With every year, as bandwidth grows and computers become faster, more and more districts are finding online resources to be great tools for meeting a variety of needs.
In order to meet the demands of NCLB reporting while often under budget constraints, many districts have turned to online assessments, using tools such as ETS Criterion 8.1, Curriculum Associates’ DORA /EDELL and DOMA, and Discovery Education Assessments. Because these tests are taken online, districts save the cost of printing and shipping, and scores are obtained faster, allowing teachers to begin addressing areas of weakness more quickly. Many providers are also now offering tests that are specifically aligned to state standards. Because of these many advantages of convenience, efficiency and cost savings, the use of online assessments will continue to be increasingly common.
When the school day is interrupted by an emergency, schools and districts need to communicate with parents as quickly as possible, and as a result, administrators have found the need for more efficient mass telephone calling systems. In response, several companies, such as Blackboard and Saf-T-Net, have developed Internet-based notification systems that allow for automated communication with parents via phone calls, e-mail, text message and/or voice mail—at lightning-fast speeds. Some even notify non-English-speaking parents in their native language.
Some providers have developed notification systems intended for regular, nonemergency communications as well, such as promoting special events, conducting surveys, and informing parents when their children are absent from school. For Nadine Binkley, superintendent of Leominster (Mass.) Public Schools, one such system, Blackboard’s Connect-ED, is “the product that has made the most difference” in her school system in the past year.
In the same way that schools, colleges and universities are increasingly using online courses to enhance student learning, districts are using them to provide convenient and cost-effective professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators. Rather than attending a conference or other event at a specific time and location, they can access online resources at their own convenience and wherever they have access to the Internet, saving districts money in transportation and speaker fees. The products available, such as Voyager Expanded Learning’s VoyagerU, HP/Microsoft’s Teacher Experience Exchange, PublicSchoolWorks’ StudentWatch Suite, Atomic Learning’s Atomic Training, and Knowledge Adventure’s Activity Builder, offer services from access to entire libraries of videos, online courses, and lesson plans, to tools for developing classroom activities, monitoring student safety, and uploading professional development resources for broad access within a district.
Student Information Systems
Today’s Internet-based data management and communication products not only provide better storage of data but also enhanced communication capabilities and a capacity for integrating and analyzing data that schools and districts could only have dreamed about in the past.
More than with any other category of Internet-based products, no two student information systems are identical. Winners like Open Text’s FirstClass offer student e-mail and secure social networking capabilities, teacher resources and opportunities for collaboration, and parent access to report cards, assignments, due dates, school calendars and more. Infinite Campus’ system allows for data recording on a wide variety of vital information, such as attendance, health, food service, assessment, and even locker management. Because Infinite Campus offers both district and state editions, districts whose states use the state edition eliminate the need for reporting to the state, since it already has ready access to the data. And products like Pearson Inform 4.2, which isn’t itself a student information system, can be used in conjunction with one to provide sophisticated data analysis on performance of individual students across an entire district.
