IT Year-End – A Peek Behind the Curtain

Posted by Matt Berringer on April 23, 2015

IT Year-EndBy Ramiro Zuniga, Ed.D.
(Part 1 of 2)

Some of you may be thinking that the end of another school year is nearing once again. For those who work in a school district Information Technology (IT) Department, the year-end has long since figuratively arrived. I thought that I would shine a light on an area that most in school districts know little about. In Part 1, I will discuss what is referred to as Next Year Scheduling. In part 2, I will discuss Student Rollover and Next Year Configurations.

Although others are involved in these two activities, I will focus on the activities carried out by IT personnel. As I mentioned before, few know what is happening behind the scenes. It would be an injustice to simply say that the IT Department sets up the software to accommodate the next school year. I will offer an abbreviated explanation of the process so that a general understanding can be established. It should be noted that there are additional variables that affect the process that I do not mention for the sake of keeping the discussion an overview.

Next Year Scheduling is one of the first processes to begin when preparing for the subsequent school year. The end result of this process is the creation of teacher and student schedules for the following school year.

There are three basic components needed in order to carry out Next Year Scheduling: the course catalog, master schedule, and student requests. The course catalog is a file that contains data about the courses being offered. The master schedule is a file that contains data that relates the courses with when they will be offered during the semester and period of the day.

The IT team must create the work area in which all scheduling for the next year will be processed. Care must be taken so that current year information is not disturbed in any way. Doing so would affect the “live” system and negatively affect current year schedules.

If the courses are going to be offered in the same fashion as the current year, the IT team will copy the course catalog and master schedule. If courses will be offered in a significantly different manner from the current year, then empty course catalogs and master schedules must be created. Again, the IT team creates these.

Student requests are the collection of courses that students, with the help of school counselors, have selected to take the next year. Once the student requests are analyzed by the campus scheduling personnel, adjustments are made to both the course catalog and master schedule to better accommodate the student requests.

Once all adjustments are made, a program is run to create the schedules. This program will, through an algorithm, align the student requests, course catalog, and master schedule to create the most viable student schedules.

Very often, the initial results produce too low of a percentage of students with complete schedules. Although, campus scheduling personnel are very well versed in the scheduling process, they frequently reach out to the IT Department in order to help determine the cause of such a poor result.

The process of adjusting the course catalog and master schedule then rerunning the scheduling program is repeated until an acceptable percentage of fully scheduled students has been reached.

In my years of experience, I have never seen a campus reach 100 percent of students fully scheduled. I have, however, seen campuses reach a percentage in the high 90s.

This process is significantly easier at the elementary grade level. The reason that scheduling is much easier at the elementary level is that students do not select their courses. Courses are predetermined for these students.

It is common for this process at the secondary schools, to be carried out over a period of 3 to 5 months. Best of luck to those who have already started Next Year Scheduling for their respective schools.

Topics: technology, Information Technology Department