Unified Classroom – Massapequa School District

November 11, 2016

Massapequa School District Unified the Classroom for Improved Teaching

Prior to 2009, Massapequa Public Schools (NY), like most districts, lacked a learning management system that could provide a one-stop shop for collaboration throughout its eight K-12 schools. The district had disparate technology tools that didn’t communicate efficiently. For Massapequa to better fulfill its mission “to educate all students to their highest level of academic potential,” the district found itself in need of a more efficient system to better enable teacher collaboration, offer its 7,000 students more advanced learning opportunities, and better engage parents in their children’s education. A change was needed.

Change #1: Managing Student Data More Efficiently
Change first started with a switch to PowerSchool’s Student Information System (SIS) at the heart of the district’s student data management. The solution has enhanced Massapequa School District’s overall student data management capabilities as district staff are constantly discovering new tools to improve efficiencies.

“I love PowerSchool,” said Yvonne Knott, Executive Assistant for Information Management at Massapequa Public Schools. “We use the PowerSchool SIS for everything, especially as an informative tool. Any information about a student, including academically, socially, health, behavior, and so on, is in PowerSchool and available immediately. It’s very helpful, and as an example, when a student gets into high school, we can look back and see comprehensively how they did in middle school, and what factors may have affected their performance.”
The system provides Massapequa with a modern, easy-to-use solution to power daily operations, improve administrative productivity, stimulate classroom learning, and ensure funding through accurate, timely state reporting.

“As administrators become more aware of the reports they can run from PowerSchool to give them student information, whether it be a grade report from a teacher’s gradebook or a group of student grades, they are seeing how powerful of a tool it can be to gather and use information and data,” said Knott.

One of PowerSchool SIS’s core functions is the PowerTeacher gradebook, which seamlessly manages multiple classroom tasks including grading, attendance, assignments, and measuring student achievement. All student data is right at Massapequa teachers’ fingertips to easily measure performance for the individual student, whole class, or all classes.

Teachers are seamlessly managing grading, assignments, attendance, and the classroom, freeing up significant time to spend with students. Teachers are able to drive student growth by first understanding student and class performance, then adjusting instruction, content, and interventions. They can drill down on student performance data and longitudinal student data to understand student and class weaknesses, then explore why students might be struggling.

“Our teachers are using PowerTeacher as a classroom management tool, and as an effective communication tool to show how students are doing academically. Everything is on the parent portal and parents have an accurate picture of their children’s academic performance,” said Knott.

PowerTeacher Pro, PowerSchool’s latest version, will give Massapequa teachers access to powerful charts and data that will assist with grading and assessing student performance.
“It will be an even more effective tool for teachers and administrators to see how the classroom is learning,” said Knott. “PowerTeacher Pro will put data of student progress in the hands of teachers and administrators in such a quick and easy way so that everyone, even those who are not computer savvy or don’t really want to work to get the data, can access it.”

Change #2: Improving Student Learning
In 2011, Massapequa enacted a “Learning… Anytime, Anywhere” program, a 1:1 Chromebook initiative. Teachers were excited to embrace and integrate technology into their instruction, but too many different platforms were being used. Teachers couldn’t collaborate and leverage content because it was being saved on different platforms.

“With technology integration, we have to make sure that whatever tools we use are good for students’ learning, and they also have to be easy to use so teachers can seamlessly integrate them into their instruction,” said Ed Kemnitzer, Executive Assistant for Technology Integration of Curriculum Support and Development. “Different, disparate systems impacted the students’ experience and the parent experience when the child got home. We started having conversations about how we could unify this experience. How do we decide on one platform, one LMS which would provide one-stop shopping for teachers, student and parents, so that we could all speak the same language? We wanted to make sure we could use the technology easily to make sure the kids’ experience was heightened.”

The answer was PowerSchool Learning, a learning management system (LMS) developed exclusively for K-12 schools and districts. “It is amazing—PowerSchool Learning has everything you need in an online learning management platform: easy-to-use content creation tools, the ability to embed digital content from the web into the class pages, create online discussions, assignments, and assessments, and so much more,” said Vickie Ahearn, the district’s Technology Learning Coach The comprehensive features for student engagement, such as Discussions, Polls, WikiProjects, Badges, and ePortfolios, give students multiple opportunities to engage and demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. “I truly believe that PowerSchool has allowed us to amplify our student voices,” said Kemnitzer. “We’ve given them a platform to share their voices, share their work, and collaborate. It’s become a great way for all students K-12 to really become part of the conversation.”

Just like with PowerSchool SIS, PowerSchool Learning has also helped the district better engage parents with dynamic, modern communication and collaborative tools accessible anytime and anywhere. Plus, as Kemnitzer said, everyone is now “speaking the same language.”

“We’re a community that’s very lucky in having strong support from parents. When our students go home, they sit down and discuss what happened during the day with parents. With the parent portal, parents can log in any time they want and actually check out what’s due and what’s been taught in class,” said Kemnitzer. “So the conversation has gone from parents asking, ‘What is your homework,’ to them being able to log in on their own, check out the teacher’s PowerSchool Learning page, see what the student has learned, and see on the calendar that the student has a specific assignment to do, so they can sit down with the student to help. Our 24/7 learning anytime, anywhere mentality is being supported by PowerSchool Learning.”

