Home > Uncategorized > Time to reboot eSchoolPLUS: Part 3

Time to reboot eSchoolPLUS: Part 3

January 30, 2012

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. […] The overall metrics identified by these workshops have not been released, other than a ten-point list available in the summary. There does not appear to have been any discussion of using daily classroom data. However, one finding of the workshop was “In addition to pre-built reports, stakeholders expressed a desire to perform correlative data analysis” (i.e., more user-available custom reporting and analysis tools).

As an aside, if teachers are still bewildered or frustrated with PLCs and data coaches, this project may be the reason why. The metrics and Teacher Dashboard that were supposed to be the centerpiece of the PLCs were scheduled to have been finished in August 2011. But instead, claiming difficulty closing the deal with a vendor, Delaware sought and received a March 15 2011 amendment from the US Department of Education to extend delivery to March 2012 (now called an “Interim Dashboard). But the data coaches showed up on time anyway, without the dashboards or metrics that were supposed to guide their sessions.

Summary and recommendations
eSchoolPLUS was implemented in 2004 to improve reporting capabilities, in large part to meet NCLB reporting requirements, and it is now a success in that regard. The even better news is that eSchoolPLUS has even more features, some of which Delaware schools haven’t even discovered yet. It includes powerful but little-used communication tools to promote parent involvement, and a database full of untapped data that may reveal new correlations and metrics. These features were overlooked in the initial effort to meet reporting requirements, and never became part of Delaware school policies or culture. Eight years later, it is time to re-evaluate the capabilities of our system.

So to take advantage of these tools we need to catch our breath, take a second look, and reboot the rollout of eSchoolPLUS at a cultural level as well as a technical level. To accomplish this, small but significant actions will have to be taken at every level: DEDOE, districts, schools, individual teachers, and parent groups.

Usage reports. Begin keeping regular statistics on overall parent and student logins to HAC, so we know what we are dealing with. This will require DEDOE to either devise a report, or prevail on the vendor to provide one. These reports should be made public information and posted online, and monitored by districts, schools, and parent groups who wish to increase usage.

Announce a real program. Begin a series of official actions at the State level to change cultural attitudes toward eSchoolPLUS, including:

  • Publicly re-launch eSchoolPLUS, issuing a statement describing the new features and best practices that will now be supported and encouraged.
  • Recognize that HAC and other electronic communication is one of our premier parent involvement tools, and include it on the agendas of DEDOE-sponsored parent involvement events, conferences, and policies.

Issue guidance for districts to identify the advance communication features of eSchoolPLUS as a best practice, and to begin implementing their own policies to increase use of the communication features.

Training. Redevelop teacher training material for eSchoolPLUS with original material to emphasize the communication and document features. Currently each district is responsible for its own training and materials. But the teacher portal is substantially identical for each district, so DEDOE should consider creating a statewide manual for this statewide system. Support resources should be re-evaluated to make sure each teacher has training and technology support when they need it.

Digital divide. Track HAC usage statistics (along with any external data on home Internet access) to begin a serious effort of outreach to put the Internet and HAC into the hands of more families. These should be local efforts but substantially backed up and coordinated by the State.

Homework/classwork completion. Develop reports to track homework and classwork completion by district, by school, by student, and by teacher. Review and refine these reports with stakeholder input including parents, and then make them publicly available and track them over time.

Custom reporting. Review custom reporting capabilities to identify opportunities for the kinds of data-mining described above. Reporting capability should be developed and exposed to make eSchoolPLUS more researcher-friendly. Consider built-in tools such as COGNOS, third-party report writers, or direct SQL reports or web pages developed by DEDOE technical staff.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Download all

  1. Nicki
    February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I think ESchool would be far more useful if it was mandatory across the board to input grades on more timely basis. Parents who do use it as I do would have a chance to see what is or isn’t going on with their child.

    i have gotten interim reports that look great, only to get a report card two weeks later that has changed substantially. I attribute this to good and bad things. For example, a child forgetting to turn in assignments or just not doing work. The teacher doesn’t take a few moments to call a parent and communicate with them about it. The report card comes out and the parent does not have a fighting chance to get things back on point.

    Students who inquire about their grades should not be brushed off and told check ESchools! This is a child who cares enough to ask..take advantage of that opportunity to talk with that child about their performance and how they can improve.

    Yes, I understand teachers are busy-face it every one is busy but our children have to be important enough to praise when it’s all good and kick them in the butt when it’s not.

    Administrators, hold teachers accountable to update Eschools regularly or take it off line completely and go back to the grade books!

  2. February 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Nicki, this is an important issue for me that goes to the heart of parent involvement. These systems are the tools of their trade and teachers need to learn them and use them for student benefit.

    It’s almost OK with me if the grades are entered late, as long as the assignment is entered before it is due, showing due date and name of the assignment. Then at least I can ask my son or the teacher about it. Or better yet, students can use it to confirm their own notes on their upcoming assignments.

    But the worst thing for communication is if the assignment isn’t even entered at all until after it is graded, then nobody even knows it exists. There’s nothing like seeing a “surprise zero” pop up after it is too late to do anything about it, which the student easily could have done had it been known.

    It is a myth that it takes extra time for teachers to enter assignments in advance. Teachers are already required to enter assignments after the due date. So it takes not one minute more time to enter them before the due date.

    BTW, in Red Clay teachers are required to enter grades within five days, ten days for longer assignments. If your teachers aren’t doing that, tell them you expect it. I don’t know how it works in other districts, but in Red Clay that rule is an in-house “administrative memo” that is not publicized and parents don’t normally know about it. So ask your District HQ!

  3. Nicki
    February 10, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Mike O,

    You are so right. I am going to ask this of our District office and post the response. I know I called one of my daughter’s teachers about this and was told that the site locks them out frequently. Could this be due to procrastination or actual site functionality issues or a little of both?

    I loaded this to my facebook page to encourage others to follow this and other issues and get involved.

    And I am almost inclined to agree with you with regard to the timing of the entry of assignments. At least you have a fighting chance to help your child build healthy follow through and follow up skills.

  1. January 31, 2012 at 4:19 pm
  2. February 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm
  3. June 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm
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