During this week before Thanksgiving, SunGard K-12 Education is taking a look back at our user conference and celebrating our customers and their remarkable efforts to help students achieve. We are grateful for their dedication and their continued confidence in SunGard K-12 and our software.
At SNUG 2014, two Northside ISD administrators—Doris Slay-Barber, coordinator of information services, and Gerri Rizzo, director of information services and SNUG secretary—presented the business case and best practices for implementing a district course catalog. The district, which has more than 103,000 students at 116 campuses, uses the eSchoolPLUS student information system.
Throughout the presentation, Slay-Barber emphasized consistency and its benefits. The district has a standard process for establishing course numbers across the district. Slay-Barber said the ability to indicate building type use and to validate mark reporting information is important for the district, as it allows administrators to maintain consistency among the many buildings.
The district course catalog supports district administrators with scheduling its multitude of students. “We do our course requests internally using Home Access Center. The district course catalog has been exceedingly beneficial in that area also,” Slay-Barber noted. And with significant student mobility, the common course catalog eases transitions between buildings.
And, with a common district course catalog, district-level reports become less problematic. “Regardless of your size, you’ve also got the responsibility of creating district-level reports,” says Slay-Barber. “So, having a consistent course number is exceedingly helpful there.”
Slay-Barber recommends having a district-level coordinator to oversee maintenance of the district course catalog. This individual would collaborate with:
- District-Level Curriculum Specialist. “Because of the collaborative opportunities, you want a district-level curriculum specialist. The district-level coordinator may be the keeper of the number. That individual may be the assigner of the number. But the specifics regarding that course content is going to go back to the district-level curriculum specialist. That individual is going to be the one who makes the specific recommendation.”
- Campus-Level Contact. “I also recommend having a campus-level contact because suddenly what happens is the science department wants this, the math department wants that, and the vice principal or whoever is in charge of scheduling, asks, ‘Where are all these numbers coming from?’”
- District-Level Staff with Programming Ability.
Slay-Barber recommended the following best practices:
- Course numbers aren’t just pulled out of a hat. “It needs to have some logic and consistency with other course numbers.”
- In the District Course Catalog Utility, Northside ISD sets up building types for every kind of building, including magnets, campuses that address specialized needs, and summer school. They then designate building types for each course. “The benefit here is that if we add a course to the district course catalog, it pushes that information out to building course catalog. Consistency is exceedingly important in our district.”
- To ensure consistency at the district- and campus-level, limit the ability of the campuses/individual schools to make changes to the master course catalog.
- Create course blocks for grade levels, i.e. block 100 for first grade, 200 for second grade, 300 for third grade, etc. The established block makes it easy for teachers to choose the appropriate block and make it easier to maintain consistency.