling through the cracks.”

With IBM Analytics, we’re enabling schools to identify, engage and support struggling students better than ever before



Delving deeper into student data.
Initially founded to help nine school boards meet the requirements of Ontario’s Managing Information for Student Achievement (MISA) initiative, Compass for Success realized long ago that student data held the key to success. Diane Findlay notes: “The idea behind Compass for Success was that analytics can make a critical contribution to improving the way schools and students interact — a contribution that can ultimately improve student achievement.” Compass for Success built a solution based on IBM® Cognos® Business Intelligence and IBM SPSS® Modeler software, which offers schools advanced data warehousing and analytics capabilities to support decision-making.

Transformation (cont’d) “We’ve worked with schools across the province to collect and analyze student data for years now,” says Diane Findlay. “This means that we have a huge store of high-quality data available, making the solution very powerful — we simply have much better data than any individual school board could capture on its own. We’re also constantly seeking to innovate — we know that there is always so much more that we could do to help teachers and students.” Keen to expand its data exploration and predictive analytics capabilities, Compass for Success is preparing to add IBM® Watson Analytics™ to its solution suite. Diane Findlay remarks: “Watson Analytics is a wonderful tool for exploratory data science. It automatically searches data sets for correlations, revealing interesting patterns that might have gone unnoticed in the past. It’s very quick and extremely easy to model data and detect correlations, which means that we can accelerate the development of new predictive models to identify which students are at risk of falling behind. What’s more, teachers can use the solution to share data on which teaching techniques seem to be successful with particular kids — enabling schools to deliver the best possible support to each and every student.”


Supporting struggling students.
Today, Compass for Success hosts a centralized data warehouse in Toronto and delivers analytics services to school boards across the province via the cloud. Diane Findlay comments: “We worked very closely with IBM to build the data warehouse, ETL tools, data models and reports, which enable us to provide a comprehensive, powerful analytics solution to schools in just six to eight weeks. Previously, it would have taken several years of hard work and, critically, a lot of funding for a school board to dip its toe into student data analytics. Only around 30 percent of school boards can afford to employ their own data scientist, for example. But equipped with IBM technology, we can deliver affordable, accessible analytics services to any school board and help support all Ontario students. By providing teachers with deep, data-driven insight into student performance and behaviour, Compass for Success hopes to help schools increase graduation rates and improve student outcomes.”

Results (Cont’d)“Traditionally, teachers had to rely on gut feeling to spot students at risk of falling behind their classmates,” says Diane Findlay. “Now, they can identify at-risk students based on solid evidence and take preventative action accordingly. With Watson Analytics, elementary schools can begin to predict which students in grade three — those who really struggle with reading, for example — aren’t expected to graduate from high school. This insight means that teachers can intervene at an ear-lier age and potentially turn students’ lives around.” She concludes: “With IBM Analytics, we’re enabling schools to identify, engage and support struggling students better than ever before, helping to ensure that the kids go on to earn their high school diploma and make the most of their education.”