East Allen County Schools involves teachers in selection process to ensure edtech fits their overall needs.
For most K-12 school districts, teachers make up the majority of employees. Unfortunately, their opinions on the edtech tools that they use for everything from daily attendance to grades are not given much weight.
East Allen County Schools (EACS), located in New Haven, IN, has the opposite approach — their teachers remain top of mind when implementing new tools, especially a new SIS.
Keith Madsen, teacher turned director of technology at EACS, knows the importance of a reliable SIS and getting buy-in from multiple perspectives. Along with a strong approach to training, Madsen and EACS prove they are dedicated to making edtech intuitive for their teachers.
"Our teachers make up 75% of our staff, so it is incredibly important to us that they are happy with their SIS. Skyward completely won them over."
Deciding on a new SIS
Madsen began his career at EACS as a teacher. From his end-user perspective, the district’s previous software was very limited, especially when it came to the type of data teachers could retrieve.
“Basically, all the information that you could pull about your students was their student number and grades, not much else,” said Madsen.
As Madsen grew in his role and became the director of technology at EACS, he also saw that their previous system lacked a response to intervention (RtI) module. These issues led Madsen and his team to look for a new SIS.
Initially, this team included just Madsen, EACS’ senior network engineer, and the database manager. They looked at the five leading SIS solutions, then narrowed the list down to three options.
To ensure this major decision was benefiting all people who would be using the new system, Madsen put together a committee consisting of 26 people which included: principals, the superintendent, a teacher from every school that represented each core subject and grade level, and parents.
After seeing numerous demonstrations, the EACS committee decided on Skyward’s Qmlativ Education Management System.
“The teachers in the room unanimously chose Skyward,” said Madsen. “Our teachers make up 75% of our staff, so it is incredibly important to us that they are happy with their SIS. Skyward completely won them over.”
"The more we can assist with getting teachers
comfortable with Skyward, the more we can
focus on our other district goals."
A unique approach to training
Just when it came time to implement Skyward at EACS, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“The timing was unfortunate, but there was nothing that anyone could do about that,” said Madsen.
Originally, Madsen had scheduled all sorts of in-person meetings and training sessions but ended up having to change to virtual meetings instead.
“The virtual trainings were fine, but things are never the same virtually as they are in person, and we had an attendance problem,” said Madsen.
To help fill the training gaps, the district put a lot of Skyward resources in their current LMS. Along with support from Skyward, EACS takes training one step further by utilizing their technology coaches.
Technology coaches are former EACS teachers who have an assigned group of buildings. They provide Skyward basic training to those who want to know more about their new SIS.
“The technology coaches are essential in keeping our district running smoothly,” said Madsen. “Because of them, our user experience for teachers remains high overall.”
Apart from the technology coaches' one-on-one training, Madsen and his team created SIS tips tailored for each role in the district for activities such as end-of-year actions, back to school reminders, and more.
“The more we can assist with getting teachers comfortable with Skyward, the more we can focus on our other district goals,” said Madsen.
"Qmlativ solves our future plans for the next generation, because I see no reason why we would even consider looking at a new SIS."
Shared goals, shared success
For Madsen and EACS, edtech plays a very vital, yet specific, role when it comes to teaching.
“Edtech needs to not get in the way of education,” said Madsen. “It should serve as a tool that doesn’t hinder teachers or cause them stress if their tech savviness is mediocre.”
This ideology is yet another reason why Skyward and EACS work well together — shared viewpoints.
“Skyward integrates very well with lots of other tools that we already have in place, so there are no roadblocks,” said Madsen. “That is golden in the edtech world.”
Additionally, EACS’ decision to implement Qmlativ is as helpful now as it will be in the future.
“Qmlativ solves our future plans for the next generation, because I see no reason why we would even consider looking at a new SIS,” said Madsen. “Skyward is so much deeper and broader than our previous SIS, and it does everything that we want it to do.”
Madsen’s ability to look at the SIS from both a teacher and administrator perspective cements this idea further.
“Some end users don’t fully realize how much more Skyward contains, but administrators definitely do,” said Madsen. “I can confidently say that when I retire, EACS will still have Skyward.”
What’s next for EACS?
Looking ahead, Madsen is excited to explore more in Qmlativ.
“Personally, I would love to learn more about creating custom forms,” said Madsen. “Qmlativ has so many options, so I want to explore tailored reports for particular roles.”
For other districts looking to switch SIS solutions, Madsen has great advice:
“Use a large team and look at various options. Don’t just look at cost — instead look at what the system can do for you.”
Skyward and EACS look forward to a strong partnership for years to come.
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