PowerSchool Learning has a seamless, single sign-on integration with Google Apps for Education™, which gives teachers and students real-time access to additional content, online file storage, and the ability to collaborate in meaningful ways. They especially made use of the Google Drive integration to more efficiently collaborate and share documents district-wide.
“Besides the instructional capabilities, the product could be used on an administrative level to bring together the entire faculty. All the documents we have stored in different places could be loaded into this one solution for all to share,” said Kemnitzer.

Seeing administrators use it to streamline communication, especially with Google Docs, inspired teachers. “Teachers quickly realized the time savings in not having to continually upload a Word doc or a PDF with each edit. They really saw the value of that and it translated into a high adoption rate for PowerSchool Learning and Google. Teachers began posting class notes, homework, test reviews and more—anything that streamlines their work, teachers love,” Ahearn said.

Combined with the district’s 1:1 Chromebook initiative, Massapequa is seeing great success with PowerSchool Learning, evident in an 85% usage rate for a non-mandated initiative.

Change #3: Streamlining Student Registration
Massapequa also uses PowerSchool Registration to streamline its student registration process by moving a time-consuming, inefficient, paper-based process into an efficient digital workflow. It’s made possible via a seamless integration between PowerSchool Registration and PowerSchool SIS. “The paper-based registration process was very time-consuming for both our families and managerial staff. The distribution and collection of a 20-page form per student meant that a family new to our district with three students would be going through 60 sheets of paper. Partnering with PowerSchool Registration modernizes our registration system and provides everyone with a higher level of efficiency,” said Bob Schilling, Executive Director for Assessment, Student Data, and Technology Services at Massapequa.

The solution not only saves Massapequa money in reduced printing and mailing, but it also saves time, improves security, and reduces the risk of mistakes.  “We’re dramatically reducing the possibility of data entry errors and have access to up-to-date, accurate information on the first day of school. Additionally, it’s a convenience that people appreciate when you have electronic systems in place,” said Schilling. The data submitted by families are reviewed, polished, and formatted to meet Massapequa’s policies and then delivered into PowerSchool.

“The polishing component is so important for ensuring entries are consistent when entered into our databases. Something as simple as entering ‘St.’ instead of ‘Street’ can alter the performance of a database if it’s not caught and corrected. The polishing component takes care of this for us,” said Margaret Colucci, former Executive Assistant for Information Management at Massapequa Public Schools.

It All Adds Up: The Unified Classroom
PowerSchool’s comprehensive set of innovative solutions enables Massapequa to take advantage of the industry’s first “Unified Classroom” experience. Designed specifically for K-12, the Unified Classroom seamlessly combines best-in-class educational technology products into one cohesive solution for all classroom, instruction, assessment, and student data needs. In total, PowerSchool’s Unified Classroom experience offers secure, and compliant online solutions, including registration and school choice, student information systems, learning management and classroom collaboration, assessment, analytics, and special education management. PowerSchool’s platform covers attendance, schedules, assignments and class content, student and class data analysis, blended and digital learning, internal communication, parent and student mobile apps, and general classroom management, such as seating assignments. This comprehensive, cohesive solution has led to high adoption rates and usability. Previously, Massapequa struggled before with disparate tools and solutions. Now it’s thriving with a streamlined, engaging user experience for teachers, parents, students, and administrators that brings data together from multiple sources into a single platform for easy navigation and quick access.

Collaboration is streamlined on multiple levels—administrative, teacher, and student—both inside and outside the classroom. With one login, everyone has access to the information they need in one place. No more juggling multiple logins for different solutions or different classes for each student, wasting time shifting from solution to solution, or losing mental energy from constantly interrupted thoughts and workflows.

Student and parent engagement is also drastically improved. Students and parents get notifications about grades and assignments to visually see student progress in real time. Students are empowered to understand their performance, helping them take ownership of their learning. Parents can see how their children are doing at school at-a-glance, can drill down for more information, and easily communicate with teachers to strengthen that relationship.

“PowerSchool is our lifeline,” said Knott, “We use the platform as a comprehensive communication and informational tool for all parents, teachers and administrators. There is no better way to communicate with a parent than with specifics, such as their current progress, standard average grade, and comparison between quarters. PowerSchool provides this information quickly so there are no excuses. We are able to provide parents with up-to-date data and progress at the click of a button.”

The conversation has gone from parents asking, ‘What is your homework,’ to them being able to log in on their own, check out the teacher’s PowerSchool Learning page, see what the student has learned, and see on the calendar that the student has a specific assignment to do, so they can sit down with the student to help. Our 24/7 learning anytime, anywhere mentality is being supported by PowerSchool Learning.

Ed Kemnitzer
Executive Assistant for Technology Integration of Curriculum Support and Development, Massapequa Public Schools
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