The winners are:
Publishing and Training Platform, starting at $2,500
Atomic Learning’s fully hosted training and publishing platform, Atomic Training, enables administrators to deliver and share relevant, targeted information for training, professional development, and curriculum-based resources with teachers, faculty and staff in a safe and secure environment. Administrators can easily manage and deliver training videos, procedures and other essential information that needs to be accessed and shared throughout a school or district. www.atomiclearning.com
Connect-ED for K12
Notification System, $3.60 per student annually
Connect-ED enables administrators to record, schedule, send and track personalized voice messages to tens of thousands of parents and staff via phone, text message and e-mail in minutes. Managed and designed exclusively for the education market, this fully hosted system will also track message delivery, offer comprehensive reports, and send targeted messages in a household’s native language. It easily integrates with most student information systems. www.blackboardconnect.com
DORA Phonemic Awareness, DORA/EDELL Spanish, DOMA Algebra
Assessments, Annual site licenses $6-$15 per student
The three new online assessments from Curriculum Associates and Let’s Go Learn—DORA (Diagnostic Online Reading Assessment) Phonemic Awareness, DORA/EDELL Spanish, and DOMA (Diagnostic Online Math Assessment) Algebra—use proven testing methods that include adaptive technology, which adapts test items for students based on their individual performance. Real-time reporting enables teachers to immediately differentiate instruction and administrators to aggregate reports for schools and districts. www.cainc.com
Assessments, $5-$10 per student
Discovery Education’s Assessments are K12 online solutions that allow educators to measure student progress on an ongoing basis, differentiate instruction, predict student performance, and improve student learning. They assess student progress toward meeting state standards for reading/language arts, math and science. Educators can see where to focus instruction throughout the school year and can use Discovery Education’s Predictive Benchmark to generate a clear, accurate picture of every student’s progress toward state-mandated educational goals. www.discoveryeducation.com
Criterion Online Writing Evaluation 8.1
Writing Supplement, $12 per student per 1,000 ordered
The CriterionSM Online Writing Evaluation service is a teacher-driven instructional tool that helps students plan, write and revise essays. Instructors can create their own topics or select from hundreds of topics in the Criterion topic library spanning fourth grade through high school and college. In seconds, the system provides annotated diagnostic feedback and a holistic score to both student and teacher empowering students to quickly review, revise and resubmit essays. This web-based program gives teachers and students access anywhere with an Internet connection. The comprehensive Criterion service enables instructors to supply their valuable feedback within the program and use summary reports to impact classroom instruction. www.ets.org
Teacher Experience Exchange
Online Curriculum Sharing, Free
Educators who belong to the Teacher Experience Exchange online community can share their classroom experiences and ideas with other educators. Features of the Web site include forums where teachers can discuss teaching techniques as well as share lesson plans, projects and photos of classroom setups, tutorials for teaching technology in the classroom, and free technology resources. Complete curricula of Vista, XP and Office courses are also available through podcasts and videos. www.hp.com/go/TeacherExperience
Student Information System, $6 per student
Infinite Campus is a Web-based student information system that provides districts with the integrated tools needed to streamline student administration, enable stakeholder collaboration, and individualize instruction. A variety of tools are offered in district-level student administration, curriculum planning, instruction, school services, communications, reporting and analysis. The program also includes attendance and behavior records, grade books, special education resources, food-service management tools, an e-mail service and a parent-student Web portal. www.infinitecampus.com
Classroom Activity Resource, $50 per teacher annually
Teachers can use Activity Builder to create a large variety of classroom resources and activities to supplement curricula, such as bingo boards, clocks, definition or flash cards, puzzle pieces, scrambled words and word searches. To create an activity, teachers choose an existing word list from the program’s library, which contains more than 100,000 words in eight different languages, and select an activity. The program then generates the activity using the specified word list. www.kaactivitybuilder.com
Contact Maximus for pricing
Maximus’ Tienet system provides three district management applications, available alone or as a package. The Instructional Data Management application organizes the instructional process and monitors its impact on achieving mandated educational standards. The Response to Intervention Management application enables progress monitoring and a unique problem-solving framework to identify and serve students who require intervention. The Special Education Case Management application documents all special education activities, including pre-referral, eligibility, IEP development, service documentation, parent reporting and Medicaid billing. www.maximus.com/tienet
Collaboration Suite, $10 per student license
