Southern California Catholic School, Community Praise Web-Based Communication Solution

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The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law with an aggressive goal of improvingthe academic performance of all students and eliminating the achievement gap between different races and classes.NCLB also required the U.S. Department of Education (D'E) to make recommendations for a National EducationTechnology Plan, which was released in January 2005. This plan highlights the global competition the United States willface over the next decade and the important role technology will play in that competitive framework.

The impact of NCLB is felt nationwide on many fronts. Schools and districts have been forced to examine their standardsand find ways to improve. Often, the weight of NCLB is most heavily felt in schools lacking financial resources.St. Barbara School, located in Santa Ana, Calif., is a sound example of a school working hard to meet the requirementsand standards set by these policies with alimited technology budget.

St. Barbara is a K-8 school comprised of about 480 students and 22 teachers, with English being the second languagefor about 80% of the school and local community. The school is located in a transitional area with a high population ofnew immigrants, especially Hispanic and Vietnamese. And as families become more financially and culturally established,they often relocate. This makes it essential for the school to continually market for new students by offering a progressiveacademic curriculum and a technology plan that gets parents involved.

St. Barbara was facing three major challenges: finding the best solution to communicate school information toits greater community, completing the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation process,and finding innovative ways to market the school for new enrollment.

Making Parents Active

After two years of searching for a cost-effective solution to meet the above goals, the staff at St. Barbara contactedSchoolFusion (www.schoolfusion.com) and found its school communication solution met all of their needs. The SchoolFusion Calendar enables the school to share important events with the community through its Web site. This calendar is updatable by nontechnical school staff and is easy for community members to use — many of whom have little or no technical knowledge.

SchoolFusion Classrooms, which are also incorporated into the school’s Web site (http://stbarbara.groupfusion.net),encourage parental involvement and improve parent-teacher communication. Implementing this solution solved thecommunication issues expressed by parents, enabling them to access their children’s assignments, testing schedulesand grades via the Internet. Since implementing the system, many parents have been able to take a more active role in theirchild’s education and in school events.

Since SchoolFusion is a Web-based program, parents can access it from any computer with an Internet connectionat any time. This is important for our parents because of their long working hours and the commonality of bothparents working full time. Thus, the ability to access information at their own pace solves the frustration caused by telephonecommunication when English is not their native language.

School FusionImplementing SchoolFusion also improved parent-teacher communication, meeting one of the goals that enabledSt. Barbara to earn WASC accreditation in June 2004. These solutions also complied with NCLB’s Title II D (EnhancingEducation Through Technology) and Title I A (Improving Academic Achievement of Disadvantaged Students), which include specific requirements for involving parents in their child’s education and the school community.

Ongoing Success

The ability to offer cutting-edge technology with a fully Web-based school communication system has helped St. Barbara stand out in its community, as well as aided in effective marketing for enrollment. These efforts are vital toensure the future of Catholic elementary schools in disadvantaged areas, where private schools are often forced to closetheir doors due to a lack of funding and an inability to compete.

Although SchoolFusion is inexpensive, St. Barbara did not have funding for its first year. However, parentswere excited about the addition of SchoolFusion, and knowing the profits from the school’s holiday fund-raiserwould directly support the new technology resulted in a hugely successful program. The school’s annual jog-athonand casino night also helped fund the program. In addition, parents are encouraging employers to help the schoolthrough donations of used computers and matching grant programs.

The National Education Technology Plan suggests that sometimes tech-savvy students who grow up in the Internetage fuel the change in technology within our schools. This plan suggests that we empower students by enabling theirparticipation in the implementation of technology. St. Barbara has heeded this message; the implementation of SchoolFusion has exposed hidden talents in many of our students. In addition, the school has group Web pages that arecreated and maintained by students.

The D'E encourages the integration of computer technology in the classroom to help teachers and administrators bettertrack student achievement and effectively adjust their instruction. Fortunately, SchoolFusion’s automated quiz systemsupplies teachers with instant results. Many teachers use the online quizzes for review and practice, as well as for incorporatingintegrated learning into each question. Whenever a student gets an answer incorrect, they receive an explanation.The quizzes also allow teachers to evaluate where to focus class reviews before giving an exam.

According to the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education, everyone benefits when schools and familieswork together. Its studies have shown that by working together, students do better in school and life, parents becomeempowered, teacher morale increases, schools get better, and communities grow stronger. We need to give our kids the bestchance to succeed, and SchoolFusion helped us make that happen.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.

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