Mastery Charter Schools, based in Philadelphia, Pa., has mastered the art of the turnaround—transforming underperforming schools with the ingenuity, skills, and commitment of its educators and administrators. Every day, students in this network of charter schools are inspired to achieve beyond their expectations and beyond what might have been possible before Mastery stepped in to revitalize these troubled schools.
For Peter Lee, deputy chief of technology, Mastery’s success results in part from its commitment to create a teaching culture guided by data. “I would say that data is key to our efforts,” he says. “Culturally, our people pride themselves on being data driven. We are using data to inform virtually all of our decisions; it’s important to the planning, management, and organizational culture here.”
Several years ago, to support a robust culture of data use, Mastery Charter Schools made the decision to build its own data warehouse to collect data to inform decision making. It also began the search for best-in-class software systems for managing student information and special education that would feed into the data warehouse.
Mastery Charter Schools Chooses SunGard K-12 Education
Already using SunGard K-12 Education’s PerfomancePLUS software, Mastery Charter Schools considered the other SunGard K-12 Education student products as well as solutions from other vendors in its selection process.
After a thorough evaluation, the charter school network elected to go with the full suite of SunGard K-12 Education student products. “Obviously, functionality played a big role in the decision to go with eSchoolPLUS. But, the single biggest driver was the cleanliness of the software’s backend architecture,” Lee explains. “And, while it was an independent decision to choose IEPPLUS, the software’s integration with eSchoolPLUS made it the logical choice to go with a single vendor.”
SunGard K-12 Education’s PLUS 360 suite of student administrative software offers best-in-class software to meet a charter school’s student information needs. The suite can be deployed together to help meet educational goals and requirements or implemented as stand-alone systems.
eSchoolPLUS—which features an industry-leading, standards-based gradebook—manages student administration, monitors student performance, and facilitates communications between district staff, parents, and students. IEPPLUS allows district staff to efficiently manage the entire special education process—from referral, evaluation, and IEP development to maintaining historical information and ensuring compliance with IDEA regulations. And, PerformancePLUS helps track longitudinal assessment results through interactive graphs correlated to state standards and use this information to establish and monitor goals, modify curriculum, and ultimately enhance the teaching and learning environment.
Centralized Management Key to Success
Mastery’s centralized approach to software management is vital to its success.
Prior to implementation, network-wide decisions were informed and influenced by input from users at the schools. “You come to an agreement among the majority of your schools about what is going to work best for them. And, then you run with it,” Lee explains.
After the rollout, Lee says Mastery’s Technology team keeps a receptive ear open to key influencers. “Typically we look for different functional teams for input,” he explains. “Across our network of schools, people in the same role will often get together to collaborate. From these key users, you’ll get suggestions and requests.” This network-wide approach not only ensures that the technology is staying in step with the users’ changing needs, but also that it is influenced by their good ideas.
Data-Informed Decision Making
Since implementation, Mastery has created a systematic approach for leveraging the functionality of SunGard K-12’s software to support student achievement.
“We internally build all of our interim assessments in PerformanceTRACKER. Every student who is in the same grade takes the same test, so we get normed results that allow us to see how students are doing,” he explains. “We can measure their growth relative to their peer group across the whole network. So we are not looking at an individual student or an individual class, we’re looking at entire grade levels and cohorts.”
Every day, the charter school network puts at its educators’ fingertips the data they need to make informed decisions.
“We use PerformanceTRACKER rather extensively for the management of the process of tracking longitudinal student performance data,” he says. “We have a custom data extract that we pull from PerformanceTRACKER nightly that comes into our data warehouse. We overlay the PerformanceTRACKER data with data from eSchoolPLUS and other systems we are using. Then, we push out one consolidated view of the world.”
Through this consolidated view, data is positively affecting student achievement and propelling a personalized approach to education for all of Mastery’s students.
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