Sharing Data More Effectively

Co-Knowledge is dedicated to helping schools and other organizations be more effective through data sharing and data systems.

Our consulting services include:
  • Strategizing the use of data, data sharing, data policies, and data systems.
  • Making data work - collection, cleaning, analysis, reporting
  • Enhancement of existing systems or building new web based systems
We specialize in helping schools manage behavior issues proactively by providing:
  • Analysis of school-wide SEL strategies and programs
  • A simple web-based system called SILS to document behavior issues and efforts to help students
  • Strong communication and automated work-flows to keep disciplinarians and student advocates organized, helping to prevent students from falling through the cracks.
  • Integration with any SIS


Do you have a data related project? We provide full service consulting for any size job. Denis Roarty is our principal consultant with over 10 years of experience at the strategy level and the production level. Most of this has been in the education field with projects involving everything from early childhood education to teacher preparation.

Types of Projects

Making use of Data: Every organization has data. Often that data is not readily usable. Sometimes the meaning or the value of your data is not clear. Co-Knowledge can help with these problems. Denis has spent many years in the trenches, pulling data together into one place, cleaning it, analyzing it, and making sense of it. It doesn't matter if there are 100 records or 100 million, one data source or dozens, we can manage them all.

Automating Data: Most organizations have a continual flow of data coming in and a continual need for making sense of it. This calls for some form of automation. Co-Knowledge can help with this as well. We can create web sites that interface with existing systems or stand independently. From data collection, data import, data cleaning, data analysis and reporting, a web based system for managing your data can provide you timely insights, keep you organized, and save you money.


A portfolio of past projects is shown below. Most of the work was proprietary but there should be enough detail to give you a sense of the scope and outcome.

Institutional Dashboard

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Education was interested in tracking a dozen indicators about the effectiveness of their teacher preparation programs. Denis took the lead on designing an automated system to consolidate the data and generate strategic views into the data that informed the Dean, Department Heads and Program Coordinators. This process involved many steps:

Traditional dashboard:
Configurable data visualizer:
Configurable mapping tool:

Big(ish) Data and Visualizations

Paul Zavitovsky of the UIC Center for Urban Education Leadership developed an innovative way to normalize a school or district's student test results against the state and display them in various formats. This method of measuring school performance from year to year avoids a number of problems inherent in the more simplistic "percent meets and exceeds" measures that are so prevalent. For example, with a 9 point stanine graph one can see how a school's entire distribution of students is progressing from year to year rather than simply looking at how many made it over the "meet and exceed" bar.

But he needed a way to automate the very tedious process of culling through millions of Illinois student test records. Each time the Center wanted to normalize data from the entire state population, or specific schools, or specific districts, or sub-groups within schools or districts, all the data had to be loaded into a spreadsheet, parsed, and counted, based on stanine boundaries of the statewide dataset for each grade level and each year.

With some help from Denis, the process of normalizing these huge data sets went from days to seconds. The process was as follows:

Data Analysis and Insight

For more than 10 years Denis has been wading through data, looking for patterns, testing the validity of constructs or theories, and building visualizations to help see relationships. Each project has involved some component of the following: identifying and gathering data, cleaning data, organizing and relating data to one another, constructing models, running analysis of various types, tapping into help from statisticians, creating visualizations, and documenting findings in clear and concise language.

Projects have ranged from small, one page reports, to extensive Power Point presentations, to newsletters, to ongoing, multi-year reports resulting in hundreds of pages of analysis and insight.

Data Collection and Aggregation

The Chicago Teacher Partnership Program (CTPP) is a collaboration of four universities that seeks to study enhancements to their teacher preparation programs. The CTPP needed to collect data on individual students from each university in a structured but private way. Denis designed a system using an open source contact management software called CiviCRM to collect and organize identifiable data at each university. Then he set up another CiviCRM site for researchers that mined the data from each university, stripping away personally identifiable information and storing it in an identical format as the other sites. Two benefits to this design are that:

  1. The system is flexible so that new record types and columns could be added over time, and replicated across all copies of CiviCRM.
  2. Reports could be replicated so researchers and local university data managers could view their own data in identical ways. A number of data cleaning and verification tools were also added in this way.

