In the T+L² exhibit hall, hundreds of educational technology companies were on hand to demonstrate the latest products and services for use in schools. Here’s a look at some of the innovations on display in the assessment and data management category this year:
Excelsior Software, maker of the Pinnacle grade and data management system for teachers, announced that Florida’s Broward County Schools, the nation’s sixth-largest school district, has signed an agreement to deploy Pinnacle system-wide. Broward educators now will have the ability to collect and manage data from every teacher’s desktop in real time, communicating student information online to the larger school community–including parents. With the Pinnacle Internet Viewer application, parents can regularly monitor their children’s progress, attendance, discipline, and important school events, the company said. “The Pinnacle grade book is an excellent technological tool for use by principals, teachers, students, and parents for keeping track of all students’ progress on a real-time basis,” said Earlean Smiley, Broward’s deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “This 24-7 technology provides instant access to every student’s grades and test scores in a secure environment, allowing for prompt adjustments to be made in curriculum and instruction as needed to escalate performance and enhance the educational experience for everyone involved in the process.” Other large school systems using Pinnacle include Florida’s Miami-Dade County and Montgomery County, Md.
Learning.com demonstrated its TechLiteracy Assessment tool. Based on the International Society for Technology in Education’s set of National Educational Technology Standards, or NETS, this new online assessment aims to help schools meet the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act by ensuring that students are proficient in technology by the eighth grade, as required by law. The online test, with leveled items for students in grades 3-5 and 6-8, is designed to assess students’ understanding of and proficiency with a full range of technology tools used in the classroom and can be completed online in 50 minutes. The goal, according to company executives, is to help students and teachers understand where technology instruction is sound and where it needs to be improved. Learning.com has teamed up with school districts in Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Alabama, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona to beta-test the assessment, which it plans to offer to all U.S. school districts by spring 2006 at a price of $5 per student, per school year.
LearningStation, a provider of customized desktops and online learning environments for schools, said it has inked a deal with the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) to give teachers in that state the ability to deliver practice tests for their annual reading and math assessments via a new application called the KSDE Formative Test Builder. Delivered through the company’s Empowered Desktop, a customized web portal available free of charge to all Kansas schools through a partnership between LearningStation and Kansas state officials, KSDE Formative Test Builder is an online application that allows teachers to create standards-based, formative practice tests for reading and math in grades three through high school. The tests draw from a bank of items approved by KSDE officials to assess students’ mastery of skills in relation to state curriculum standards. In highlighting its work in Kansas, LearningStation said it hopes to work with other school systems around the country to provide similar services.
PowerSchool, a division of Apple Computer that provides a web-based student information system (SIS) reportedly used by some 6,500 schools, showcased the release of PowerSchool 5.0. The latest version delivers a complete view of each student’s performance data to guide decisions in the classroom, at the district office, and from home. The idea, according to company executives, is to give “administrators the accurate information they need to make more effective decisions,” freeing up teachers to spend more time in the classroom with students. With PowerSchool 5.0, parents and students gain password-protected online access to performance records, including attendance, discipline, and grades, giving parents the opportunity for more regular involvement in their children’s progress and empowering students to make more informed, timely decisions about their own education, the company said. A significant enhancement to version 5.0, which also complies with the latest Schools Interoperability Framework standard, is increased accessibility to meaningful information through a new relational layer on top of the SQL database, giving users instant access to key metrics, not just raw data, by combining logical data sets (such as student assessment data) with demographic profiles. It also facilitates the easy creation of customized reports through a simple drag-and-drop procedure, company executives said.
Software Technology Inc. (STI), the Alabama-based maker of data management systems for schools, highlighted its new Special Education Tracking System (SETS), which enables educators to collect, store, and analyze special-education data more effectively and efficiently, in efforts to deliver appropriate remedial services. “STI has created an integrated system that allows educators to clearly identify benefits and results of special-education services, including the ability to pinpoint areas where students need further intervention,” said Edmundo Gonzalez, vice president of product management and marketing for STI. “It is accessible anytime, anywhere to provide educators with detailed student information at the critical times they need it.” STI executives contend the growing demand for special-education tracking systems is indicative of a larger trend occurring in schools toward using technology as a tool for measuring return on investment.
For a comprehensive look at education products and services debuted at major technology conferences throughout the year, visit “Product News Update” at eSchool News Online.