In the ever-changing environment of education technology, sometimes it seems that enduring partnerships between districts and vendors are few and far between. But that isn’t the case for Hudson School District, located near the state border in northwest Wisconsin. The district has been a Skyward partner for nearly 30 years, and it’s no surprise why.
Nancy Toll, instructional technology coordinator at Hudson, credits Skyward with providing the tools that students and teachers need to facilitate classroom learning, without letting technology itself take over. The seamless integration of Skyward’s Student Management and School Business Suites has allowed students, parents and teachers to stay up to date with current information and gain a better understanding of student achievement.
“Teachers have access to all of their students’ common assessment scores, academic progress, and demographic information, so that they can truly personalize learning for their students,” Toll explained. “Many teachers take advantage of Skyward’s online assignments, which can allow students and teachers to receive immediate feedback, so adjustments can be made accordingly.”
Skyward’s SIS has helped Hudson better identify at-risk students through its RTI watch list at the high school level. “This allowed our guidance counselors a way to focus on a small group of students with specific needs, and helped them avoid future attendance consequences due to truancy,” Toll said. “We have also used the watch list at the elementary level to help identify students for placement into various programs and classes to increase their academic success.”
Students at Hudson often monitor their own progress using Skyward’s Student Access, which has contributed to a decline in the number of missing and incomplete assignments. With Family Access, parents can also easily check their child’s progress at any time.
“For students, the value of the program comes with the ability to self-monitor progress and have access to online assessments, which teachers post for their use,” Toll explained. “Because parents can also view student information, they have become more active partners in their child’s education and can now easily interact with teachers if they have questions or concerns.”
Over the past decade, the district has seen a continued increase in the use of Family and Student Access by parents and students. Students and parents at the high school-level not only use the tool to check grades and communicate, but also to view available courses online and help plan students’ academic futures.
"I ALWAYS HEAR BACK ON QUESTIONS I SUBMIT WITHIN A DAY, AND IT'S USUALLY WITHIN AN HOUR."
“Skyward is the backbone of what we do in our building offices on a daily basis,” Toll said. “From efficiently recording attendance and being able to quickly identify attendance issues, to working with discipline issues and handling health records – Skyward does it all for our district.”
Hudson’s athletic office has also benefited from Family Access. Coaches use weekly progress reports to stay updated on the progress of their athletes. Since the Raiders started using these reports two years ago, no students have been dismissed from a team due to inadequate grades or attendance.
The School Business Suite has allowed Hudson administrators to streamline many processes and avoid the dreaded paper shuffle. “We have used advanced custom forms and the task manger to create procedures to submit and process forms for reports, avoiding papers sitting on desks in different buildings and not knowing for sure where they landed,” Toll said. “Many reports are also automated, so that departments – such as our transportation and health offices – have up-to-date, accurate information.”
In addition to custom reporting options, Toll explained that meeting state reporting requirements is less stressful and more efficient thanks to Skyward’s tools. “The thought of completing the state reports that are required, even for a medium-sized district like ours, is really unimaginable without the help of our Skyward programs,” Toll said. “The fact that Skyward keeps on top of all of the different state requirements and adjusts the programs as needed in time to complete reports is of great value. I know the time savings in completing state reports alone is well over 200 hours, if I had to do the calculations asked for manually.”
Reports can be scheduled and automatically sent to end users who need the data, and 24/7-access to the solution allows users to get the information they need, whenever they need it. Employee Access lets district staff view their personal financial data online, along with time off and sick leave information. “This makes it convenient for the end user and alleviates phone calls to HR and financial services,” Toll said.
Another key aspect Hudson administrators appreciate is how easy the Skyward solution is to navigate. Although users can customize the look and feel of their own dashboard, the system maintains some consistencies throughout, which allows the district’s technology department to support users with most basic questions.
"IF DISTRICTS REALLY WANT A COMPLETE PACKAGE WITH A SYSTEM THAT CAN HANDLE ALL OF THEIR DATA NEEDS, SKYWARD WOULD BE MY RECOMMENDATION."
Skyward’s features, including the security access levels, make it easy for administrators to delegate jobs to staff members, which in turn increases efficiency. “A specific example of how the program helps the offices on a daily basis is the unrecorded classroom attendance notice that goes out to teachers who have forgotten to take attendance,” Toll said. “By automating this process, the secretaries avoid having to make multiple phone calls and teachers are gently reminded that they need to get their attendance recorded for that day, so the data remains accurate.”
Toll said Hudson has continued its longtime partnership with Skyward because of several key factors: the system’s intuitive interface, reporting capabilities, security of student data, and consistent and timely support.
“I would definitely recommend Skyward’s Student Management and School Business Suites to other districts,” Toll said. “I work with multiple vendors on a daily basis, and Skyward is one of the best products I help support in our district, since it seems to run at an almost 99% uptime, and their tech and product support is great.”
“I always hear back on questions I submit within a day, and it’s usually within an hour,” she added. “The support people really know their job and escalate issues as needed without having to be asked.”
After decades of partnering with Skyward, Hudson administrators are satisfied with their customizable, integrated technology solution. It’s flexible enough to meet their needs and bring them peace of mind.
“If districts really want a complete package with a system that can handle all of their data needs, Skyward would be my recommendation.”
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