More than 500 ed-tech companies exhibited at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference in Philadelphia. Here’s a sampling of news from the exhibitors offering assessment and data maanagement solutions:

4GL School Solutions has released a companion product to its ENCORE! suite of special-education management software. Called Ensight, the new product is a data-analysis tool that allows districts to quickly assess program effectiveness, identify best practices and long-term trends, and evaluate the impact of targeted procedural changes for their special-ed programs. 4GL says Ensight can be used to summarize student information in a clear graphical format that helps district administrators make decisions relating to special programs based on current, real-time data; understand trends across ethnicity, gender, disability, and event type; monitor special-ed program compliance to ensure it adheres to best practices; and compare special-ed program performance to selected baselines.

Chancery Software celebrated the release of cTools, a new component of Chancery’s flagship SMS product that enables school districts to extend their student information tracking and gathering capabilities. According to company executives, the typical student information system is capable of tracking about 80 percent of the information a district requires, because data needs differ from district to district. To fulfill the remaining 20 percent of their information requirements, districts typically have to enlist help from the vendor or an outside contractor to further customize their system. With cTools, districts can modify standard or customized Chancery SMS pages to fit their information tracking requirements, the company said. Specifically, cTools gives districts the ability to (1) modify existing Chancery SMS pages and reports by adding additional fields, panels, and URL links; (2) create entirely new web pages for collecting and tracking information; and (3) transfer system modifications between districts and schools. In addition, changes made by the district reportedly remain intact with each new release. Said Paul Kellenberger, CEO of Chancery, “We believe cTools gives our customers a decided edge in tracking and reporting on the information they need. No matter how comprehensive the student information system, districts will always need information that is unique only to them. cTools is so simple and easy to use, anyone can modify their pages to track the information they require.”

Educational Testing Service (ETS) announced it would publish more than 11,000 math and language-arts test questions specifically aligned with Ohio’s K-12 state curriculum standards. The items are part of the ETS Formative Assessment Item Bank, an online bank of standards-based test questions for K-12 educators to use in the classroom to help improve learning. The ETS Formative Assessment Item Bank enables educators in Ohio and other states to use items that are aligned with state curriculum standards to create customized formative assessments that can be given throughout the year to assist teachers with improving and adjusting instruction and developing personalized learning strategies for students struggling with a particular standard. ETS assessment specialists reportedly develop and add new questions to the Item Bank on a frequent basis. Teachers access the ETS Formative Assessment Item Bank online through the company’s data management software, the Instructional Data Management System (IDMS). Through IDMS, teachers can identify critical state standards and then pace their instruction over the school year. IDMS allows teachers to create assessments from the Item Bank and then electronically scan student answer sheets. Educators can view district, school, class, and student results and generate reports using the system. Items are currently aligned with the standards of Ohio, Florida, and Texas. Test questions aligned with the standards of additional states will be available in the coming months, ETS said.

FileMaker Inc. showcased its latest customized and ready-to-use solutions for automating basic business tasks. One of these is CourseWizard, a course registration solution that helps school administrators manage their educational programs easily and efficiently, creating basic catalogs and managing course availability, grading, registration, and more. In addition, FileMaker showed an internet-based report card system and a data and report tracking system, a computer-based assessment system, and a student tracking system.

Follett Software Co. introduced Destiny Media Manager, a browser-based instructional resource and management service that allows educators to track, share, and manage all of their curriculum assets from any computer, anywhere in the school. Destiny Media Manager is the latest addition to the Destiny Resource Management Solution, which saves districts time and money by making it easy to track and manage their instructional assets, Follett says. One of the first browser-based solutions that enables teachers to search for, reserve, and track instructional media–including software, videos, activity kits, manipulatives, and more–Media Manager uses bar-code technology to keep tabs on all relevant information for every media item. Students and faculty can read a detailed description of each item to find out who’s got it, when it’s due back, and who needs it next. Teachers also can search for curriculum-related materials from anywhere and can reserve the items. Administrators can look at usage statistics and inventory reports to make the most informed, efficient purchasing decisions. “With the growing emphasis on visual and hands-on learning, districts need to stock all sorts of instructional materials,” said Follett Software President Tom Schenck. “But to get the most out of this expensive investment, teachers need to be able to find the materials they need and get them quickly. Destiny Media Manager helps make that happen.”

