Archive for January, 2012

District technology plans for parent involvement

January 31, 2012 3 comments

So I just posted a three-part series on ways to make better use of eSchoolPLUS to support parent involvement and student success. One of my points was that the Home Access Center (HAC) is an underused parent involvement tool that needs to be dusted off, supercharged, and showcased by DDOE and the districts. From Part 2:

Who is using HAC?
Unfortunately, we don’t know, because we are not running the reports that would tell us. It would be valuable to have statistical information on usage rate (how many parents are logging in each day). This is a common standard feature for major web-based information systems.

It turns out that the districts were thinking about HAC usage too, as shown in their District Success Plans, which each district is required to file as part of RTTT. I’ve been taking a look at those success plans to see their ideas for increasing parent involvement, especially through the use of technology. There’s a lot there to write about, but this post today will just focus on district plans to increase parent use of HAC.

Nearly all the districts cite HAC in their response to the required section Objective 2: Improve access to and use of data systems. Thirteen out of nineteen districts plan to increase HAC usage to a specific percentage of all families, ranging from 50% to 100%. The table below shows the district plans for HAC usage.

The problem is, nobody is currently collecting HAC usage data, as the district plans note. […] Read more…


Time to reboot eSchoolPLUS: Part 3

January 30, 2012 6 comments

Part 3 of a three-part series on eSchoolPLUS in Delaware.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Download all

We were supposed to have a big metrics workshop. What happened?
In December 2010, Delaware issued an RFP for a vendor to assist in building Teacher Dashboards (web pages to view student data) as part of Delaware’s new Education Insight system (more info here and here). The Teacher Dashboard relies on eSchoolPLUS for its underlying data.

The RFP describes an ambitious plan to reach out to stakeholders to identify the kinds of information they felt should be presented in these dashboards (educational metrics). This would be done with the assistance of experts from the Regional Education Laboratory (REL), a research arm of the US Department of Education. From the RFP:

At the request of the Delaware Department of Education, the Regional Education Lab Mid-Atlantic is currently in the planning stages of conducting an expert roundtable on the development and implementation of student-level indicators and metrics for use through data dashboards. Invited experts will be nationally recognized authorities who are knowledgeable on both the research and implementation of data dashboard systems. The roundtable will be based on a series of discussions, intended to be engaging and interactive, focusing on what are good student-level indicators/metrics, what are they good indicators of (i.e., academic achievement, dropout, etc.), what indicators are most useful for various stakeholders (e.g., administrators, teachers, parents), and using visual presentations of data for ease of use and comprehension. (12/13/2010)

But the expert roundtable was never held (according to one source, because “REL lost their funding”). Instead, in June 2011 DEDOE conducted a series of Stakeholder Involvement Feedback Workshops. According to DEDOE, an invitation email was sent to all IMS account holders, and a follow-up mail was sent to district liaisons to encourage turnout. The actual turnout was “122 classroom teachers, 4 principals, 49 other administration.”

The outcome of the workshops was published in summary form. […] Read more…


Is your school giving your child ADD symptoms?

January 29, 2012 Comments off

Have you ever been told your child is “disorganized” or is sometimes unprepared for class? Do you sometimes see zeroes for work you thought was done, but wasn’t collected? Ask about your school’s backpack and locker policies. They may be part of the problem.

I recently learned our middle school has a no-backpack rule. Students may carry a backpack to school, but are not allowed to bring it to classrooms or in the hallways.

There’s also a no-locker rule. Students are only allowed to access their lockers once before the first class, once before lunch, and once again at dismissal. So basically, no locker access between classes.

Just imagine your anxiety at work if someone took away your carry bag and whatever electronic thingy you use for scheduling. […] Read more…

Time to reboot eSchoolPLUS: Part 2

January 27, 2012 Comments off

Part 2 of a three-part series on eSchoolPLUS in Delaware.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Download all

Who is using HAC?
Unfortunately, we don’t know, because we are not running the reports that would tell us. It would be valuable to have statistical information on usage rate (how many parents are logging in each day). This is a common standard feature for major web-based information systems.

