District News Report – November 2013 Issue
A new web-based comprehensive student information system (SIS) designed to facilitate communication between school and home, streamline scheduling, automate reports and integrate student data will be introduced in the next school year.
The Skyward software is designed exclusively for K-12 school districts and will replace REG, which has been used as a database for student information over the last 15 years and will be phased out by the end of this school year.
“REG has served us very well for the last 15-16 years,” said Bernie Luger, chief operating officer, “and was updated six or seven years ago. But it was not as user-friendly as we’d like. It lacks features such as information about school programs or parent access to grades and homework.”
According to Peter Santos, information technology officer, Skyward was recommended by the district’s SIS Committee after more than six months of reviewing presentations, proposals, feedback from other districts and working with the product in a controlled environment and also partnering with the Rhode Island Department of Education.
“The Skyward solution provides a user-friendly interface to access student data in an easier manner resulting in a good fit for PPSD,” said Santos. “This robust system will provide benefits such as a Family Access module, district-to-district transfer with other Skyward districts and accessibility from any device.”
Skyward will include a parent portal whereby parents, using a password, can learn about their child’s assignments and grades from any computer. Teachers will be able to contact parents directly and parents will be able to make changes to their contact information.
Skyward offers many advantages to schools since teachers can post assignments and grades from any computer. Attendance, grading, scheduling, discipline and demographics will be integrated, so data changed in one place is changed throughout the system. It will also help with scheduling, especially for students who are placed in more than one grouping, such as special education or English language learners.
Skyward also offers 24-hour customer service, upgrades twice annually and with best practices shared across the United States, valuable information can be communicated quickly. For example, if one school has successfully redesigned their science labs, the reconfigurations can be shared with other schools in the Skyward system.
Training will commence in January for school staff, beginning with personnel involved with student scheduling since next year’s schedules will be developed using Skyward. Clerical staff, depending on where they are assigned, will be trained in the spring of 2014.
Principals, teachers and guidance counselors will also be trained toward the end of the school year and, after school begins next fall, parents will be trained in English. According to Luger, since Skyward operates by web browser, the learning curve is much easier.
All functions are password-protected. “It’s a very secure system with controlled access for those who need it,” Luger said.
The conversion process will be a long one, Luger said, because the accuracy of the data must be verified.
“Skyward offers the right balance in function and customer service. I’m very confident that it’s going to be with us for the next 15 years. It will serve our needs well into the future,” said Luger.