One of the biggest challenges someone investing large sums of money in school technology faces is how to ensure accountability. At Central York School District, a 5,000-student system in York, Pa., educators think they’ve found a solution: a powerful instructional management software program they say ties all facets of the learning process together and gives them the information they need to make knowledgeable, effective decisions about curriculum.

The program, Campus America’s IMSeries, is a relational database that links standards, instructional units, lesson plans, classroom resources, and student assessment.

“[IMSeries] is the most comprehensive package that we’ve seen,” said Linda Estep, superintendent. “This brings everything all together, which is how decision making should be done.”

Central York schools are in the fourth year of a five-year plan to implement the software district-wide. When completed, the project will allow educators to align lesson plans with national or state standards automatically, share curriculum resources easily, track student achievement across any skill or subject, and make informed purchasing decisions based on what resources are actually being used successfully in the classroom.

How the system works

The IMSeries database resides on the district’s server and includes a framework of national and state standards. The software can be operated on either a Mac- or Windows-based server with any combination of Mac- and Windows-based clients.

Teachers responsible for writing the curriculum in their subject areas can use the state and national standards included in the database to draft a list of indicators–specific skills students will need to demonstrate at each level of instruction. Those indicators are entered into the IMSeries database and are linked to the state framework upon which they are drafted.

As individual teachers develop instructional units, they enter them into the database as well, including the materials they’ll use to teach each lesson. Administrators then can track which instructional materials are being used the most and can use this information to make future purchasing decisions.

As assessments are created and entered into the system, they’re linked to the instructional units, which in turn are linked to standards. “IMSeries thus enables us to concentrate on instruction and assessment, without having to wrestle with whether we’re achieving this or that standard,” said Sue Sheffer, computer support teacher.

A key benefit to the IMSeries is that it allows educators to create a detailed profile of each student’s progress. By searching the system, a student’s development can be traced back through his or her entire education to determine exactly what skills have been demonstrated and to what level of satisfaction.

Searching the database by skill or performance indicators also can provide a snapshot of the “bigger picture,” revealing where there might be gaps in the instructional process so you can adjust the curriculum accordingly.

Another benefit to the software, Sheffer said, is that it gives teachers the ability to collaborate easily and share resources online–something that’s hard to do in a traditional setting, where teachers often find it difficult to coordinate their schedules to meet face-to-face. But with IMSeries, Sheffer said, “Teachers have instant access to all the lessons that have been developed for any particular subject, so they can see what others are doing and build upon it in their own classrooms.”

Central York School District

http://www.cysd.k12.pa.us

Campus America

http://www.campus.com