When Californians approved Prop 49 funding for after school programming, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) became its largest recipient. In 2004, when the District received its first round of After School Education and Safety (ASES) funds to support programs among more than 500 schools and 30 nonprofit partner agencies, it met the data challenge through manual processes: data critical to field operations and evaluation was exchanged manually by spreadsheets; information submitted by the nonprofits in Excel files had to be copied and pasted in the District’s own files. Validations of crucial data—including student ID numbers and names—were often made visually, delaying report processing by a matter of months.
To maintain funding, attendance allocations (participants to programs) had to be exact, but on-site reporting by busy staffers led to errors that frustrated both auditors and evaluators. In order to manage after school programs effectively, the District needed a data solution that would shift the collection burden from people to the platform.
Solution: Cityspan automates processes to reduce errors, accelerate reporting
To allow schools and providers to concentrate on program delivery, Cityspan incorporated data expertise into the platform, automating critical processes:
Ensuring timely and high quality data entry
LAUSD’s transition to automation was complicated by the varying sizes and technical capabilities of its OST providers and the need to minimize duplicative data entry among them. Cityspan addressed this challenge by designing a system that accepted inputs in two ways. Large agencies that had already invested in their own data systems could now upload their data without additional entry work, and Cityspan’s validation process automated the matching, correction and resubmission process. Smaller agencies could use Cityspan’s online data-entry forms, giving them a valuable data repository without demanding an IT investment on their own. By offering a flexible, easy-to-use platform Cityspan was able to speed up the data collection life cycle while ensuring discrepancies were easily identified and resolved.
Support accuracy critical for compliance
On the ground, many sites run programs funded by multiple grants; to remain compliant with state and federal demands, attendance must be allocated accurately to the appropriate funding streams. Cityspan, by virtue of its experience with many school and grants programs, brought allocation expertise to the District. Before automation, field staffers manually assigned funding sources to each participating student on the attendance list, a process that undermined effective reporting. Cityspan built the correct allocation formulas into the platform, ensuring precise reporting in line with evaluator expectations.
Results: Compliance ensures renewed funding, encourages further efficiency
Alternative data entry methods and automated validation reduced the data submission and correction cycle from months to minutes, eliminating report delays. Precise allocation gave both the providers and auditors confidence in the attendance and program data, supporting the LAUSD’s requests for renewed funding—a small investment in data technology saved millions of dollars in funding. In fact, the platform’s success has inspired new features that will make program management easier and more rewarding, including site observation reporting and digitized site equipment inventories.
Benefits at a glance:
- Management of more than 1,500 individual grants issued to more than 500 schools and ~30 nonprofit partners
- Increased and sustained funding due to improved compliance
- Validation of files reduced from 3 months to 5 minutes
- More accurate attendance allocation to meet funder scrutiny
- Real-time visibility into program attendance and performance
- Expanded analysis of program retention and student outcomes
- Closer collaboration between school district and nonprofit providers