The majority of school districts in the United States employ at least 26 different software platforms or applications to meet the functional demands of their district. Trying to manually guide data across so many platforms while maintaining the accuracy and integrity of that information would require hours of work from a dedicated team - time and resources that many districts simply can’t afford to sacrifice on peripheral tasks.
"My high school librarian called me in surprise and said ‘All the ninth-graders are here [in Follet Destiny]....She asked if I went ahead and did the export early, and I said, ‘no ma’am, that’s being done automatically now.'" Richard Silvernail, former Directory of Technology, Florence County #5
With budgets growing ever leaner, schools are under more and more pressure to work in more strategic and efficient ways. More districts are recognizing the value found in automated and fully-integrated data management platforms, allowing them to work smarter with less effort and focus on the things that really matter - student success and effective learning.
The team at South Adams Schools lead by Cindy Cash approached Level Data to help manage the demands of student data management against the capacity to handle the movement of information throughout the many applications utilized in the departments of her district - SIS, Directory, Food Service, Library, Instruction and Transportation.
A tailored and fully-managed Level Data Directory Services solution was delivered that connected the various departments from end to end and enabled data to be shared throughout applications automatically. Data only needs to be entered into the Student Information System once before the system takes over and sends that data out to the various divisions and software platforms without the need for time-consuming manual involvement.
The South Adams Schools technology department discovered new capacity to focus on big-picture projects thanks to this system that allowed them to step back from the highly involved and potentially risky approach used previously.
"With their approach and solution, we have created a smooth, level process flow for our student enrollment data, saving a tremendous amount of time and making accurate data available in all our applications…”, Cindy said.
Richard Silvernail from South Carolina’s Florence County #5 leveraged his district's automated account-management system delivered by Level Data to improve subsidized meal program funding for the district. There were pockets in their information that would have been costly and very difficult to manually verify and validate.
Now, Meals Plus - the district’s food service platform - is smoothly connected to the district's central information hub. In sourcing student information directly from the central SIS, they’ve been able to more reliably identify and report students qualifying for free and reduced lunch programs.
With both systems running in sync at all times, the information is much more likely to be accurate and valid. “When we had to send in our final reports to get funding on such things as free and reduced lunch," said Silvernail. "If we were off by 1, 2, 3 or 5 kids - measured over a whole year of 180 days - multiplied by the missing $3 per student reimbursement, those dollars add up pretty quick.”
Days of worrying about lost meal program funding resulting from incorrect student data are now comfortably behind them.
Food services wasn't the only team to gain a night-and-day improvement. According to Silvernail, the district’s library staff were delighted by the perks of automated student data management. “This year, on the second day of school, my high school librarian called me in surprise and said ‘All the ninth-graders are here [in Follet Destiny, the district’s library management software]. Before, that was something she would have to enter after the first week-or-so after the kids matriculated in and I did my student export. She asked if I went ahead and did the export early, and I said, ‘no ma’am, that’s being done automatically now’.”
Smaller districts often work from a smaller resources pool, making them especially prone to the pinch of manual data management. The community of Gobles, Michigan, is a perfect example. Damien Koob of Gobles Public Schools knew this from his first day in the district. “I knew I had to talk to my superintendent and the Board of Education about Level Data when I arrived here. Because of our very limited resources, Gobles needed to invest in something that could help us improve our data accuracy and remove stressors from our staff.”
While Koob had experience with the Level Data methods previously, the eyes of his peers in the districts watched in excitement at the transformation underway. From the moment they implemented automated directory services, the district faculty were thrilled with the speed in which students receive their email accounts and network logins at the beginning of the school year.
“When a staff member enters a new student into our system, their information is automatically updated in our email network, our food service account, our library, and more,” noted Koob. “It happens that fast.”
Saved time equals saved money. Manual data entry and account management for hundreds of students add up very quickly. “Five staff members and I spent so much time creating usernames and login information for more than 3,000 new students each year,” said William Oden, former Senior Systems Analyst for Kershaw County School District in South Carolina. By his estimation, Level Data’s automated account management system saved over 200 hours of time that was previously spent on manual data entry. “Now, that’s all automatic. And next year all of our students will be moved into a new grade without us lifting a finger.”
Manistee Intermediate School District had a similar experience prior to their partnership with Level Data. The system they had in place was almost entirely manual, leading to excessive time spent on account creation and data movement between schools within the district. With school staff under increasing demand to do more with scarce resources and the capacity of their technology team nearing their limits, a better way to manage network accounts was desperately needed.
Level Data delivered an integrated solution to manage all network accounts and the movement of students within districts. What once took hours and days to handle is now done seamlessly and automatically.
Jaraun Dennis, Director of Technology for Uinta County School District #1, ranked efficiency as the single most important element facing his district. “Before Level Data, we had, like, 10 people in the district inputting the same information,” he said. Ten people managing all that data was a significant source of lost time and wasted opportunity. Too much inefficiency robbed the district of capacity that could have been much better spent in other areas.
Level Data provided automated connectors that eliminated the need for such time-intensive tedious work using a single-stream pipeline that remains up-to-date in real time and delivers an activity report at the end of every day. That level of involvement was an answer to prayers for Dennis. “In my department, easily we’ve saved an hour a day that we’ve been able to devote to keeping the network up and running,” he said. “If there was a three-word slogan for Level Data, I’d say ‘it just works.’”