CFEED Goes Big as Central Florida Educators Share Insights at Inaugural CFEED Summit: Insight to Impact, Sept. 21, 2023, in Orlando, FL

ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 25, 2023 — The Central Florida Education Ecosystem Database (CFEED) partnership has grown up. On Thursday members of CFEED had many reasons for celebration as four dozen leaders from two Orlando public school districts and two public colleges in Central Florida gathered for the first-ever CFEED Summit on the Valencia College West Campus. It was a time to share ideas, to learn how CFEED research is being used in some big projects, and to work together on future direction for creating AI (Artificial Intelligence) driven insights and impacts from the four CFEED partners’ data.

Diana Pienaar, Director, CFEED, opened the summit with a short welcome and remarks from Dr. Alexander Cartright, President of UCF (University of Central Florida). “UCF is proud to be a part of this ground-breaking program with the Helios Foundation’s support,” Cartright said, via video. “With this support, we can reach our goal so that pre-K to post-secondary students can achieve college success. CFEED is key to the vision in Central Florida. It informs our understanding as to why students fail or succeed so we can promote success at key times in the student journey.”

Brandon McKelvey, Executive VP, Administrative Services, Valencia College, echoed Cartright’s sentiment in his keynote address titled, “A Decade of CFEED accomplishments.” He focused on the recent use of data and AI to create funding for an Associate Degree Program in Central Florida. “Our commitment to finding answers together, and to working closely with the support of UCF, has helped us to produce 150 to 200 separate projects,” he said. “There have been dozens of reports, which have been initiated at CFEED, from research requests as simple as, ‘I am interested in knowing if the courses we set make sense for student transfer’ to ‘Does this technical program meet the needs of the entire area?’” he said.

These early projects have led to programs like the Osceola Prosper Program  McKelvey said, adding that without CFEED support, this would not have been possible. “Discussions are now going on for Orange County to launch a program where students can receive a college education without paying,” he said. “I really believe every student, in five to ten years, will be able to attend college for free. We are the first region in the US to not show a difference in race and ethnicity in access.”

Next, Michael Holt, Product Director for CFEED, introduced the six breakout sessions which were designed as collaborative sharing, planning, and working sessions. “Through our partners and data engineers we continue to grow across the ecosystem and the scope of insights continues to expand,” he said. “We want to hear from you today about what is needed for the future.”

Angie Smith and Bernard Huggins launched the first breakout session at 10:15 am with their presentation titled, “UCF Boosts Graduation Rates with Helios Transfer Grant.” Smith, who is Director of the Transfer Center and Academic Support Services for UCF Connect, provided an overview on how the Helios Transfer Grant impacted students who transferred to UCF. Huggins, Associate Director, Student Coaching, for The Transfer Center at UCF shared how the UCF/Valencia partnership helped to improve student success through additional support to students before and after their transfer from Valencia to UCF.

April Newcity, UX Designer, CFEED Communications, presented a talk titled “CFEED Gets Fancy.” Her slide presentation was designed to provide an overview of the communication team’s review process and to solicit ideas from the audience on how to help refine the process for future projects and infographics. The discussion around the room was lively as CFEED members put forth ideas for revisions and for ways to collaborate in the future.

Pienaar’s roundtable, “Access A Bright Future,” focused on CFEED college access with a high-level summary of research insights on ecosystem student post-secondary readiness. Her discussion was designed to help generate ideas and to guide future research priorities. CFEED has completed thirty-seven research projects on post-secondary readiness over the last three years on SDOC and OCPS high school students. “Post secondary readiness can be accurately predicted for most students by the completion of 10th grade,” Pienaar said.

Holt’s roundtable discussion titled; “Advance the Student Success Journey” focused on how CFEED data is used to advance student success. He provided a high-level summary of research insights into what drives success for ecosystem transfer students. His discussion focused on how to drive intervention development and implementation and on ways to refine future research priorities. CFEED has completed eighteen research projects on transfer success over the last three years on Valencia to UCF transfer students. “Transfer readiness can be predicted for students who transfer courses more closely aligned to their major,” Holt said.

