In 1995, school district technology meant a working computer lab and enough TV carts to go around. More than two decades later, there’s almost no part of school district operations that haven’t been transformed in one way or another by technology.
These changes are readily apparent in Macomb Community Unit School District 185 (Macomb) located in western Illinois. For over 22 years, Macomb has leaned on its school management system to break through traditional barriers and improve overall operations.
“I’ve been doing this specific job for almost 12 years and everything is always changing,” said Pam Hensley, Macomb’s data manager. “That’s why using technology like Skyward to its capacity is important. Skyward always has a solution to help us evolve and meet new demands.”
With a district-wide culture of process improvement and a longtime technology partner by their side, Macomb has added a new level of connectivity to its district and simplified everyday tasks. The end result has been more instructional time for students, a more efficient and informed staff, and a better overall experience for every stakeholder.
"OUR STAFF NO LONGER WASTES TIME RECREATING OR RUNNING REPORTS. THEY'RE JUST AUTOMATICALLY SENT TO THEIR INBOXES."
Macomb’s innovative approach started with its implementation of scheduled tasks. Reports that used to be generated daily are now created and automatically sent to staff members who use a specific report the most. “Our staff no longer wastes time recreating or running reports. They’re just automatically sent to their inboxes,” emphasized Hensley.
While scheduled tasks have helped many teachers perform more efficiently, some of its impacts are felt outside of the classroom. The district uses scheduled reports for teachers who have not posted athletic eligibility. The report contains a detailed list that is sent to administrators who can pinpoint and remind teachers to post the athletic eligibility of their students. A primary component in the process involves scheduled tasks that report weekly grades. The reports are generated and submitted to appropriate staff and the athletic department, keeping student-athletes accountable for their grades.
Along with scheduled tasks, automatic e-mails have improved the efficiency and accuracy of Macomb’s staff. From the classroom and library to the nurses office and the bus garage, all corners of the district are automatically notified of vital information. When a student enters or withdraws from a class, each staff member can do what he or she may needs to do.
For Hensley, who oversees state reporting, gone are the days of monitoring long lists of changes to personal information. When a student changes addresses, Hensley receives an e-mail in real time so she can quickly recode any necessary changes. “The automatic e-mails have been life changing for me,” said Hensley. “It doesn’t sound like that would be that big of a deal but when we have almost 2,200 students it saves me a ton of time I used to spend recoding and it makes sure that the end of year report is accurate.”
Building on the improved communication and engagement from automated e-mails, Macomb has moved away from handwritten, paper processes to relay information. Instead, the district now counts on Skyward’s Message Center to communicate with almost 2,200 families. “Teachers use the Message Center, office staff uses it, and it has cut down on a lot of paper and copying of material,” said Hensley.
For more vital information, Macomb relies on Skylert to communicate news such as early dismissals. Instead of having to search for individual contact information, the district has transitioned to a more automated approach. In the past, Macomb had to manually manipulate a report and upload it to a call area in their old alert system. Now, data pulls directly from Macomb’s database right into Skylert. “Skylert has been a great tool for our district to communicate vital information that we need to get to our staff or families,” stated Hensley. “We don’t waste time regenerating reports; it’s all hands off and filters to Skylert automatically now.”
"PARENTS ARE MORE IN TUNE WITH WHAT IS HAPPENING AT OUR SCHOOLS NOW."
As Macomb’s partnership with Skyward has grown over time, so has the district’s emphasis on the Family Access solution. Every school in the district now uses the family portal, giving families more transparency about their student’s information. As an added benefit, Macomb’s staff has noticed a reduced number of phone calls into their offices. “Parents are more in tune with what is happening at our schools now,” said Hensley.
Many of the successes at home can be attributed to the teachers. “As we try to become more paperless as a district, teachers are using the online assignment areas more and more,” said Hensley.
This has allowed teachers to create or clone assignments and add them to the online assignment area. From there, teachers grade the assignment and post it to the Gradebook solution. “Once they create the assignment, it’s pretty hands off as far as turning it on and off for student visibility purposes,” explained Hensley.
In fact, some teachers are considered almost completely “paperless” and use online assignments on a daily basis. Additionally, some classrooms are raising the bar by using survey questions which allow teachers to take attendance and select the student’s lunch choice, freeing up time for the lunch staff who receive the final reports. “Anytime anything new comes out with Skyward, some of our teachers can’t wait to try it,” said Hensley.
Looking toward the future, Macomb hopes to evolve its automated approach by focusing on student attendance. While the district uses attendance letters now, staff only review attendance reports every couple of weeks. To be more proactive, the district has ordered student badges that may be used for positive attendance in the future.
Moreover, Macomb’s goal is to turn attendance reports into a scheduled task, where designated staff will be notified after a student receives a set amount of tardy or absence marks. “I’d like to push reports out to get on top of any students who are frequent fliers and be proactive prior to them getting 10 marks, so instead reaching out after 5 marks,” said Hensley. “We are committed long term and very big Skyward proponents. We can’t wait to see what the future holds."
It’s true—the future is exciting. Macomb has found a formula for success by combining a trustworthy technology partner with a staff that is willing to change a as it works to achieve one common goal—a better overall experience.
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