By Joel Hames, Director of Product Management
While all of us at SunGard K-12 Education are working to support our customers on their pressing needs related to the deadlines associated with the Common Core State Standards, we’re staying focused on the bigger, broader picture. Our goal: To offer school districts truly progressive administrative systems that enable advanced educational approaches through an understanding of contemporary pedagogy and emerging technologies. By equipping our software for everything you need to do today, you can support your students in attaining everything they need for tomorrow.
Common Core success, we believe, will hinge on a district’s ability to create a comprehensive curriculum, aligned to the standards, which provides every student with the same opportunity to learn. Districts are finding that effective software solutions can serve as an important foundation for teacher success—by providing them an opportunity to collaborate and share ideas about what they’re going to teach and when they’re going to teach it. Our PerformancePLUS assessment and curriculum management system provides a conduit through which articulation, cooperation, and effective use can occur.
To make the most of this fundamental sea change in education, districts need tools for informed decision making.
I think everybody in our business can answer questions about how students are doing toward proficiency on the Common Core State Standards. I don’t think that’s particularly interesting, except as an accountability exercise. I think what’s interesting is when you ask a teacher how their instruction on Tuesday is changing because of what they learned about their students on Monday. And, I think our software solutions need to help educators with that kind of granular, day-to-day decision making.
Our PLUS 360 suite allows educators to take attendance, manage a gradebook, look at student performance, consider district curriculum, write an assessment, deliver it electronically, have it scored electronically, bring those scores back into the gradebook to look at effectiveness, and then communicate it to parents and guardians. That path of data flow offers a tight feedback loop that can support educators in making on-the-spot decisions about student achievement.
Our recent development activities have focused on enriching and tightening even more this feedback loop.
Last year, for example, we released formative assessment support in AssessmentBUILDER. And, we just released the latest version of our eSchoolPLUS student information system, including enhancements to our standards-based gradebook that put tools at teachers’ fingertips to help boost their success with implementing a standards-aligned curriculum. Included on the lengthy list of new features are several that provide educators with at-a-glance insights about student performance, including a summary view to allow teachers to see a student’s gradebook score for a select group of competencies and new competency scores, including support for power law.
While the new demands on student information and curriculum and assessment systems may be intuitive, Common Core also is heightening the need for additional capabilities in SunGard K-12’s other solutions.
For example, our new Recruitment module (BusinessPLUS - eFinancePLUS) creates a robust environment that provides flexibility and modern tools for filtering applicants to identify highly qualified teachers. It allows districts to cull through data much more quickly and to ask questions and compare across candidates easier. And, our new Professional Development module (BusinessPLUS - eFinancePLUS)recognizes that professional development now comes in a lot of different formats. It captures the training that districts provide. But it also records conferences, online instruction, and forums—all kinds of professional development that just weren’t around 10 to 15 years ago.
Finally, because there also is increased reporting in the Common Core era, there’s increased pressure to find the right standards to use for data interoperability. I’m in regular conversations with our customers, organizations that create and promote interoperability, and solution providers that address needs beyond our suite of applications. In some cases, these conversations focus on application-to-application data exchange. In other cases, they focus on application to warehouse. In order for us to be able to deliver impactful solutions alongside these providers, we are focused on supporting the next generation of data interchange and interoperability standards.
About Joel Hames, M.Ed.
Joel Hames is director of product management at SunGard K-12 Education and a member of the company’s leadership team. Responsible for overall product direction at SunGard K-12, Hames consults with teachers and administrators at school districts across the nation. He then works closely with the company’s developers, sales team, customer support representatives, and professional services team to ensure that all SunGard K-12 applications evolve to meet the challenges school districts will face in the future. With almost 17 years of experience managing enterprise systems as an information and instructional technology leader at various school districts, he brings a wealth of experience and deep understanding to his role at the K-12 administrative software and technology services company. Hames earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California, Irvine, and his master’s degree in educational psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.