SIS – Washington Local Schools in Ohio
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” — John F. Kennedy
Ohio’s Washington Local Schools struggled through two different student information systems in a matter of just five years. Neither system met the many needs of its district, stakeholders, and most importantly – students. The district experienced a loss of control of student data, accessibility limitations, poor state reporting support, and lack of parent engagement, among other challenges.
“Our staff was frustrated, including me,” says Judy Williams, Washington Local Schools’ EMIS Coordinator and District PowerSchool Administrator. “We knew we needed a new student information system, and we had many important priorities. Change can be difficult, so we really wanted a long-term solution with an industry leader. We were looking for a product that has been, and will continue to be, around for a long time.”
Washington Local Schools is a public K-12 district serving 7,000 students within 11 Toledo-area schools, including eight elementary schools, two junior high schools, and one high school. Its mission is to “provide excellent education and individual attention, as we unconditionally love all kids and families, fuel passion, define purpose, and lead all to infinite opportunities.” While the staff of 850 was working hard to fulfill this mission, its student information system was not.
After thorough research and due diligence, the district made the change to PowerSchool to help ensure a brighter future. As the world’s leading innovative SIS, PowerSchool responded to Washington Local Schools’ many needs with an intuitive, easy-to-use solution to greatly improve the education experience. PowerSchool streamlines the district’s processes, gives valuable time to be spent with students, provides tools to improve instruction and learning, delivers critical data needed for reporting and compliance, and breaks down communication barriers between teachers, students, and parents.
When looking for a new SIS, the district needed more control over all aspects of its data. With many state reporting changes coming from the Ohio Department of Education, Washington Local staff needed flexibility over reports and data extraction capabilities. “With PowerSchool, we now have wonderful control over our data and are able to create our own reports specific to our building or district needs. On a state compliance level, it really helps with verifying data because you can extract data and do whatever you want with it before submitting to the state. I do a lot of extracting and analyzing so I now know the data I’m submitting is correct,” says Williams.
UPDATED STATE REPORTING AND COMPLIANCE
District funding leads to improvements and sustainability throughout a district and for the students it serves, and, understandably, Washington Local Schools placed a high priority on state reporting. “Being that our accountability and funding depends on accurate, timely state reporting, and with so many state changes always being handed down to us, it was important to not receive changes at the last minute, or worry that the product would be updated too late. The product had to be always up to date,” says Williams. It was also imperative that a new SIS featured ease of data extraction and was not cumbersome.
PowerSchool works with META Solutions to offer a complete state and federal compliance reporting solution with more than 40 supported reports and submissions, including Ohio-developed easy-to-use EMIS reporting and CRDC reporting. PowerSchool’s Ohio-based compliance team meets regularly with users responsible for state reporting submissions from Ohio PowerSchool districts. The State Reporting Development Team meets with the Ohio Focus Group, a subset of Ohio PowerSchool districts, to help set the direction for upcoming development, including prioritizing enhancement requests, fixes, and upcoming changes to Ohio state requirements.
PowerSchool Ohio Product Management meets monthly with the state on the state vendor and the state ITC calls.
“It was very important to me that the product have superior state reporting capabilities. It needed to be efficient, quick and easy to use, and I have been delighted with PowerSchool’s state reporting,” Williams says. “It integrates well with the SIS portion and is very seamless with no redundant data entry.
You enter a student’s information and the fields carry over throughout the system, which saves time. The state screens are logical and easy to use, the constant updates we receive from the state are added quickly, and PowerSchool is always adding newer and more efficient ways to process data.”
The district wanted an SIS that system administrators could use anywhere, anytime, and one that allowed parents immediate and easy access to their student’s information regardless of their device. For a digital gradebook, teachers needed more flexibility and ease of use with a web-based product.
PowerSchool has always been fully web-based, designed specifically for the web from the ground up with real- time data updates for all stakeholders. “We really appreciate the fact that PowerSchool is web-based and mobile friendly. Students, parents and staff all use mobile devices, and PowerSchool works well with everything. I often use my cell phone or iPad® to do many or most PowerSchool tasks. You can check something, make changes, and do just about anything you need to do.”
Web-based PowerTeacher Pro features a digital gradebook teachers love because of its ease of use, robust functionality, intuitive user interface, and responsive design for any computer or tablet.
USER-FRIENDLY AND EASY ACCESS
With staff of all levels of computer and technical skills, “we wanted a user- friendly product in which limited training was required, and something that our staff would actually want to use,” says Williams.