SunGard does not provide a usage report in eSchoolPLUS. But it does provide reporting tools which the Department of Education could use to create these reports, with a variety of available techniques ranging from the very simple to the moderately complex. This is already being done in Carroll County, Maryland. But these reports have not been developed and made available in Delaware.

In their RTTT Success Plans, many districts are stating that they will increase HAC usage in response to Objective 2: Improve access to and use of data systems. But it is not clear how usage will be measured.

Eight years later, we still don’t know the adoption rate among the intended users, which would be one measure of the system’s success. The answer might be surprising, and require us to think about ways to increase usage.

Some families do not have Internet access, or are not able to use the Internet facilities at public libraries. We know this problem exists, but we don’t know the size or scope of it, or how or where to provide assistance. With reliable usage statistics in hand each month, schools and parent organizations can spot trends, and identify where outreach is needed to put this parent involvement tool into the hands of more families. […] Read more…


Try one new thing on Digital Learning Day

January 26, 2012 Comments off

It seems Christmas was just here, and now Digital Learning Day is already next Wednesday. From DEDOE’s Delaware Center for Educational Technology:

Digital Learning Day is February 1, 2012. It is national awareness day to celebrate great teaching, encourage more personalized and relevant learning, and work to ensure that every child has access to the best learning experiences. Digital Learning Day is a call to educators, students, parents, and other stakeholders everywhere to:

Try one new thing
Start a conversation
Showcase what’s working

I guess with this blog, I’ve got “Try one new thing” and “Start a conversation” covered 🙂

The national Digital Learning Day organization has a full day of activity planned, including a national town hall meetup with Arne Duncan and others. Sign up for notifications here and sign up for the town hall here. Check out the Toolkits section for practical ideas of things you can do. Then look at the Showcase of Promising Practices.

More about the Town Hall:

The National Town Hall will feature U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski. It will also involve live interaction with school sites around the country, profile great teachers who effectively use technology to deliver instruction, and focus on successful education innovation projects that demonstrate how technology can be used in the classroom to improve student outcomes.

A lot of the focus is on online courses and interactive online learning systems. I see these kinds of technologies one day becoming a supplement but never a replacement for traditional classroom teaching. But for some students, they may be just the thing. And educators should keep up with the technology as one more tool in their bag of tricks.

In Delaware, I think this year we could honor Digital Learning Day just fine by learning to make better use of the technology we already have.

Pencader student shot dead after Facebook feud

January 26, 2012 4 comments

A 17 year old from Southbridge turned himself in Wednesday in connection with the Saturday shooting death of Pencader Charter student Larry Parks, and was charged with first-degree murder.

The victim’s father says the shooting was motivated by words exchanged on social media:

Larry Parks, Sr. says he knew words were exchanged through social media, but his son never felt threatened.

“He was having fun. I guess this other person or whosever involved, he wants to take it somewhere else; that’s what he did, for no reason. He’s gone. He’s gone,” Parks, Sr. said.

The 17-year-old from Bear was a student at Pencader Charter High School.

Time to reboot eSchoolPLUS: Part 1

January 25, 2012 Comments off

Part 1 of a three-part series on eSchoolPLUS in Delaware.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Download all

In 2004 Delaware schools were operating with a mix of legacy information systems, which made reporting information difficult. And as the new No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program was beginning to take effect with its new reporting requirements, something had to be done. So the Delaware Department of Education introduced a new statewide computer system called eSchoolPLUS. According to a 2004 article in District Administration magazine:

… the district is replacing its legacy UNIX-based student information system this year with SunGard Pentamation’s .eSchoolPLUS, a .NET-connected, Web-based student administration software solution from SunGard Pentamation that provides Delaware’s 19 school districts with all of the applications they require to manage student data and meet reporting needs, including student registration, scheduling, attendance, grading, discipline, and medical records.

In the years since, eSchoolPLUS has been successful in providing new reporting power essential for meeting new Federal and State regulatory requirements, especially those tied to funding.

But now is not time for Delaware to rest on its laurels. It is now time to roll out the additional powerful features of eSchoolPLUS which we have paid for and installed, but so far are not using. We’ve got the regulatory reporting under control – now let’s learn how to use the additional features designed to promote parent involvement and student success. The technology is in place, but policies and practices for using that technology are lagging behind.

(click on the jump for more)

Read more…