New Visions for public schools

A web-based solution was essential for the school system.
A web-based solution was essential for the school system.

New Visions is an outside organization contracted by the New York City School District to support schools instructionally.  Thus, it is contractually responsible for school performance on student achievement tests without direct legal supervisory authority over school staff.  As such, New Visions targets various instructional levers within each school. Through highly specialized departments focusing on different aspects of education, such as leadership and teacher development, data analysis, and operational re-engineering, New Visions attempts to build learning capacity through multiple tactics in a school.

New Visions for Public Schools is a nonprofit advocating for systematic reform of New York City public schools. As a partnership support organization (PSO) contracted by the New York City school district, New Visions provides instructional and operational support to a portfolio of 76 public schools, most of them high schools.

As a growing organization with an increasing number of support services offered, New Visions urgently needed a web-based solution to manage and track initiatives, capturing school and student-level data that would enable New Visions to iteratively modify both strategies and resource allocations across its 76 schools in real-time. Acumen Solutions helped New Visions to achieve this goal, using an innovative adaptation of (a popular cloud computing customer relationship management application) to the educational environment and the New Visions operating model.

Previously, New Visions used a program-based approach to serve schools.  Various departments within New Visions would work with specific areas in a school.  Without an effective means of sharing information, action plans, and status reports between departments, it was difficult for those departments to collaborate and communicate effectively to determine the best approach for each school and to avoid duplicative and even conflicting efforts.  With individuals working in silos without strategic high level or granular, specific school level information sharing, New Visions’ management was not able to make informed programmatic, staffing, or budgetary decisions driven by data.  Decisions tended to be based on anecdotes and incomplete factual data. There was thus an urgent need for a means of managing and tracking initiatives, capturing school and student-level data, and sharing organizational best practices

To create this unconventional educational tracking system, the following key areas were addressed:
•    Transforming qualitative, subjective data to systematic, structured, quantitative data
•    Creating a defined common language across departments
•    Defining work flows even within the same department
•    Reducing and eliminating duplication of efforts and redundancies in services caused by lack of information sharing
•    Isolating fractured units throughout the organization without a coherent information and communication exchange
•    Creating performance metrics and program tracking to both evaluate school performance and organizational performance
•    Extremely limited reporting capabilities based on qualitative data; restricting ability to identify trends, key performance indicators, and positive outcomes

New Visions needed a technology solution that would involve a minimum of custom software development; would have operating costs that scaled with the size of the user base (rather than having a high fixed cost component); and would be supportable on modestly-powered PCs and laptops (in other words, would be web-based rather than thick-client based).  After some analysis, it was agreed that represented the optimum choice.  Although the activities of New Visions are far removed from commercial sales and customer service, the enterprise data model and work processes of New Visions were found to map quite easily into the model by renaming native roles and functions.

Acumen Solutions’ mission at New Visions was thus to successfully customize to adapt it to New Visions’ activities, processes, data, and reporting requirements–starting with the definition of business and functional requirements, proceeding to configuration and implementation of a New Visions instance of, and concluding with the training of users in effective platform usage.  With the correct configuring of, New Visions would be able to have a 360-degree view of a school to assure that support services were best aligned to benefit the school.

After Acumen Solutions successfully implemented for New Visions, the client was able to:
Collectively organize their school and student information including:
•    school-level data snapshots
•    school quality reviews
•    school progress reports
•    graduation rates
•    Regents exam scores
•    Grant information
•    Teacher experience data

Track organizational services and initiatives across schools including:
•    Workplan Goals through defined strands of methodologies and processes
•    Activities from every professional touching a school including school visit dates, notes, next steps, and observations
•    Workshops and Professional Development series attended by school staff and self reported evaluation
•    School Support Center help desk Cases that a school submits to resolve bureaucratic and operational challenges while creating a knowledge base for proactive support

•    Target overdue dates  or “off track” work activities
•    Monitor trends with school level data surfacing isolated links and fractures of support
•    Determine effective practices and programs based on student achievement data (emerging)

From a business model, the critical advantage of their implementation is that management can now make informed organizational decisions based on reports and dashboards grounded in data.  Through the systematic collection of school, student, and organizational activity data, management can firmly see where there are holes, missing links, and poor service offerings and consequently reallocate resources.  They are now able to systematically identify challenges in their programs and services and quickly revise and respond to needs of their schools.

From a nonprofit model, New Visions is now more effectively servicing their 35,000 plus students.  Through grounded knowledge of what services are provided, systematic and streamlined approaches, reporting, and identified best practices, New Visions continues to empower school leaders and teaching staff to realize their mission, and 80 percent of their graduating high school students are ready for college or career.

Chad Vignola is the vice president of operations at New Visions. He can be reached at:

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