Washington Local Schools has found PowerSchool extremely easy to use, stating staff can get anywhere in three to four clicks, regardless of technical skill level. “All levels of staff, even those with no formal training, can just intuitively pick it up,” says Williams. “It’s very user friendly. I train teachers, secretaries and administrators, and there are literally no issues with their understanding of any part of it.”
Williams says on one occasion, a teacher called her needing an administrator account set up. While they were on the phone, she was able to easily create the account in a couple of clicks and walk them through a tutorial.
“The teacher was so excited and good to go right away. By the end of the call, he knew what he was doing and how to get around and find the information he needed,” says Williams.
The ability to easily extract data has also greatly increased work efficiencies, according to Williams. “Data extracts are so easy in PowerSchool. Really, many times per day I export data for various reasons, and not just for state reporting. On a daily basis you can pull any data you want out of PowerSchool, from student lists and reports to teacher projects and comparison projects.”
Parents in the district wanted to be able to track their student’s performance and attendance, requiring a system that was simple and easily accessible. From the district’s perspective, it wanted a system that helped engage parents in their children’s education, regardless of the type of device they use.
“PowerSchool has definitely helped us to improve communication with parents,” Williams says. “Parents love the instant access to grades and attendance.
Parents choose their own level of student data received, and check the mobile app or get weekly email updates if they want. They’re not surprised by grade cards anymore because they’ve been keeping up with grades over the term. They like accessing all of their students on just one account, especially if they have kids in different schools.”
DRIVING STUDENT GROWTH
Washington Local Schools needed to eliminate barriers to facilitating student success, and required a method allowing teachers to instantly see how their students were performing in not just their class, but in all academics, as well as attendance. According to Williams, the district wanted a product that would foster communication and collaboration among teachers, giving them access to more than just their classroom students with the ability to track other students for a variety of uses.
“PowerSchool has helped us increase student academic accountability. The real-time data updates are important for us, and students really take more interest when they get immediate feedback and can see their results quickly. Some teachers even require their classes to log onto their PowerSchool student accounts and check their grades. Students can also take part in their own scheduling process and have a say in what classes they have the next year,” says Williams.
As the industry’s most robust SIS, PowerSchool’s capabilities not only met Washington Local Schools’ core needs, but the solution helped with additional benefits the district experiences on a daily basis.
The district utilizes PowerScheduler, PowerSchool’s digital master scheduling component which replaces the whiteboard with a state-of- the-art system built to make scheduling easy with drag-and-drop functionality.
It replaces inefficiencies and frustration of paper and whiteboard systems and can build any combination of terms in a building using semesters, trimesters, quarters or down to 1/12th of a year.
“Elementary scheduling is a breeze, and can be done quickly with dependent sections. At all grade levels districtwide we appreciate the ability to copy last year’s schedule or start from scratch. You can also do a hybrid which is nice to make minor adjustments,” Williams says.
POWERSOURCE CUSTOMER PORTAL
PowerSchool’s community-focused customer support portal, PowerSource, is used by more than 322,000 customers within the K-12 education community. Washington Local Schools utilizes the site for helpful Mastery in Minutes training options, as well as the Knowledgebase for quick and convenient support answers.
POWERSCHOOL ISV PROGRAM
In today’s education landscape, school boards 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. PowerSchool’s Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partner program helps facilitate seamless integration with third partner software companies that school districts utilize.
“We use PowerSchool data in several programs including School Messenger, PayForIt.net, IEP Anywhere, enVision Math, and Schoolnet. PowerSchool integrates well with all of our partners, and data flows seamlessly in real time.”
When change became necessary for Washington Local Schools to overcome its challenges and improve its district operations, it made the sound decision to partner with the industry leader in PowerSchool. And now that it has fully implemented the SIS, that change is helping the district power its school operations, empower teachers, drive student growth, and engage parents through collaboration and enhanced communication.
“It has been a wonderful experience working with the PowerSchool student information system, along with the NWOCA (North West Ohio Computer Association), which has helped us through the smooth transition from our previous systems,” Williams says.
“PowerSchool has really proven to be an easy-to-use solution that is making our jobs easier and more effective.”
“Yes, change can be difficult. But a change to PowerSchool has helped secure a positive future for our district and the children we serve.”
Our staff was frustrated, including me,” says Judy Williams, Washington Local Schools’ EMIS Coordinator and District PowerSchool Administrator. “We knew we needed a new student information system, and we had many important priorities. Change can be diffcult, so we really wanted a long-term solution with an industry leader. We were looking for a product that has been, and will continue to be, around for a long time.