Janice O’Brien is a software support specialist on Rockford Public Schools 205’s Information Technology team. In collaboration with the district’s executive director of learning, O’Brien supported the implementation of a standards-based gradebook in the district’s 28 elementary schools. Reflecting on that and other major initiatives, she advised districts to consider the following best practices to enhance the success of their efforts:
Consider a pilot for the initiative. To support the initiative, Rockford Public Schools launched a mini-pilot program. “We started with three pilot buildings and then whittled down the building to a few teachers,” O’Brien said. “The pilot gave us a lot of information and allowed us to determine the process for rolling out the larger initiative. If that process is not established, written out step by step, and understandable, it can get messy in a very quick fashion.”
Communication is vital to building acceptance. O’Brien emphasizes that providing end users with a clear answer to the question “why?” is an important framework for any software implementation. “Be very clear about what the need is,” she said. “As you run the pilot, look for areas of confusion that might be diffused with strong communication.”
Take a multi-faceted approach to professional development, including one-on-one support. O’Brien partnered with the district’s curriculum department on the development of comprehensive online resources to support district educators in making the most effective use of the solution. The resource detailed how to access the system, what the expectations were, and step-by-step guidance on the most common processes performed in the software. In addition, O’Brien made herself available for one-on-one training sessions at each of the elementary schools. “We did site visits. We did mini-training sessions,” she said. “I even offered to work one-on-one with some teachers to help them set up their gradebook.”
Identify change agents to support acceptance. To increase adoption across the district, O’Brien recruited change agents at each of schools. “Those cheerleaders could see the vision of where this initiative was leading us, and they championed it for us,” she said. “The more champions we had, the easier it was to build momentum within the building.”
Janice O’Brien has been recognized as a Data All-Star in SunGard K-12 Education’s Lead without Limits Awards Program. From nominations from educators and school administrators from across the country, the Rockford Public Schools 205 software support specialist was selected as the individual who best uses data to positively affect student achievement.
The Lead without Limits Awards Program recognizes school districts, schools, departments, administrators, and educators that leverage technology to help improve student achievement and/or school or district efficiency. Data All-Stars, one of the Lead without Limits Award categories, use data to positively affect student achievement by applying best practices or innovating processes. Whether their initiatives are impacting one student or hundreds of students, recipients are unlocking student potential by applying insights gained from an analysis of data.
Nominations for the Lead without Limits Awards are accepted through an application form available on SunGard K-12 Education’s website. For guidelines and selection process, please see the Lead without Limits Awards Program information online.