AAL Helps Blue Valley Stay on the Cutting Edge With a Customized Student Information System

When parents and employees in the Blue Valley School District talk, it is our job to listen. What we heard loudly and clearly was the desire for more access to student records and classroom information online. And with a refined, customized student information system (SIS - the client/server-based application) in place, we've worked hard to achieve that goal.

Beginning with the 2002-03 school year, for example, the latest component of our eSIS (the Web-based application), "BV Parents Online," was implemented at the high school level in the fall and was introduced at the middle school level during the second semester. This component allows parents access to real-time information regarding student attendance records, health histories, grades and fees. Next semester, parents will also be able to go online and enter course requests, as well as receive messages from counselors.

Thanks to an ongoing partnership between Blue Valley and The Administrative Assistants Ltd. (AAL), we are confident that this latest enhancement to our SIS will bring added value to every student's home in our district as we move forward with the challenges of a new century.

Past Successes

Located in Overland Park, Kan., the Blue Valley School District covers 91 square miles in southeastern Johnson County. The district comprises 17 elementary schools, eight middle schools and four high schools serving more than 18,000 students. Since 1965, the district has grown between 5% and 20% each year, but has not sacrificed quality for the sake of growth. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded its prestigious Blue Ribbon distinction to Blue Valley a dozen times for its outstanding educational programs. Our track record of excellence includes the Kansas Superintendent of the Year award (2001), eight Kansas Master Teacher awards, and the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award for Excellence in Teaching (1998-99, 2001-02).

With this history of success illuminating our past, we can't afford not to be on the leading edge of SIS technology going into the 21st century. So in 1998, our district began a successful partnership with AAL, whose eSIS system is implemented in more than 7,000 schools throughout the United States and Canada, to refine our SIS into a districtwide, student-centered system that would be fully accessible to administrators, teachers, parents and students.

Teachers required a classroom-accessible version to immediately view up-to-date student information. Building staff members wanted to be able to manage and check individual teacher and student schedules more quickly. Administrators wanted to analyze districtwide information in real time. And the instructional technology department staff wanted a more intuitive system that would not be so time intensive to support.

Meeting Current Needs

AAL's SIS met virtually all of our requirements. Their "Fit Analysis" component provided us with a detailed review of current policies and procedures, as well as identified system gaps. It also gave our staff the opportunity to look at what eSIS offered and to identify what we liked, what was worth adding to, and what needed to be changed. For instance, we have a popular voice-mail system in our district where every household has access to its own mailbox. We initially didn't find a feature in the system to track this information, so AAL built it in for us. Additionally, Blue Valley identified nursing module features we wanted to include, such as health plans for children with special medical needs, as well as a nursing log to record visits, medications and screening tests. AAL worked closely with us to develop this module to our specifications.

Further, our teaching assistant module now incorporates a gradebook that allows teachers to track attendance online and weight specific assignments. Student grades are then automatically transferred from the eSIS to report cards without additional paperwork for teachers.

Through these forward-thinking partnership challenges, Blue Valley has been able to work closely with AAL to meet the needs of a user population that is growing in number and in its technical ability. Based on the results of staff and community surveys, we are confident that our present eSIS meets current needs, while also allowing for future enhancements and changes. Our collaborative vendor partnership resulted in creating exactly the product we wanted. After all, as a successful and growing school district, we are in the business of listening and learning; our newly enhanced, customized SIS allows us to continue as a leader in both areas.

For more information about the Blue Valley School District's SIS, contact Ruth Weddle, executive director of information technology services, at (913) 239-4097, or visit www.bluevalleyk12.org.

- David L. Benson, Ph.D.

Contact Information

AAL Ltd.

(800) 668-8486

www.aalsolutions.com

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.

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