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Data-Driven Decisions Come to Life for Cicero Schools

April 18, 2023 at 11:34 AM

School districts nationwide can now get real-time information in less than five minutes for more than two dozen categories ranging from attendance to gradebook analysis to truancy to lunch status to family lists and demographics, to discipline to mapping addresses for busing and tracking district demographic changes, to name a few.

Cicero Public Schools in Illinois switched to Standards Grades in 2020 and needed an accurate, easy-to-use, time-savings solution. Cicero found that with Level Data and its specialized RealTime Reports plug-in for PowerSchool.

“There are not a whole lot of reporting capabilities in PowerSchool for Standards Grades,” said Tish Brandt, Executive Director for Data Systems and Assessment at the district. “I wish I could have a couple of developers and more engineers working here, but the reality is in public education, it’s not fiscally possible. So, we are like most other districts that have to leverage vendors’ products that are available and provide solutions that are affordable, scalable and manageable.”

Brandt said a critical need was easy access and monitoring of how teachers are using the standards grades system, and that they were following the practices and expectations, if “standards grading was going to take off in the district.”

“We bought RealTime Reports believing that even if we didn’t use any other reports, it would be well worth it,” Brandt said about the Gradebook Grades Report. “It was the price point we needed and the administrators specifically needed to be able to look at the student grades without having to go into every teacher’s grade book and look at each one.”

Yet Cicero did use additional RealTime Report options – and did so with great success. One of those reports was Student Attendance, but they soon also tapped into the Mapping Report and Siblings Report. All reports are fast, intuitive to use – some say it’s easier than shopping online – and can produce colorful charts and graphs so staff can quickly visualize what the data is saying.

“There are other attendance reports available in PowerSchool, but the RealTime Reports gives administrators great visualizations, they can take a screen shot and put it in their building agenda each month,” Brandt added. “And our principals love they can export those files that they can pop that into Google Sheets, they can send it to the counselors, the district truancy officer, and they have immediate access to exactly the information they need to take action… right now, to do something about what they are seeing.”

The district also uses at the start of each school year the Siblings Report, to make sure all their students are linked together. Over 60% of their students have a sibling in the district. 

“So, that is very important for all of our parent initiatives, sending out communications,” she said. “It’s important to have all our siblings and families linked in PowerSchool to make sure they get all the proper communications that are sent out.”

Free and Reduced Lunch count accuracy is critical as well and the Siblings Report is a huge factor in keeping track of families that are low income and are eligible for assistance.

Finally, the Level Data RealTime Report for Address Mapping was used by the assistant superintendent for student projections, future population, how many grade levels they need in each building, and how many classrooms of different grade levels, etc. Brandt said, adding that the report was especially useful after coming back from an entire year of remote learning, post Covid-19 shutdowns.

“We had one school that was closed for construction and another that was going to close due to building issues, so it meant doing a re-work of our entire flow of student population based on home addresses,” Brandt said. “She used that and loved it.”

Tom Lang
Written by Tom Lang

Tom Lang has spent more than 3 decades in the field of journalism and marketing, while always having a hand in public education. His father was a school teacher, his mom a school secretary, and his wife teaches high school English and Humanities. On his own, Tom worked his way through college as a school bus driver and today remains closely tied to education as a Board member of FIRST (Robotics) in Michigan. He has worked with high school coaches and athletes for nearly 30 years as a freelance sports writer at the Detroit Free Press, and for more than 10 years as a basketball referee. Bottom line -- help kids grow, learn and create productive futures.

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