Pearson School Systems showcased Pearson Benchmark, a web-based district benchmark testing system and reporting tool that allows educators to manage and maximize student achievement through testing, reporting, and analytics. Using the software, educators can formulate, score, and deliver assessments quickly and efficiently, Pearson said.

Scantron Corp. announced the integration of its two flagship products, Achievement Series and Performance Series, into a complete, web-based program that offers year-round solutions to managing and administering various forms of assessment. The combined solution can manage benchmark tests, summative assessments, and formative assessments all together and can help educators steer classroom instruction based on test results.

SchoolNet Inc. announced the launch of the SchoolNet Synchronized Partners Program. The program enables K-12 software and content companies to integrate their solutions easily and efficiently with SchoolNet’s open, content-neutral Instructional Management System (IMS) platform. As a result, districts adopting SchoolNet will have the opportunity to implement a broader suite of integrated solutions to better promote student achievement, the company said. SchoolNet also announced the launch of SchoolNet 6.0, which has new tools to help streamline use, increase productivity, and achieve academic success.

Software Technology Inc. (STI) launched InformationNOW, a system-wide data reporting system that aims to save district technology coordinators time by automating the reporting process. Using this web-based tool, school personnel with authorized access can obtain meaningful reports with a few clicks of the mouse. Users can select packaged reports or use the program’s query tools to create customized reports that meet their specific needs. “In education today, school faculty must have the capacity to identify needs and make proactive changes to provide students with the best possible learning environment,” said Chief Executive Officer Rob Fiance. “To do this, those involved in the education process need information at their fingertips.” With InformationNOW, users can set parameters around a possible event to receive alerts when these parameters have been reached. Based on the user’s criteria, the application scours school databases to determine if certain events are occurring and then notifies the user. For instance, if an administrator is concerned school attendance might drop below 95 percent, he or she can set up an alert that notifies the administrator when this threshold has been reached. The system also can search for a variety of events, such as discipline infractions or missed deadlines on individual education plans, company executives said.

SUNGARD Pentamation Inc. demonstrated its district-wide student management system for K-12 schools. Called eSchool Plus, the web-based system gives education stakeholders, including schools administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members, the ability to manage or immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need to make data-based decisions, SUNGARD said. Features include a centralized, district-wide database for providing up-to-date, real-time information; desktop integration that aims to provide seamless integration of spreadsheet, eMail, and word-processing systems; and functionality designed to track everything from student demographics, scheduling, discipline, report cards, graduation requirements, and college applications to attendance records, grades, and assignments. Parents also can use the system to stay connected to their child’s progress and access important information about upcoming events, among other benefits.

TrueNorthLogic (formerly iAssessment) released an expanded education management system featuring three product suites at this year’s NECC. The TrueAchieve Teacher Development System ensures that individual teachers are qualified and certified by helping them design, follow, and measure their professional development with mentoring, support, and collaboration tools. The TrueLife Student Development System provides a set of tools that revolve around a student’s individual needs by incorporating teacher participation and interactive online learning. The TrueGuide Administrator Support System shows school administrators how to spend less time and money on educational solutions and helps administrators meet the challenges posed by assessment and data, the company said.

Turning Technologies LLC, in conjunction with Responsive Innovations, announced the release of Turning XL and ResponseCard XL software, which together provide a way to fully automate test administration and the reporting of test results, the companies said. Using advanced keypad functionality, students are able to work at their own pace and then transmit their responses to a teacher’s personal computer.

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