End User Interface

Numerous projects have involved data collection from end users. SILS (documented under School Supports) is one of these. Another project of note is the edTPA project where 22 universities wanted to be able to share their teacher candidate's teaching portfolios for a cross-scoring exercise. The result was a web site that had multiple levels of administrator roles, student pages for uploading files and videos, evaluator pages for viewing and scoring the files and videos, and a video conversion tool to accommodate various browsers on Macs, PCs and tablets.

Another application that involved extensive data collection from end users was the Student Teacher App for the College of Education at UIC. The amount of information to be entered and files to be uploaded is quite extensive so there are lots of visual cues for completeness. Also all data entered is automatically saved so nothing is lost between multiple visits to complete the process.

The college wanted several configurations of the application process depending on which program a student is in. To solve this problem there is an extensive interface to turn on and off application features and to customize titles and essay prompts depending on which program a student is in. Portions of this configuration interface are shown below.

Technical Skills

Denis has been programming since 1979 in various capacities and career turns. His most recent proficiencies are in PHP, C#, and a variety of SQL data sources. Front-end designs have incorporated many javascript libraries for visuals and AJAX purposes. His current preference for back-end programming is Nodejs with Sails which accommodates both SQL and noSQL data sources. For front-end development Backbonejs or Knockoutjs are preferred. A strong understanding of CSS allows for projects to target any platform from desktop to mobile (Just for kicks, watch what happens to this web site when you shrink your browser from desktop size to mobile size).

Scripting Languages: PHP, C#, javascript
Data Sources: mySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, Banner datasystems, Filemaker, Access, Excel, Mongo
Servers, Libraries, and Tools: IIS, Apache, Nodejs, Express, Sails, Backbone, Underscore, Knockout, JQuery, Bootstrap, Grunt, Git, Subversion

School Supports

Many schools spend a lot of energy and resources while tending to their student's Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) needs. It is crucial to have well designed proactive procedures and tools to make sure students and staff get the help they need.

Co-Knowledge can help in crafting a plan and finding additional resources for training and support. Over the coming months we will compile a list of programs, case studies, strategies, and simple ideas on the SEL Resources page. We hope to share lessons learned within our community of schools that will will cover every aspect of SEL from whole school to individual supports.

Keeping track of and following up on hundreds of student issues per week can be demanding for disciplinarians, teachers and other student advocates. Having the right tool for the job can mean that no student falls through the cracks - problems are documented, support staff are notified, parents are contacted, consequences and/or supports are provided, escalating problems are dealt with fairly and effectively. Co-Knowledge offers a tool called Student Information Logging System (SILS) that helps keep the process organized as described on the SILS Software page. SILS can be used at a single school or on the district level.

SEL Resources

Designing a Social/Emotional Learning (SEL) plan that supports students and teachers is essential to a nurturing environment. Students and teachers alike need strategies and protocols that help them in the classroom. They also need school based strategies and protocols that provide relief when problems escalate.

Over the coming months, we will compile a list of resources that address all these needs. If you would like to contribute some ideas or links to materials, any help is welcome.

SILS Software Overview

The Student Information Logging System (SILS) has been helping Chicago area schools since 2005. It enhances any student information system by providing an intuitive way of documenting student issues, communications, and supports. It can be set up for one school or for a district.

SILS was developed to enhance a very specific leadership strategy: Student growth is driven by positive relationships and a school culture of proactive support. SILS does not do this for a school but it can help simplify the complex web of relationships and support within a school.

