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Case Study

Better than Free

What made this progressive TN district bypass a free, state-provided SIS in favor of Skyward?

Oak Ridge Schools, a public district located about 30 minutes west of Knoxville, prides itself on being home to schools that are “among the finest… in Tennessee and the nation.”
In 2007, they were pioneers when they became the first district in Tennessee to purchase the Skyward Student Management Suite. What’s even more noteworthy is that, in doing so, they bypassed the opportunity to use a free, state-provided student information system (SIS).

Oak Ridge Schools
Enrollment: 5,000
Schools: 8
Implemented: 2007

Skyward's Student Management and School Business Suites

Oak Ridge enjoyes accurate state reporting, improved communication, and the ability to identify at-risk students.
"We were blown away by what we saw. Our [Skyward] salesperson's knowledge far exceeded any other salesperson."

The Challenge

Oak Ridge’s previous vendor provided basic student demographics and attendance, but as a district striving for excellence in educating its nearly 5,000 students, Oak Ridge needed to move beyond basic student data and start gauging trends and reviewing more sophisticated analytics.


The Solution

As Oak Ridge’s district administrators researched SIS providers, they became familiar with Skyward. They were pleased with what its systems had to offer, from its Gradebook and Family Access modules, which allow parents and teachers to communicate and view students’ progress, to the Food Service module, where parents can stay informed as to what their students are eating. These functions were merely the tip of the iceberg, and positioned Skyward as an obvious SIS frontrunner.

Oak Ridge continued to evaluate the Skyward solution against its competitors, both student management and finance. They found it to be, hands down, significantly better than the others in terms of benefits and functionality. A Skyward representative came to the district and presented the Student Management Suite and the School Business Suite to teachers and administrators. “We were blown away by what we saw. Our [Skyward] salesperson’s knowledge far exceeded any other salesperson,” said Jeff Edmonds, the district’s supervisor of data services.

Oak Ridge Schools ultimately decided to purchase both Skyward products.
"Skyward did a great job of making sure we knew what we were doing as well as all that we could do in the system."

The Results

To begin moving forward with the new system, Skyward representatives and administrators from Oak Ridge spent three days at the Nashville Department of Education obtaining certification, since Skyward was new to Tennessee. “We have stringent state guidelines on data, so we had to trust that Skyward would work with our state department to get certified,” said Edmonds.
Skyward employees administered training sessions at Oak Ridge to ensure teachers and staff felt confident using the system and maximizing its capabilities. Edmonds said Skyward provided 10 times more professional training than other vendors. “Our partnership with Skyward has been wonderful from the start,” he said. “In the end, any product will only be as useful and helpful as the people who are using it. Skyward did a great job of making sure we knew what we were doing as well as all that we could do in the system.”
What are some of the positive changes experienced by Oak Ridge Schools since they began their partnership with Skyward?
"Skyward looks at the challenges districts face and finds ways to ease the burdens or eliminate them altogether."

Better data analysis leads to improved ability to educate students

Educators can break down state and national test scores by variables such as gender or English Language Learners to see various trends and find learning gaps. The district can identify struggling students and teachers can focus on those individuals, intervening through the Response to Intervention module. The district can track interventions to see which ones are working and if they are cost effective.
“The level of technology and reporting we get is phenomenal,” said Edmonds. “Our end goal—and we’re sure we’ll get there with Skyward—is to be able to analyze how a group of students will perform with a particular teacher so each student can get the absolute best education.”

Improved communication between teachers, students, and parents

Parents of Oak Ridge students are pleased that Skyward has improved their communication with teachers. Teachers post homework assignments and test results, enter grades, send out progress reports, and schedule parent-teacher conferences through Skyward. Parents enjoy being able to see their children’s homework assignments and class results as well as what they ate for lunch.

State reporting made easier

Edmonds said the state often changes report requirements with little notice, little detail, or both. Each time this occurs, Skyward accommodates to the changes. “Because of Skyward, we’ve never missed a deadline,” he said. “The product lets us do a lot of data verification to ensure what is actually going on in the district is in our student management system as well as the state’s database. Everything lines up. I’m confident we’ll never be hung out to dry with Skyward.”

An ideal partnership

“Skyward looks at the challenges districts face and finds ways to ease the burdens or eliminate them altogether,” said Edmonds. “Skyward not only listens to us, but they try to achieve any outcomes we seek. It’s the only software company I know that operates at this level with its customers.”

Many districts in Tennessee took notice of how well Skyward worked for Oak Ridge. They were impressed with the comprehensive data points Oak Ridge reported to the state and the glowing testimonials the staff and parents gave in regards to the clear lines of communication that Skyward opened.

In 2014 the state of Tennessee selected Skyward as a preferred student information system partner for its districts.


Clovis Municipal School District (New Mexico)

“We were able to use the Skyward solution to save our district approximately $30,000.” –Todd Ulses, Information Systems Coordinator

Deerfield Public School District 109 (Illinois)

“Our parents and students are very engaged, and that helps us maintain excellence in all areas.” –Michael Lubelfeld, Superintendent

Dickson County School District (Tennessee)

"I absolutely would recommend the PDC." -Randy Brison, Student Data Manager

Escambia County School District (Florida)

"Skyward is focused on the mission of providing an adaptive ERP system so that we can stay focused on educating students." –Linda Lewis, Director of Payroll and Benefits Accounting

Fort Bend Independent School District (Texas)

“We are so excited about New Student Online Enrollment... It allows you to customize the registration process to meet your district’s needs.” –Lisa Mirza, Director of Student Information Systems

Hudson School District (Wisconsin)

“I know the time savings in completing state reports alone is well over 200 hours.” –Nancy Toll, Instructional Technology Coordinator

Lewiston Independent School District (Idaho)

“[Salary Negotiations] allows me to work ahead and have the work completed earlier instead of having to do everything all at once in the summer.” –Kathy McPherson, Director of Business Services

Menasha Joint School District (Wisconsin)

“Skyward is the type of company that actually listens to their customers and develops around that feedback, which is very important.” –Brian Adesso, Director of Business Services

Mountain Home School District (Idaho)

“I wish we would have switched to Skyward years ago. We are such a better organization with it than we were before.” –Cliff Ogborn, Director of Fiscal Operations

Muskego-Norway School District (Wisconsin)

"Skyward was there for us every step of the way." -Scott Ecker, Director of Business Services

Nicolet High School (Wisconsin)

"Knowing that Skyward was responding to a need we had was a really powerful thing." - John Reiels, Director of Technology

Oak Hill United School Corporation (Indiana)

“Oak Hill USC is a more attractive place to work for people in their field because we have the tool in place they want to use.” –Brandt Lynch, Technology Coordinator

Pekin Community High School District 303 (Illinois)

“The transition to paperless has gone a lot smoother than I expected.” –Amy Hubner, Assistant Principal for Operations

Pekin Community High School District 303 (Illinois)

"I have noticed that there has been an increase in communication between myself and parents.” –Samantha Bledsoe, Teacher

School District of La Crosse (Wisconsin)

"I find it user friendly, and we know the support is there.” –Joyce Smalley, Business Manager

Wilson County Schools (Tennessee)

“We hope Skyward will be around for many years to come. We are looking forward for opportunities to grow our long-term partnership.” –Cristian Ionita, Database Administrator

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