Streamlined student data is on the way for teachers

Dashboard program to ease access for help with instructional needs
2013-03-09T00:00:00Z Streamlined student data is on the way for teachersJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

With its existing system for tracking and assessing student performance "on the verge of collapse," the state is preparing to launch a $35 million overhaul to make student records more usable for teachers.

The new data system, called Dashboard, would replace the Student Accountability and Information System (SAIS), which state Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal said is "so dysfunctional and obsolete it is currently crippling our ability to provide accurate and timely student information to our schools and teachers."

Kate Robold, of Senita Valley Elementary School in the Vail School District, is one of a handful of teachers from around the state who were chosen to help state officials develop the new system, which will make it easier for teachers to access student records.

The Department of Education is waiting for the Legislature to approve money for the agency's budget to support the system, said Stacey Morley, director of development and government affairs for the department.

"We had an idea of what we wanted to do and an idea of what it needed to be. We're now piloting that," she said.

Teachers rely on data systems to provide information on AIMS scores, attendance records, class withdrawals and other records that provide background on a student's needs.

If a student transfers to another district, it could take weeks for the new district to receive his or her records.

That district would then have to manually upload the information, which takes even more time.

The time lag hurts teachers who need to create individualized education plans for each student, as well as students who need special attention, Robold said.

The new system would make the information instantly available through an online database.

"I just think that, as a teacher, time is of the essence," Robold said. "Making this available to teachers online will have a great impact and save the teachers so much time."

The new system also would allow teachers to view students' AIMS scores from every year they took the test, making it easier to track a student progress from one year to the next.

Robold was chosen for the program in August after she had a conversation with a Department of Education official during an event, she said.

"I was sharing information about my experience with AIMS data and he was intrigued with what I had to say," she said.

Robold meets periodically with state officials who are developing the system and provides feedback on the most recent models that are presented.

Officials have presented the data system in phases.

During one meeting, Robold viewed a version of the system that displayed AIMS information.

At another meeting, the updated system featured her students' transcripts and attendance records.

She has met with the officials three times since August, she said.

"We're trying to get ideas of what type of information teachers are looking for," she said.

Vail Superintendent Calvin Baker supports the new data system, saying it will allow teachers more instructional time since they won't have to wait weeks for student records.

"One of our major quests is making the best possible use of instructional time," Baker said.

Although Baker acknowledges the importance of the new system, he said the system shouldn't detract from other significant needs, such as hiring and retaining quality teachers.

"The most immediate need is to be able to put high quality teachers in classrooms," he said. "We need a quality data system that can be used by quality teachers."

On StarNet: Find education-related resources and special reports at azstarnet.com/education

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4115. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

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