Here is the math I do as a parent.
I have three middle school children. Between the three of them I currently have 83 unique data accounts to track. Many require different usernames and passwords. Some overlap. All can demand attention.
I have a school payment program (3 accounts per 3 children). Gradebooks (roughly 18 classes) and Schoology (again, 18 classes). The district tracks medical forms through a different program (12 forms). State assessments and third-party local assessments pile up. A number of teachers use a behavior management app (12 classes to track). And then there are the various flavors of education plans requiring a variety of attention.
Communications also tend to be problematic. Some teachers prefer texting, some emails, others that good old fashioned paper newsletter.
The math is messy. There has to be a better way. Why not 83 to 1?
The importance of staying in the loop
We live in a world where everything competes for our attention. Given such competition, my wife and I approach school information from a restrained perspective. We’re both educators, so we have a sense of what is important versus what is really background noise. We mostly monitor with the intent of picking up trends. Teenagers are a moody bunch. While we don’t necessarily concern ourselves with outlier moments – academic or otherwise – we do pay attention to trends and pivots.
Whether you are trying to simply get a feel for the trends in performance with your kids or jump into the details, the current methods require too much work and don’t offer a singular way to monitor all things concerning our children.
Multiple accounts and siloed data create even more problems for parents. Teachers and students have many of the same frustrations. That’s why there needs to be a single platform or solution that houses this data in one convenient place for schools and their communities, and provides one point of contact to access all this information.
I have worked with Hamilton City Schools for a number of years. After embracing a 1:1 initiative that deployed some 11,000 Chromebooks, we quickly ran into the frustration of bad, siloed software that required multiple usernames and passwords. We needed a solution that was flexible, creative, and open for future development.
How would this work for a parent?
When I want to know everything about my daughter at her school, I should be able to go to one platform where everything is housed. I should be able to pick the social sign-on I want to use: Gmail, Outlook, or Facebook. It is key that I only have to use one username and password with an account I created.
Once logged in, what would be ideal is the ability to add my daughter to a dashboard based on a secure access token. Within that platform I can have access to all the information regardless of where it is housed or the format it is in. It should be sort of our window into our children’s academic lives.
This “hub” should be the central location of communication whereby I receive tailored messages from my daughter’s teachers and administrators. Messages could be delivered via a “Headline”. Headlines contain forms, videos, and critical announcements.
A solution like this should allow me to see my daughter’s full profile. This means in one click I can see items such as:
• Personal profile
• Class schedule
• Assessments. Both local and third party such as ACT, MAP, and AP Assessments
• Forms I have completed. Forms my daughter completed.
• Education plans. Everything from Gifted Plans to IEPs to RTI plans.
In short, without having to login to a multitude of accounts, I should be able to see everything I need to know with one simple click.
83 to 1
Many enterprise solutions have attempted to address this issue of multiple accounts across multiple applications, but they are not built for this purpose. Or, they would require hours of customization and thousands of dollars of development to make a standard enterprise solution work in this educational environment. For my kids’ schools, there needs to be a platform designed specifically for schools that act as the town square so to speak. Simple to access, easy to use, and no more having 83 accounts to track to know how my children are at school.
Collaboration is the operative theme here. We created Abre in the spirit of collaboration internally at Hamilton. Its purpose is to address this very problem by offering an education management platform to simplify the needs of stakeholders.
We are not the only one working to improve collaboration. For example, High AIMS, a Southern Ohio consortium of school districts focuses on collaboration among educators and school member districts. We partner with them.
There is a lot of effort being put behind solving this challenge and the work that we and others are doing should pay off in a better educational experience for all parties, especially the kids. And, the math will get cleaner. In fact, someday for me — 83 will equal 1. That’s our ultimate goal.