Technology advancements move quickly. Once an innovation occurs, developers and creators utilize it to expand and push further, resulting in steady, exponential growth within the field. This rapid technological evolution can be seen within a microcosm at New Jersey’s Dumont Public School District. Once the district implemented the PowerSchool Student Information System (SIS), new doors of tech advancements were opened to bring teachers, administrators, students and parents from an age of pen and paper functionality to streamlined, digital processes.
“PowerSchool has helped to power a technology ecosystem in Dumont. PowerSchool was the stimulus and impetus to use technology, and then became a force multiplier in creating a seamless user experience,” says Claudia Vesley, Supervisor of Technology, Dumont Public School District. “As a result of using PowerSchool, online resources became more readily accessible and feasible to use when our infrastructure was dramatically upgraded.”
Dumont Public School District serves around 3,000 Northern New Jersey students in five K-12 schools. Prior to using PowerSchool, the district faced efficiency issues due to slow outdated processes throughout its schools.
Schedules were done by hand and took weeks to finish with the electronic scheduling package that was being used. Attendance was a multi-step process in which teachers submitted written forms to secretaries who made phone calls to parents regarding absent students. And there was a greater need for the communication between the school and the home to be improved.
In 2004, the district began looking for a student information system with a defined set of goals:
Dumont selected the PowerSchool SIS and recognized immediate improvements in capabilities, efficiencies, and communication. PowerSchool has helped Dumont empower teachers with advanced classroom tools, drive student growth through innovative digital classroom capabilities, and engage families through real-time communications across any device.
Like a tumbling snowball gaining size and momentum, the addition of the PowerSchool SIS platform has led to ongoing technical advancements that have helped transform the district into a modern, efficient and successful organization.
“PowerSchool has stimulated the amazing growth and use of technology throughout our district,” Vesley explains. “It has initiated the building of a powerful, flexible technology foundation, and has become a ‘force multiplier’ for our future technology initiatives.”
As a result of PowerSchool, Ethernet drops and IP phones were added in every classroom to provide connectivity, desktop computers were purchased for every classroom, computer labs were added, and staff laptops were purchased for faculty to more easily access and utilize the PowerTeacher gradebook.
“When we got PowerTeacher, which is web-based, we added Internet access in the classrooms, which led to infusing technology into the classroom and the use of digital curricula, which has now led to wireless access and digital learning in any space at any time. We now have ebooks and online assessments that we can post directly into PowerSchool. Technology has kept evolving to better serve our students, and it’s just kept snowballing and helping to improve our schools,” says Vesley.
“With PowerSchool, we found out all the wonderful things you could do to improve efficiencies through technology,” adds Elena Scrazati, District Data Manager, Dumont Public School District. “For example, teachers had been taking attendance by hand, and then they would send the sheets to secretaries who made manual phone calls to parents when there was an absence.”
Vesley remembers the inefficient pre- PowerSchool days well – when teachers entered grades manually with pen and paper. As a former high school teacher, Vesley was one of the first of 80 teachers in her school to embrace innovation and start using an Excel spreadsheet to record grades.
“But once we got PowerSchool and PowerTeacher for grading,” she says, “it gave us the impetus, rationale and justification for approaching the Board of Education with needs that would improve our district and stimulate student growth.”
Dumont utilizes both the online parent portal and the mobile app to boost engagement with parents and get them more involved in their children’s education. Through PowerSchool, Dumont parents have access to real-time updates on grades, attendance, comments, assignments and scores directly from the teacher’s gradebook. Parents can monitor their child’s proficiency on standards and receive immediate alerts specific to their child.
“Communication between parents, teachers and students has increased dramatically with PowerSchool,” says Emanuele Triggiano, Superintendent of Schools, Dumont Public School District. “Parent involvement with their child and school is enhanced. Attendance is live, more accurate, and shared with the parents. And in the end, improved communication helps the student and the school system thrive.”
One of Dumont Public School District’s original goals was to make school scheduling more streamlined and efficient. With PowerSchool, the district utilizes PowerScheduler, PowerSchool’s digital master scheduling component which makes scheduling easy with drag-and-drop functionality. Through PowerScheduler, the district has been able to turn up to a week of waiting and frustration into minutes of ease and success in student scheduling.
“With our previous system, which was also a digital scheduler, the algorithm took overnight to complete and the next day you came in and had a schedule. For any change you made, you had to sit and wait, and as a result, you were hesitant to make any changes and the quality of the schedule suffered. PowerSchool now does this in 10 to 15 minutes. Many of the things that PowerSchool accomplishes right away would take a week in our old system,” says Triggiano.
According to Triggiano, Power Scheduler has mastered the three essential criteria that determines how well a master schedule is constructed. These include:
1) How student course selections are satisfied; 2) How multiple section courses are balanced; and 3) How teacher requests are satisfied.
“We realized that a successful academic year is built on the foundation of a successful master schedule,” Triggiano says. “With PowerSchool, we saved time and resources because the scheduling engine was fast and allowed us to build our schedule and run it as many times as we needed before we had to commit the schedule. PowerScheduler helps provide the best resource to bring teachers, students, facilities and materials together for the greatest possible effectiveness when building the schedule.”
PowerSchool’s compliance team works with a New Jersey focus group of select districts throughout the state on reporting enhancements. Dumont Public School District is part of that focus group, and meets regularly to discuss state reporting requirement changes to help set the direction for upcoming development, including prioritizing enhancement requests and fixes.
As part of state funding, Dumont is evaluated by the New Jersey Department of Education’s Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) on several different areas, including NJ SMART Reporting. “PowerSchool has had a direct effect on assuring we get our maximum funding. New Jersey State Reporting through PowerSchool has become a critical component for our District’s accountabilities with QSAC, and PowerSchool has had wonderful collaboration with NJ SMART. All of the reports we have to do with the state would be unwieldy without PowerSchool and NJ Smart.”
Vesley explains that if a district submits to NJ SMART Reporting with more than 2% errors on any submission, it is marked down in QSAC which affects state funding. “Our goal is to always have zero percent because it’s tied to the QSAC rating and funding, and we are always perfect.PowerSchool has been monumental in helping us submit without a single error.”
School districts must use a variety of specialized software systems to manage everything from student data and cafeteria plans to registration and transportation. With multiple systems, seamless integration is essential to make life easier and more productive for school administrators.
“We use multiple educational software systems and they all seamlessly integrate with PowerSchool. All data is updated in PowerSchool and flows seamlessly into the other systems. It’s two-way communication that definitely helps power our overall school operations,” Vesley says.
Through PowerSchool, Dumont Public School District has surpassed its goals of improved scheduling, greater interconnectivity between resources, and better communication and collaboration. In addition, the PowerSchool platform has become the foundation for education technology advancements throughout the district both inside and outside the classroom.
“No one in our district can imagine a day without PowerSchool,” says Vesley. “The Information Age has evolved into the participation age and digital age, and with the implementation of PowerSchool, Dumont has leveraged its increased access to data and interconnectivity to further engage, interact, and communicate with parents, students, teachers and other important stakeholders.”
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