On March 6-7, the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Government Data Analytics Center, The Hunt Institute and the Office of Governor Roy Cooper partnered to sponsor the second annual North Carolina Education Datathon.
At the Datathon, North Carolina high school and college students teamed with volunteer mentors to use publicly available data to address social and economic problems affecting their state and community. The theme for this year’s event was Ensuring Student Access to Out-of-School Resources and Supports.
“Data helps us navigate unique challenges and guides the decisions we make,” said Governor Cooper. “The N.C. Datathon provides students with the opportunity to collaborate, explore careers in data analytics and design the solutions of today and tomorrow.”
Gaps in academic achievement widened along racial and socioeconomic lines during the COVID-19 pandemic due to unequal access to out-of-school resources. However, students of color, low-income students and students with disabilities often have less access to these opportunities that are crucial to supporting learning recovery.
During the Datathon, student-led teams used datasets related to academic achievement, socioeconomic background, proximity to parks, recreation, museums, natural resources and access to transportation to determine where students lack access to key resources and help solve the problem of educational disparities in North Carolina.
“Access to out-of-school educational resources is, and always has been, an area where we can do better for our students, especially those who are under-resourced,” said Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, president and chief executive officer of The Hunt Institute. “With the N.C. Datathon, I’m thrilled to see these teams come together and harness the power of technology to present this issue. It’s a powerful way to both ensure this issue is brought to light and demonstrate how data can be used effectively to create long-term solutions.”
Nine teams of high school to graduate-level students from across the state used data to create a data visualization tool, called an Out-of-School Learning Opportunities Index, in forms including an application, dashboard and interactive map, to demonstrate the accessibility of these resources.
The student teams then presented their findings to a panel of expert judges, including Nitya Ganapathy, analytics director with the N.C. Government Data Analytics Center; Dr. John Denning, senior advisor of the John M. Belk Endowment; and Jay Johnson, program manager with the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration, N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
More than 30 mentor volunteers, including 14 from NCDIT, provided guidance to the student teams. Volunteers from other government institutions, school systems and private-sector organizations also served as mentors.
The 2023 N.C. Datathon winning teams are:
- High school first place: Cary Academy
- High school runner-up: North Carolina School of Science and Math
- Post-secondary first place: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Enloe High School
- Post-secondary runner-up: University of North Carolina-Charlotte
NCDIT Secretary Jim Weaver congratulated the winners and encouraged students to pursue public service, implementing data-driven decision-making in government.
"Our workforce needs critical thinkers equipped to use emerging technologies well, and our education system needs data-driven solutions to eliminate inequities and ensure all students receive a quality education,” Secretary Weaver said. “This event empowers the student participants to become those problem-solvers who can benefit education and many other areas of our state and economy.”
The event was made possible by the John M. Belk Endowment. For more information on the N.C. Education Datathon, visit hunt-institute.org/north-carolina-education-datathon.
About the NCDIT Government Data Analytics Center
NCDIT manages and coordinates state data integration efforts through the Government Data Analytics Center (GDAC). Currently, GDAC integrates data and develops analytics to support business needs associated with criminal justice, child safety, fraud, compliance, health care and longitudinal and performance analysis. For more information about the N.C. Department of Information Technology, please visit https://it.nc.gov.
About The Hunt Institute
An affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, The Hunt Institute is a recognized leader in the movement to transform public education. Marshaling expertise from a nationwide partner network since its establishment in 2001, The Institute brings together people and resources that help build and nurture visionary leadership and mobilize strategic action for greater educational outcomes and student success. For more information, please visit http://www.hunt-institute.org/.