Making the jump from Powerschool to Illuminate, part 2

We have begun using Illuminate’s DnA (data and assessment) tool, and we got excited when we saw how easy it was to search for students and see their data all in one place. With Powerschool we were never really able to put test score data into the database and use it in a meaningful way, instead relying on the Excel-fu skills of our data folks to create spreadsheets and charts, all of which were built from static data snapshots.

After viewing a demonstration of the IlluminateISI, we believe the system has the following advantages:

  • Lower cost. The per student licensing cost is about 75% of Powerschool annually. The training costs are also significantly reduced by 90% for similar events, such as conferences and consultants.
  • Completely HTML5 based. The entire site, including the grade book, uses modern web technology to dynamically display data, relieving the IT staff of the burden of maintaining Java runtime compliance on the various platforms. Therefore, any device that can access the website with a modern browser can use the entire application, limited only by screen size.
  • Data visualization. In conjunction with the IlluminateDNA testing platform, we can load external test data such as our Achieve3000 and MAPS scores and create reports per student and per cohort. This will lighten the data processing burden of our data folks significantly, and allow stakeholders, such as students, teachers, parents and administrative staff access to real-time data to more easily tailor instruction and intervention.
  • Reporting. The Powerschool reporting module requires learning a separate layout and markup language, and has proven difficult to customize, especially where reports cards are concerned. IlluminateISI allows us to create PDF templates using standard applications, such as Microsoft Word, and then populate the required data more easily.
  • Spanish language localization. The student and parent portals have Spanish versions, and can be easily switched between English and Spanish in the user interface. Powerschool had to be run through a translation service such as Google Translate, and did not translate error messages, making the system difficult to access for non English speakers.
  • Easy access to support. Illuminate’s help resources are open to all at http://illuminate.screenstepslive.com/s, and does not require a designated technical contact or access credentials. Any user can also search the online and contextual help, and can email the Illuminate support staff.
  • Integration with MiSIS. Illuminate has taken steps to easily export data to the LAUSD student information system, while exporting data out of Powerschool and into MiSIS has been very problematic and time consuming. This integration will allow us to run our own student information system and exchange data with the district in accordance with the consent decree.
  • Responsive development cycle. Illuminate runs a two week software development cycle, where program improvements are tested and implemented dynamically. Powerschool’s development cycle has been increasing, but it is still a matter of months between updates.

Even so, there are several challenges ahead, for each of our stakeholders:

  1. Teachers
    1. How to use a new gradebook
    2. How to implement standards based grading
    3. How to take attendance
    4. How do subs take attendance
    5. How to track behavior and log referrals
  2. Students
    1. How to track subject and assignment grades
  3. Parents
    1. How to access student grades
    2. How to access multiple children’s grades
  4. Office Staff
    1. How to track attendance and make changes
    2. How to schedule teachers to courses and sections
    3. How to enroll students, set cohorts and roster classes
    4. How to do CALPADS and other reporting
    5. How to enter and change demographic and other parent and student data
    6. How to create student travel cards and schedules
    7. How to generate transcripts
    8. How to use the system to get data for outreach
    9. How to integrate with Alert Solutions for messaging
    10. How to track parent participation in outreach programs
  5. Instruction Administration
    1. How to enter and retrieve test scores
    2. How to review gradebook data entry
    3. How to track behavior and incident logging
    4. How to implement progress grade scales
    5. How to implement standards based grading
  6. Special Education
    1. How to use the data system to support Welligent
  7. Counseling
    1. How to use the system for high school & college counseling
    2. How to use the system to support social skills development
    3. How to use the system to support the school wide positive behavior program
  8. Afterschool
    1. How to track program participation and attendance
  9. Information Technology
    1. How to import from Powerschool accurately and completely
    2. How to back up records for disaster recovery
    3. How to integrate with the current YPICS help desk system
    4. How to complete end of year processing
    5. How to complete start of year set up

Most importantly, how do we implement these changes in such a way that we do not interrupt instruction? How can we make this transition as smoothly as possible so we realize the benefits of the new student information system without burdening our staff, students and parents?