Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

West Clermont's 'Small Schools of Choice' Rely on Student Management Software to Evolve

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

West Clermont's 'Small Schools of Choice' Rely on Student Management Software to Evolve

Article excerpt

High school students in Ohio's West Clermont Local School District had been doing well for an "average" school district in Ohio, but for our superintendent, Dr. Michael Ward, "average" wasn't good enough. According to Ward, many issues needed to be addressed: "The top students did well, but the middle and bottom students did very poorly. One out of every five students who entered our high schools dropped out. There was also dissatisfaction among students about how they were treated by their peers and faculty."

So, Ward and other leaders of our 9,000-student district, located in the suburbs east of Cincinnati, agreed on a solution. We decided to remake our two high schools--Amelia and Glen Este, each of which had about 1,200 students--into 10 smaller schools of 120 to 375 students apiece. "[Smaller schools] offer higher student achievement, higher levels of satisfaction, fewer discipline problems and other benefits," says Ward.

After a three-year planning, community relations and implementation process, we switched to 10 high schools (five per campus) on opening day of the 2002-03 school year. Each is a "small school of choice," built around a single focus of interest such as world studies, creative arts and design, and business and technology. We were one of the first school districts--and perhaps the only suburban district--in the United States to convert to small schools in this way.

Setting a Precedent

The technology team--made up of the software and people--was absolutely essential to making this vision a reality. There were three major challenges that technology helped us solve: scheduling for 10 high schools rather than two, changing from a semester to a trimester system, and converting our students' GPAs from the semester to trimester system.

Jim Stahl, West Clermont's network coordinator, spearheaded the technology effort, working closely with our two principals, Mark Peters (from Amelia) and Dennis Ashworth (from Glen Este), district staff and our software vendor, ACE Software.

In essence, we were able to use our existing student management software, which included ACE's ADM-2000 Student Information System, including its Master Schedule Builder/Student-Scheduling software. We used the basic ADM-2000 software package that we'd installed in 1996; however, when necessary, ACE helped us adapt the software for an individual need or wrote a new program specifically for us. What made this even harder and more significant, was the fact that there was no precedent in this area--there were no school districts that we could call for advice based on their experience.

Separate Entities

The ACE software allowed us to treat each of the small schools as a separate entity for scheduling, grade reporting, attendance, discipline, etc. We copied many of our existing reference files (e.g., the grading system, system load, header files, scheduling, basic setups, etc.) from one school and used it with the others. …

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