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Every school district would like to see real ROI by saving time and money, plus enjoy the flexibility of a customizable student data management solution and improve parent engagement in the process. Western New York’s Orchard Park Central School District has been enjoying these positive benefits since its 2006 switch to the PowerSchool student information system (SIS).
Educators universally understand the impact and value of technology in the classroom and throughout the district. At the same time, technology for technology’s sake isn’t enough; educational technology enhancements are only successful when solutions are in place that actually meet districts’ needs and goals.
Unfortunately, only 35 percent of school leaders are actually satisfied with their student information system solution¹. Up until 2006, educators at New York’s Orchard Park Central School District, which is supported by the Erie 1 BOCES, were squarely within that unsatisfied population.
“The district had been using an outdated student information system, and wanted an updated and stronger system that was supported by the BOCES and the State of NY,” says Michael Piatko, Microcomputer Decision Support Specialist at Orchard Park Central School District.
In 2006, the district found what it wanted – and more – when it switched to PowerSchool, which offers innovative tools for the digital classroom that empower teachers and drive student growth with the best-in-class education technology platform. While Orchard Park Central’s original goal was simply an updated system, the district realized a host of additional benefits, such as saving money and time through improved efficiency, enjoying greater productivity through flexible tailoring options, and increasing parent engagement and communication.
“PowerSchool is our central information storage. We use it for anything we want to keep track of districtwide. It is our central communication tool, as well as our data repository,” says Piatko.
Serving 5100 students in six K-12 schools, Orchard Park Central School District is one of Western New York’s top performing districts. More than 94% of high school graduates continue on to higher education, and the district consistently ranks in the top tier of the region’s 96 districts, ranking in the Top 10 academically every year since 1992.
A smart district makes smart decisions, and that includes choosing PowerSchool as its SIS to power school operations. PowerSchool is the most full-featured SIS on the market, offering a combination of the right tools in one unified, web-based system to deliver an end-to-end solution designed to improve the K-12 education experience.
Seventy-six percent of teachers and administrators feel technology is absolutely important in engaging parents and families to help them understand their child’s performance and help them succeed². According to a study by the National Committee for Citizens in Education, “The evidence that parent involvement can make a significant difference in student achievement is beyond question.”³
Orchard Park Central School District’s impressive student success results do not come by accident. In addition to a solid staff of 438 excellent teachers, the district has also actively engaged parents in their students’ educational experience through PowerSchool communication tools.
“PowerSchool allows us to communicate more effectively with parents, students, teachers and the school community,” Piatko says. “The PowerTeacher gradebook is great for allowing our teachers to enter assignments and communicate grades to students and parents. It’s very intuitive with minimal amount of training needed. Parents love the convenience and are using both the mobile app and parent portal to check in on students’ grades.”
Improving organizational efficiency, increasing production, and “working smarter, not harder” are standing goals of every school district, regardless of size. In fact, a recent study indicates 67 percent of all teachers and administrators are looking for educational software and technology to help them save time².
With PowerSchool, Orchard Park Central School District has become more efficient and realized cost savings by reducing printing and mailing forms that are now easily accessed and entered digitally online.
“PowerSchool is quick, easy to use, and has definitely helped us become more efficient. We’ve been able to use the same information that is entered into the system for multiple purposes. When staff enters student data, we can then easily get it into the parent portal which saves us time and money from reduced printing and mailing that we previously had to do to communicate with parents. We also have the additional benefit of providing access for parents to respond back,” Piatko says.
Another cost and time savings has been realized within the district’s athletics registration process. Prior to PowerSchool, the district had to physically print multi-part registration forms and send them out to all parents of student athletes. Then the parents had to hand write their information and bring it back to the district. The final step of this arduous process was for administrative staff to re-enter the information into the system.
“Now,” Piatko explains, “we’ve added an athletics registration form in PowerSchool that parents can fill out directly online into a temporary field we’ve set up. All we have to do is verify the information is entered correctly, then move it directly into the live field and the student is registered. “It’s a big time saver for us.”
Finally, PowerSchool’s built-in PowerScheduler, a master schedule builder, has helped the district save time, build a more efficient schedule, and get a jump on the school year. PowerScheduler helps the district create a complete schedule using the web-based, automated solution that includes drag-and-drop functionality and allows users to test scheduling scenarios without the fear of not being able to go back to previous schedules.
“Previously, the scheduling process took pretty much the whole summer. Now with PowerScheduler, we can do the schedule before summer even starts. We can more efficiently do it before teachers and counselors leave at the end of the school year rather than after summer and right before school, which is a busy time,” Piatko says.
Some student information systems limit users to pre-loaded functionality with a lack of flexibility and make customers pay extra for customization services. Customers must “take it or leave it” when other vendors assume certain workflows without taking exceptions into account. However, PowerSchool’s SIS excels in allowing customers to tailor the system to their unique needs with little effort. PowerSchool offers easy, limitless tailoring options; schools across New York are customizing the different portals, adding endless tables and fields, and creating page and database scripts to process information in an automated fashion.
“With customizations, compared to other systems I’ve worked with, PowerSchool blows everything else out of the water,” Piatko says. “PowerSchool has the convenient ability to customize every single page. If something is not intuitive to our staff, we can make it intuitive and tailored to the experience that works with us. And customizations are easy from technical standpoint. We use PowerSchool as a tool to solve unique and common situations, and customizations help us improve the user experience. It allows us to add to PowerSchool and make it even more intuitive for our staff.”
Not only does Orchard Park Central School District understand the value of education technology, it is experiencing a significant return on its investment in an updated, modern SIS. PowerSchool has created a differentiated K-12 unified classroom platform providing an easy-to-use, engaging, and comprehensive solution for all teaching and personalized learning needs inside and outside of the classroom. When the district felt the need to move to an updated system, it fulfilled its goals, and has been able to enjoy the bonuses of saving time and money through efficient tools, gaining flexibility and improving the user experience through tailoring, and improving parent engagement through PowerTeacher.
1Closing the Gap: Turning SIS/LMS Data into Action, 2011 Gartner, Inc.
2PowerSchool National Teacher Study, Findings from a National Online Survey of 800 Teachers and Administrators, Conducted by Finn Partners, May 2016
3A new generation of evidence: The family is critical to student achievement. Washington, DC: National Committee for Citizens in Education. A.T. Henderson and N. Berla (1994)
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