In 2009, staff at California’s Antelope Valley Union High School District (UHSD) faced an all-too-common technology challenge: too many logins for multiple software programs. Stakeholders at the 23,000-student district needed to access around 10 different education software solutions to power school operations and facilitate learning and instruction, yet a separate sign-on was required for each – different user names, passwords, and URL’s.
Simple log-in access was too time consuming, passwords were too easy to forget, and it was too frustrating to reset or reach out to IT for assistance. Gary Allen, Director of Educational Technology at Antelope Valley UHSD, led the effort to do something about it.
“I invited multiple vendors and told them we need to get to a place where we were logging into just one system,” Allen says. “For all of our stakeholders, we needed single sign-on in one location. We got to that place, and now our users have one log in through one system – PowerSchool.”
The PowerSchool Student Information System (SIS) has become Antelope Valley Union’s home for all other third party learning and administrative software systems, offering seamless integration, and a central storage and management system for all student data.
Antelope Valley’s situation is not an anomaly. In a recent national study, 97% of all teachers and administrators agreed that having all of their classroom applications unified in one place would allow them to spend less time on administrative activities and more time on education in the classroom.1 Many teachers, in fact, will not log into a second application because they don’t remember the URL or have too many user names and passwords to manage.
Conversely, when schools and districts use multiple web-based applications accessible with a single sign-on, productivity is significantly increased. Users do not have to continually enter and re-enter usernames and passwords or go to different URLs for access. They also do not have to waste time with technical help if passwords or URLs are forgotten or entered incorrectly. When considered on a district-wide basis, these inefficiencies add up and can have a substantial impact on an organization’s overall productivity.
“Antelope Valley’s mission is to provide a safe and secure environment where a diverse student population can develop the skills necessary to perform effectively in a technological information-based society,” says Allen. “Our success is not determined solely by graduation rates, but, more importantly, by our students’ ability to become productive adults solving real-world problems. In order to deliver on this mission, we must provide our teachers and administrators with an integrated technology platform that is approachable for stakeholders of all technical aptitudes.”
Once logged into the PowerSchool Student Information System (SIS), users – which include administrators, teachers, parents and students – have access to Antelope Valley’s entire learning platform and third party systems, based on the granted user access. As a Google district, this includes Google Classroom for learning management, as well as Apex Learning digital curriculum, digital textbooks through Destiny, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, College Board, and Pearson, Naviance for college and career readiness, Schoolnet testing, and PowerSchool Registration.
“This took away a step that the teachers had to do. All solutions are accessible instantaneously with one click from within PowerSchool,” says Allen. “Right now when you go into our parent/student portal, you can get to all kinds of other applications with a single sign-on. When you log into PowerSchool, you have access to everything we have at the district. When a student logs into PowerSchool on his or her account, they can easily get additional learning through tutorials, they can access curriculum and extra resources for all of their classes, they can get digital texts, and much more.”
Parents also benefit from a single sign-on system with all applications in one location. “The feedback from parents has been – yahoo, this is great,” Allen says. “We want parents to come here for everything. In addition to this being a valuable resource for parents to access student information and participate in their student’s learning, it also saves us time. We don’t have to make as many phone calls or emails because parents can just come here and see everything about the student and their education.”
Antelope Valley Union High School District recognizes the importance of engaging parents in their students’ education, with tangible results ranging from improved academic performance to fewer behavior problems. The district utilizes the PowerSchool online parent and student portal, and the PowerSchool mobile app, to provide real-time, instant access to student grades, attendance, comments, assignments and scores directly from the teacher’s gradebook.
As the central database system for all student data flowing through the district, PowerSchool has helped power Antelope Valley UHSD’s school operations with stability and reliable accessibility. The PowerSchool SIS houses all student data and gives users real-time access to the most current student information, including student demographics, attendance, enrollment and admissions, fees, scheduling, and graduation planning.
“PowerSchool works for us. It’s been very stable, and that’s important because it’s the primary source of all data in our system. It’s a fully integrated system for all data, and also a centralized data system for all third party data. It’s important to have everything in one place,” Allen says.
As a forward-thinking district using computer technology to impact teaching and learning, Antelope Valley UHSD utilizes the innovative Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model. With PowerSchool as a hub of education technology, teachers’ jobs are made easier and more efficient, according to Allen.
“Most teachers in our district simply viewed technology as a replacement for pen and paper, rather than a tool to encourage students to think creatively,” Allen explains. “We wanted teachers to understand how to use technology beyond substitution to enhance students’ learning and help them be more engaged in the lesson plan. Technology has to be simple and easy for teachers to use and it has to be effective, and PowerSchool and our other resources are making that a reality. We see students’ grades, attendance, test results – all the data that resides in PowerSchool – in one single repository.”
PowerSchool helps Antelope Valley UHSD secure state and federal funding through accurate compliance reporting. A significant measure for the district is adequate yearly progress (AYP) reports, which holds Antelope Valley accountable for student performance under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
“When we moved to PowerSchool, we cleaned up our processes and how we put data into the system. That’s become more important each year as we report to state and federal education agencies because our funding depends on it. Ultimately, it affects our AYP which is so important. It used to be that we reported just basic student information like what students did on certain day. But now we have seven different factors, so it becomes more critical to have flexibility in how we run reports.”
The PowerSchool SIS offers Antelope Valley robust reporting options, including the new Enterprise Reporting functionality which provides access to actionable data via ad hoc and pre-built interactive reports. PowerSchool Enterprise Reporting gives Antelope Valley flexibility to customize its reports to best fit its needs, and data can be viewed in a variety of ways to easily visualize and recognize significant trends.
“New enterprise reporting makes sure we meet the right criteria before we submit to the state. That’s a very powerful reporting piece for us,” says Allen.
Another benefit for parents is PowerSchool Registration, formerly InfoSnap, which offers an easy, convenient way for parents to enroll and register students on their own without having to fill out and return countless paper forms. The best-in-class platform helps the district streamline its student registration process by moving a time-consuming, inefficient, paper-based process into an efficient digital workflow, and puts all data entered through PowerSchool Registration accurately and securely into PowerSchool SIS.
With single sign-on and one central, easy-to-use student information system serving as its home for data storage and management, Antelope Valley UHSD is fulfilling its mission. It is providing an ideal environment for students to learn and develop skills with advanced tools, helping set them up for success in a technological, information-based society.
“We’re doing some really cool things in the district,” says Allen. “When we make this happen, we like to share with other districts and hopefully persuade others to embrace these solutions that are making a difference in our students’ education.”
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