For Teachers

Keep anecdotal records

Teachers have always kept anecdotal records about students for academic and SEL concerns. SILS provides a simple place to keep these records. In the example below, several staff members have written anecdotal logs. Two are classified as BI-NA (Behavior Issues-No Action) and one is classified as an Ac (Academic) concern. Anecdotal logs can be about anything. The system is completely configurable to classify behavior, academic, paperwork management, or whatever you need to keep track of.

Inform their colleagues of student concerns

Rather than each teacher keeping their anecdotal records and phone logs in separate filing cabinets or computers, SILS allows teachers to share their notes with other teachers who have that student. This allows a group of teachers and administrators to work together as a team to help each student.

In addition to sharing records within the system, users can have certain logs emailed to them. This is particularly useful for staff who would not use the system on a regular basis or for staff who need immediate notification of an escalated issue.

Document communications

Everytime a phone call, email, conference, or other form of communication occurs, a log is written so that everyone who works with that student is aware. Also, the outcomes of the communication can be documented for other staff and for future review.

In addition to keeping track of communications, it helps to have detailed notes about how to contact parents, particularly in communities with a lot of mobility. So if one staff member figures out how to best contact the parents, they can detail that information on the student's profile page.

Notify support staff of escalating issues

When a teacher needs assistance with particularly disruptive students or a student with any need that cannot be met in the classroom, they can request help via the SILS system. In this case, persistent issues are color coded yellow and immediate concerns are coded red, usually recorded after the student has been removed from class.

Review student histories and plan interventions

With all of the issues, communications and interventions located in one place, it becomes much simpler to review a student's history and determine progress and/or further intervention. You can review the list and drill into each log or click on 'Printable List' to easily review all the details of all the logs.

For Support Staff

SILS is perhaps most useful to the Dean or Assistant Principal who brokers disciplinary actions and interventions. When dozens of teachers are referring dozens of students to support staff every day, a well organized tool is crucial to keeping it all organized.

Keep disciplinary records and generate form letters

SILS allows the disciplinarian to issue a consequence, print out a form letter for parents, and track whether that consequence has been served. With one log entry, the form letter is created and the consequence is scheduled.

Track consequences served

Consequences like detentions and suspensions can be scheduled automatically with suspensions bumping existing detentions and jumping over blackout dates like holidays. Other consequences can be automated as well. The scheduler makes it simple to keep track of who is serving a consequence when.

Inform teachers of outcomes from escalated issues

After a student has been referred to the disciplinarian, teachers want to know the outcome. SILS makes it easy for support staff to follow up on issues and document them for teachers to see. The first part of this, is that escalated issues all feed into the disciplinarian's To-Do box (or a referral to a counselor or other role will feed into their To-Do box). The disciplinarian can then follow up on the issue with phone calls and consequences. Then when done, they can mark the log completed.

Once an escalated issue has been marked complete, it changes to an outlined box. So teachers can look for the outlined box and click into the log if they want the details.

Move beyond consequences to interventions

Having a more efficient process for disciplinary consequences should free up the support staff to be more proactive and to help students avoid social and emotional issues in the first place. Programs that involve one-on-one or group mentoring, checking in with students during the day, restorative justice, and parent/staff conferences can be expensive so it is imperative that resources are used efficiently, whether that is the disciplinarian's time or other staff time. SILS is helpful in the sense that it keeps all the information together in one place.

Document progress of interventions

Following up on student interventions is just as important as referring students to an intervention. Periodic reviews of a student's progress are needed to escalate or de-escalate the services provided. Maximizing the supports provided will help students, help teachers, and help the school environment.

Pricing for SILS and SEL consulting

The pricing for individual schools is shown below. For a large number of schools or a district, pricing can be reduced on the setup and training.

Annual SILS License and phone/email support $500/year
First year consulting, setup, and training fee $2000

Contact us to get a demo account or to have someone stop by for a demonstration.


Co-Knowledge LLC was founded to provide consulting, data services, software services, training and related materials to individuals, schools, and other organizations for the purpose of improving how they share and use data. You can reach Denis at: