Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plan to Trackkids' Careerschool Results; State Database Would Follow Students from Pre-K to College

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plan to Trackkids' Careerschool Results; State Database Would Follow Students from Pre-K to College

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA | Georgia educators are blazing a trail as they develop a computer system that will trace student progress from childhood to graduate school.

"I can tell you Georgia is a leading state in this regard by years," said Andy Parsons, assistant commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia.

With funds from the state's prize from the federal Race to the Top, officials from seven agencies are sharing information to create a multilevel, statewide database. The goal is for agency researchers to identify trends - either positive or negative - as students advance from one level to another.

For example, high schools have never been able to tell how their graduates do in the University System of Georgia or the Technical College System of Georgia. Likewise, the tech schools haven't been able to monitor students who transfer to four-year colleges.

Educators hope the new information will improve transitions for students.

"When we find these problems, we then provide solutions," said Bob Swiggum, chief information officer at the Department of Education.

Until the state won the $400 million Race to the Top grant, it took months of meetings and memos before the agencies could engage a "sneaker net" to walk computer files over to one another for processing. Soon, they'll do it in a snap, electronically in a database that's updated quarterly.

"This has not been business as usual," said Lynne Weisenbach, vice chancellor for educational access and success at the University System.

"There has been a huge amount of cooperation between agencies."

Officials take pains to make clear that the system is not supposed to be an extension of the internal one just getting off the ground at the Department of Education.

That system keeps up with every public-school student from the time they enter preschool until they leave high school, and any move they make within the state.

The department's system will allow teachers from pre-K through high school to look up information about their students' performance on tests, whether they're eligible for free lunch, their attendance and other details.

That system is new, too, and teachers are just now tapping it for insights.

In preparation for the coming school year, a kindergarten teacher can pull up information about the pupils assigned to her class to help plan what lessons to focus on in the first week of school, even for students who have moved within the state over the summer, noted Susan Adams, assistant commissioner of the Department of Early Care and Learning.

"That child might have been served in Georgia pre-K in Treutlen County and move to Cobb County," she said.

Integrating the handoff of students from one level to another will boost professionalism, she said, as upper-level instructors begin to see those in earlier grades as colleagues. …

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