Customer: Houston County Schools
Industry: Education - K12
Combining disparate student information into one reportable database
Providing information in an easily understood format for both teachers and administrators
Working with multiple technology platforms and operating systems
Learning a new database reporting system (and being able to be self-supportive once the consultants were gone)
Keys to Success:
Taking the time to architect a system that has the ability to grow and absorb changes to the underlying data
Creating a reporting interface that anyone can understand and use with virtually no training
Engaging a company like B2B Technologies that understands not only the technology issues, but what educators need as well
Setting achievable goals that can support the end users’ needs in a reasonable time- frame without promising unrealistic results
Working as one team including, I.S., school administrators, and B2B consultants
For several years, it had been a goal of Houston County, located in central Georgia, to provide a simpler way to leverage a wide variety of information to monitor and evaluate a student’s progress. This included state and locally administered tests as well as demographic data. Like other larger school districts, HCBOE was using multiple operating platforms, in this instance IBM and Microsoft, to support their technology needs. This environment complicated and inhibited their use of information to measure and analyze why a student may or may not be achieving their best. They needed a new system.
There were several important considerations:
Giving both administrators and teachers reports that provided a simple way to evaluate a student’s progress against a variety of variables
Architecting a solution that could be easily modified if the source information were to change
Having a secured Intranet portal as the delivery vehicle for reporting
Establishing a technology platform that was current, substantive, and could be easily interfaced to other applications
Building an Operational Data Store (ODS) that could be kept current daily by extracting information from a larger Data Warehouse
Implementing a solution that could be maintained by HCBOE staff
After evaluating several alternatives, HCBOE decided that Microsoft SharePoint would be the ideal platform through which to access the reports. The reporting dashboard would be built using Microsoft’s SQL Server tools, SSRS and SSAS.
B2B Technologies, a Microsoft Gold Partner and a Microsoft Certified Education Partner, was selected to work with the school district for this leading-edge project. With a long history of implementing portal solutions in the education space, B2B was familiar with the new version of SharePoint even before it was released commercially
Designing a single reporting dashboard that can provide user-centric, multi-purposed information can be a big challenge. Although there are a variety of analytical applications that are commercially available, they are far too complex for most administrators' and teachers' everyday use .
Always with their students in mind, the Houston County Board of Education wanted the most robust reporting system they could afford, now and into the future. Not only was working within current budgetary constraints important, but they wanted to minimize ongoing expenditures for technical support and user training. B2B Technologies was able to advise Houston School officials of the best approach to reach those objectives. In approximately 5 months, the first version of the new BI and DW application was released.
The new dashboard application provides visibility through the SharePoint portal all the way from the district level down to the individual classroom and student data; easily accessible from any web connection with proper security authorization. Information “rolls up” from reports for the individual student, to the classroom, then to the course, next to the school, and finally to the whole school district.
According to Houston County School officials they are now able to answer questions such as, “Does a student need to be shifted to another class level because they are struggling in certain academic areas? Are some instructors less effective in teaching certain subject curriculum? Are there overall trends within a school that indicate either a need for improvement or are there unique variations within the student population demographics?” The dashboard reports will grow in value as yearly student information is added resulting in historical tracking.
Being able to modify an individual student's curriculum to accommodate special learning needs
Monitoring the effectiveness of various combinations of teacher-course-student to make sure the delivery of course material is successfully reaching the students as intended
Having the information readily at hand to spot trends in all areas related to a student's success and that of their teachers
Creating a historical record of each students progress through the school system and be able to take corrective actions if necessary, and before it is too late
“This solution should be of value to any school system wanting a comprehensive way to monitor a student’s progress.”
- Wally Reeves, HCBOE’s Executive Director of Information Technology