Posts Tagged ‘eSchoolPLUS’

DCAS scores vanish again

September 21, 2012 6 comments

This Home Access Center page used to display all past DSTP and DCAS scores. I’m sure it’s just a data loading problem, but they need to get a handle on it soon.

Schools are now staking everything on data-driven decision making driven by DCAS scores. Is this what teachers are seeing too on their Teacher Dashboards?

Come on DDOE data gurus, summer’s over. The kids are back in school and are already taking DCAS tests again. At least put out an explanation so parents aren’t left in the dark (or in this case, in the blank).

UPDATE 9/22: From the Data Warehouse RFP for Education Insight:

Current, operational data (for the current school year) will come from the eSchool Master. This database is a nightly consolidation of the data contained in 43 separate eSchool instances used by Delaware’s school districts and charter schools. Current data will appear to dashboard users exactly as it does in eSchool.

Historic data will be populated from the “cleansed” data in the Insight Data Warehouse.


Red Clay parents: time to start checking your child’s grades

September 10, 2012 1 comment

Red Clay teachers are required to publish all test and assignment grades in Home Access Center within five days of the due date (ten days for bigger assignments). So as of today, all assignments due during the first week of school are required to be graded and viewable in HAC. (Note: HAC is used for Grades 4-12 in Red Clay; YMMV in other districts).

It’s great if your teachers have their own website or other means of communication, but HAC is where the rubber meets the road for parent engagement with schoolwork. HAC will show you due dates, grades, point weighting, all previous grades and assignments, and your child’s running grade average. It’s a great way to find out what your child is doing in class. Waiting for Interim Performance Reports or conferences is too little, too late.

To log into Delaware’s HAC system, click here. You can also check out the Parent Powered HAC Help (under construction), and contribute some questions to the HAC FAQ.

Parents should really log into HAC and check grades at least once per week (if not daily). If your child is having trouble with classwork, you can get involved and help them out before the high-point-value grades for unit tests or projects start rolling in. A properly updated HAC can empower parents to help turn a failing student into a passing student, or a B student into an A student.

You don’t want to find out the night before the test that your child has been struggling with those pre-test lessons. By the time most teachers tell you there is a problem, it is too late (unless they choose to keep up with HAC). All the metrics are looking at DCAS scores and marking period grades, not daily work. Interim progress reports are far too little and too late for effective intervention.

[…] Read more…

HAC attack!

August 29, 2012 3 comments

Home Access Center is out of control! My son has been marked absent for his first two Spanish classes this week – but the schedule they gave him doesn’t even have him taking Spanish this marking period! HAC is apparently either not handling the new block scheduling, or has been handed bad data. I called the school and heard there were other scheduling problems as well.

Then, I just now got a robocall from school telling me my son was absent the whole day yesterday and would I please send in a note? (he wasn’t absent). HAC (eSchoolPLUS) also handles attendance.

Oh, and all the DCAS scores have once again been wiped out.

And it’s too soon to tell if the DOE data gurus have completed their summer homework, which was to fix the HAC usage reporting problem. It’s on my to-do list to find out what’s been done on that front. It would be nice if someone would drop by here and let me know.

Get your head in the game, guys, you’ve had all summer for maintenance and QA!!! Get on the horn with SunGard if necessary, and figure out what’s going on!

By the way, to access HAC log in here. Your new password should have come in a mailer a week or two before school started (at least that’s how it works in Red Clay). If you can’t access HAC, call your school office.

Note: These are my Red Clay centric observations, so let me know if you have a different experience.

And remember why I’m always going on about HAC: Because it’s a parent involvement tool, and deserves more respect!

Greetings DDOE data gurus… the clock is ticking

July 5, 2012 2 comments

In April I pointed out that a key parent involvement report from eSchoolPLUS was providing worthless data for our data-driven decision making. I also pointed out several potential fixes. Granted, DDOE has no meaningful parent communication channels, but it’s still not clear whether any action will be taken.

In a nutshell, districts have pledged to increase parent usage of the Home Access Center as one measure of parent engagement. But Sungard’s eSchoolPLUS (of which HAC is a part) does not provide a built-in report for tracking HAC usage. DDOE has experimented with creating a custom usage report, (which is not difficult to do). But the first version of this report is useless, because it counts everyone who logs in even one time per year as full-time user.

To create a meaningful report, DDOE will have to create a script that runs this report daily, and then report on usage per day and per month to show meaningful trends. This is a task well within the capability of a junior programmer.

But there’s not much time left. In August (presumably), the eSchoolPLUS database is cleaned out and begins recording activity for the new school year. If the daily script is not in place by then, we will likely go another year without useful HAC usage data.

Also, there is an issue with the HAC program logic itself that appears to prevent the report from tracking logins per school. Logins may only be tracked per district. There doesn’t appear to be a simple fix for this, at least not one that is obvious to me.

Better yet, DDOE should contact Sungard and insist that they provide both these fixes for eSchoolPLUS, for which we are paying Sungard annually.

Hopefully there is something in the works. But if not, then – data gurus, brush the sand out of your toes and get busy!!

(kidding – I know these guys work hard)


Data-driven decision making takes a pratfall

April 16, 2012 1 comment

Delaware school districts have launched a groundbreaking and promising plan to promote parent engagement by tracking usage data for one of Delaware’s premier data systems – Sungard’s Home Access Center (part of eSchoolPLUS).

But despite Delaware’s commitment to data-driven decision making, the usage reports available from eSchoolPLUS are not detailed enough to support credible decision making for this plan.

Delaware Department of Education data gurus should be urgently requesting that Sungard upgrade its product to provide these reports, or to provide an interim workaround. In the meantime DDOE should be taking what steps it can to create custom reports that are more detailed. It’s not too late to improve the reports for next year, as long as action is taken this summer.

District plans
In their district success plans, 13 out of 19 districts have committed to increasing the numbers of parents who use the Home Access Center. HAC is the web portal for parents to look up assignments and grades, among other things. It is part of Delaware’s student information system (eSchoolPLUS) provided by Sungard.

The districts are on the right track here, because HAC is a powerful enabler and indicator of parent engagement. The more parents use it, the better. Here’s one quote from the Appoquinimink success plan:

Increased parent use of Home Access system creates awareness and has the potential impact to increase parent expectations for student achievement.

I’ve been advocating for a HAC usage report for some time now. Districts, schools, and parent advocates all stand ready to reach out to families and students to put this valuable tool (HAC) into more hands. With a reliable usage report, we can measure and fine-tune the results of their outreach, and judge the effectiveness of different strategies. The district success plans lay out specific tactics they plan to take to increase parental engagement through HAC. But Sungard does not provide a report for HAC usage.

There is a way for DDOE administrators to create a custom report, but the underlying data infrastructure is so rudimentary the basic report carries very little information and is virtually useless for the district’s purpose.. In my opinion, the inability for a modern web product to properly report its own usage is a defect.

Everybody acknowledges that parent engagement is one of the most important factors for student success. We need to be able to rely on our information systems to support our efforts to promote parent engagement.

The eSchoolPLUS system and HAC are proprietary, and Sungard is unwilling to share details about how the usage reporting mechanism works. I asked about this very thing on Sungard’s public blog. In response, I got an email that informed me Sungard’s policy was not to respond to parents about their products, and my message was forwarded to DDOE. And now, let’s just say discussions with DDOE on usage reports are proceeding slowly.

But I have gathered technical information from a variety of public sources, and have reached some conclusions and some recommendations. What follows is my informed guesswork on the technical details, so if you have any better (verifiable) information please add a comment, or email me at

[…] Read more…

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…


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…


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)

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