Following a break for lunch, which was provided by TooJays, Dr. Wendy Givoglu, Provost of Valencia/UCF DT campus, provided a presentation on “The Valencia College Helios Transfer Grant.” She said “the CFEED data is like a GPS system helping us calibrate as we find the x,y,z points together. CFEED data revealed distinct factors that contribute to transfer shock,” she explained. “For example, Business is the #1 major students claim when they transfer. We found the highest transfer shock among students in that major, over students of any other major. CFEED helped us to see where the CPPs were not completed so we developed a Knight Track cohort, which won the Joyce Romano Partner Award. Several hundred students are enrolled in the program, and we are scaling up to look at other majors where we can do the same things, with help from the Helios grant,” Givoglu said.

Ashton Terry, Senior Manager, CFEED, provided an engaging presentation called, “CFEED Helps Shape Osceola Prosper Program.” His presentation focused on how CFEED’s innovative data collection and analysis has kept institutional leaders current on trends in acceleration, course patterns, attendance, and enrollment. “CFEED findings led to a partnership between Osceola County and Valencia College which created Osceola Prosper in 2022, and the program is yielding positive results,” he said. Terry encouraged those in attendance to provide suggestions for ways CFEED can continue to support data-driven decision making in Central Florida and beyond. Terry wrapped up the summit with a fun game of Kahoot! which asked questions about CFEED data to see who could answer the most questions correctly.

While the day long CFEED conference was packed with insightful speakers and breakout sessions on important education topics, it was also a place to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Many members shared memories of the early days of CFEED. Peter Thorne, Chief Information Officer, School District Osceola County (SDOC), said he was impressed with the conference and the breakout sessions, which highlighted ways in which AI was being used to help facilitate the CFEED data analytics.

If you’d like to learn more about how the Summit or how CFEED research is impacting student outcomes in Central Florida please drop Diana Pienaar a note at

About Dr. Cartwright:

Alexander N. Cartwright, President, was selected as UCF’s sixth president by the UCF Board of Trustees on March 20, 2020, following a nationwide search. He was confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors the following week. Under Dr. Cartwright’s leadership, UCF is working toward becoming the world’s leading public metropolitan university, a top 50 public research university, determined to foster success for students of all backgrounds and to produce research and creative works that positively impact lives across our community and across the world. To achieve this vision, the university has been focused on achieving greater operational, academic, and inclusive excellence, including building a senior leadership team that will help take the university to new heights. (Link to Video)

About Dr. Brandon McKelvey:

Brandon McKelvey, Exec VP Administrative Services, is an experienced educational administrator with expertise in data analysis, planning and research. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Florida and attended Florida State University as a Presidential Fellow, earning a master’s and Doctor of Science in sociology. Brandon completed a two-year fellowship with Harvard University and the Center for Education Policy Research through the Strategic Data Project and has served as a member of statewide committees supporting the implementation of accountability systems and statistical models. Before accepting his role at Valencia, Brandon was the associate superintendent of research, accountability, and grants at Orange County Public Schools (OCPS). He also served as the senior director for accountability, research, and assessment at OCPS.

About CFEED:

The CFEED partnership includes Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), School District of Osceola County (SDOC), University of Central Florida (UCF), Valencia College, and Midtown Consulting Group.  With support from Helios Education Foundation and WestEd, CFEED partners are engaged in a Collaborative Design Phase to grow organizational capacity and develop hypotheses on student readiness, through an innovative project intended to support student success all along the pre-kindergarten to postsecondary continuum. The Central Florida Education Eco System Database (CFEED) brings together four large-scale education institutions under one collaborative initiative, funded by Helios Education Foundation, to share information, identify opportunities to enhance learning and propel the educational attainment of all Central Florida students.

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