To ensure that its at-risk students have a better chance to succeed, Hine Junior High School in Washington, D.C., is using a sophisticated web-based portal system to track a wide range of student information. District officials say the portal system, which is being provided by Sequoia Software Corp. of Columbia, Md., could serve as a model for use throughout the city.
Called the Education and Youth Services (EYS) portal, the system uses Sequoia’s XML Portal software to create a central gateway for administrators, teachers, counselors, and youth services personnel to access comprehensive information about students. The project’s organizers say the portal will allow them to make more informed decisions based on a student’s overall situation and will let them tailor their efforts to meet students’ specific needs.
“School administrators, counselors, and teachers need quick access to all academic and personal information on students so they can make better decisions,” explained Bennie F. Adams, Hine Junior High School principal.
With Sequoia’s XML Portal software, student datasuch as demographic background, test scores, grade point averages, attendance, special education, and discipline recordscan be retrieved for each student from multiple databases and applications, then combined into easy-to-read portfolios.
The XML Portal uses extensible markup language (XML), a more sophisticated version of hypertext markup language (HTML), to bridge structured and unstructured data from disparate sources and to provide a personalized web interface from which users can quickly and easily search for, retrieve, and act on information.
Because of its XML indexing engine, the EYS portal has very specific tagging capabilities that result in fast, accurate searches, according to Sequoia. Users will no longer have to spend valuable time drilling down through numerous links or navigating multiple systems to find the information they need to make quick, effective decisions.
“The EYS portal creates an overall picture which enables authorized school and youth services personnel to focus on boosting student performance, rather than gathering information,” Adams said. “This is a wonderful example of schools adopting the latest corporate and web technologies to improve education.”
The EYS portal project is being managed by FutureNET Solutions Inc. of Washington, which is providing project consulting, systems integration, and web development services together with i3solutions Inc. of nearby Sterling, Va. The pilot implementation at Hine Junior High School will demonstrate the benefits of portal technology to other public education and youth services organizations throughout the D.C. area.
“This effort continues our tradition of adapting leading-edge web and communications technology to the challenges of K-12 education,” said Joseph Davis, chief technology officer for FutureNET Solutions, which has worked with Hine on past technology projects. “With Sequoia’s XML portal software and i3solutions’ web development expertise, we have assembled a unique team capable of harnessing portal and web technology to improve K-12 education and youth services delivery.”
The project is being implemented in stages. At first, only school administrators and counselors will have access to the information. But at Hine the hardware is in place and every classroom in the school is connected to a network, so the portal eventually will reach teachers’ desktops.
As for training staff in how to use the portal, Davis said that if the implementation is done right, the system will be fairly straightforward to use, with minimal training needed for the school’s 40-plus teachers.
Hine Junior High School caters to 725 students in grades 7-9. The school, whose motto is “Reaching Higher Standards Through Using Technology,” is setting a standard in the District of Columbia with its technology integration efforts. In addition to improving student achievement, Hine is also dedicated to using technology to improve parental and community involvement, school officials said.