FirstClass 9.0 offers a set of enterprise-class integrated applications that enable district administrators to create collaborative online communities that securely connect students, teachers and parents with resources via any Internet-connected device. Applications include e-mail, instant messaging, calendars, contact management, work-group collaboration, Web publishing, safe-student social networking, blogging, and the newest feature, archiving. www.firstclass.com
Online Remediation and Enrichment Program, $1-$7 per student annually
Perspective is a research-based remediation and enrichment tool designed to provide professionally selected materials that improve students’ knowledge and skills in areas where they are having difficulty. Perspective links students’ test results with targeted learning resources and facilitates parental involvement in student improvement. Educators can create custom assignment sheets, explore unit plans, and access an ever-growing library of teacher support materials and professional development resources. Perspective helps families view student progress, helps educators prepare for their classes, and details what both can do to help each student succeed. www.pearsonperspective.com
Professional Development Resource, Pricing varies based on district needs
The Princeton Review and NationalTeacher have partnered to offer this series of state-specific professional development videos online. EVON (Educational Video Online Network) provides training concerning child abuse reporting, sexual harassment and discrimination prevention, disability accommodations, and other topics to help comply with state and federally mandated requirements. Each video in the series offers closed-captioning, a table of contents and informative slides, postcourse tests to verify comprehension, and a management reporting system. www.theprincetonreviewk12.com
Student Safety Resource, Starting at $3,000
The StudentWatch Suite is an automated Web-based system for managing student safety. Features include a Student Bullying Reporting System and anonymous Student Helpline. The Student Accident Reporting System offers trend reports so school safety committees can better manage accident prevention, and the Student Behavior Management System serves as the school or district’s automatic student-behavior referral management, documentation and reporting system, and it also includes a positive behavior reporting capability. www.publicschoolworks.com
Notification System, $3 per student
Saf-T-Net’s Web-based notification system manages and hosts the hardware, software and telephone infrastructure required to deliver voice, e-mail or text-based messages to telephones, mobile phones, PDAs or any Internet-enabled devices. Features include the displaying of “411” on the recipient’s caller ID when sending an emergency message; a proprietary, redundant nationwide network for the delivery of emergency messages; and translation into 11 different languages, including Mandarin and Cantonese. www.alertnow.com
Education Employment Resource, Job searches free, prices vary for employer services
SchoolSpring is a job search Web site exclusively for educators. The company aggregates school job postings from around the country, allowing teachers to search for jobs by location, category, grade or type for free, administrators to search for executive-level positions, and district employers to recruit for open positions through single or unlimited postings for a small fee. SchoolSpring also offers a variety of services to facilitate every aspect of district recruiting, including job postings, interview schedules, applicant evaluations and job offers. www.schoolspring.com
Online Test Prep Program, Pricing varies
Study Island is an online standards mastery and test preparation program available in all fifty states. The program is built from specific state standards. With over 8.1 million students and a growing presence in over 18,000 schools, Study Island has expanded and released new products for high school, K1, and the GED. Rooted in foundational and statistical research, the dynamic self-paced program allows teachers to customize instruction according to the student’s needs while giving students the choice to study in a standard test format or through an interactive game mode. www.studyisland.com
Education Search Engine, $1,730 per school
With over 300,000 resources selected by educators, netTrekker d.i. is the largest online search engine devoted exclusively to educational content. Unlike standard Internet search engines, netTrekker d.i. provides fast and easy access to only the best educational resources from the entire Internet in a safe, organized, standards-aligned format. The company’s partnerships also enable the program to incorporate educational resources such as Learning Station’s LS Test Builder assessment tool, Spectrum K12’s Encore Clarity special education product, and eChalk’s communications platform. www.thinkronize.com
Voyager Expanded Learning
VoyagerU Targeted/Comprehensive Courses
Professional Development Resource, $200 per targeted course, $1,080 per comprehensive course
VoyagerU’s reading instruction professional development courses fully align with Reading First and Reading Next. Each course blends print, online self-study, learning groups, and classroom practice to give teachers a powerful skill set they can use immediately. New targeted courses include the topics “Small Group Intervention,” “Vocabulary,” “Fluency,” and “Content Integration.” Comprehensive courses include “Reading Academy,” “Reading for Understanding,” and “Getting Reading Results.” Each course uses a blended architecture of online learning, group discussion and classroom practice. www.voyagerlearning.com