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Using Data to Improve Lives of AZ Children

Arizona policymakers are taking advantage of data to better serve the state's children. (1laura/Twenty20)
Arizona policymakers are taking advantage of data to better serve the state's children. (1laura/Twenty20)
October 15, 2018

PHOENIX – To improve education and literacy in Arizona, it's important to first understand challenges different communities face.

So policymakers in the state have been turning to a growing online database and map tool for guidance.

MapLIT has been around since 2015 and is set to expand to offer even more features later this month.

The online mapping resource brings together the latest census numbers, public health data and school performance records to highlight areas of the state where children struggle with health concerns, or are chronically absent from school, or are most likely to live in poverty.

Terri Clark, Arizona's literacy director, says the goal was to create a tool that lawmakers, schools and nonprofit groups could use to create the most effective programs and services to help the state's children.

"What we've discovered is people are a little afraid of data,” she states. “And what we tried to do with MapLIT and what we're trying to do with our Arizona Schools Data Center we'll be launching in a few weeks, is make it fun and interesting, and to help inform our partners better about data."

Clark says MapLIT's new Arizona Schools Data Center will include even more specific, school-by-school information. She says mapping data by ZIP code or school district can highlight issues that don't always jump off the page of a spreadsheet.

Kate Dobler, Navajo/Apache regional director with First Things First, agrees. She says her team discovered with MapLIT that parent resources in Navajo and Apache counties were concentrated in a small area, but children in need were spread throughout the region.

"MapLIT allowed the council to see where those high pockets of high poverty were and made it easier in the strategic planning process to say that the council wanted to reach communities on the edge of the region," she explains.

Dobler says MapLIT makes clear there's no one-size-fits-all solution to challenges the state's children face, and has helped her team instead consider policies appropriate for individual communities.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - AZ