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Chino Valley Unified prepare for Common Core with new technology

Chino Valley Unified has found that whether you’re dealing with the effects of Common Core or just trying to keep your network running, you’re on the right path

chino-valley-common-coreLike every other school district in California, Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) is in the midst of implementing the new Common Core standards for math and language arts instruction, curriculum, and testing that have been adopted by 45 states.

As the district’s network specialist, my job is to make sure our IT infrastructure can support the new technology and testing requirements as specified by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which works collaboratively with all the states to develop a student assessment system aligned with the Common Core standards.

I’m part of a team of 13 network, desktop, and help desk specialists who oversee our dispersed district, which encompasses 35 schools, nearly 30,000 students as well as approximately 3,000 faculty and administrative staff.

Our dedicated yet small IT staff manages 7,000 computers across the district, the majority of which are PCs with a growing number of Mac laptops as well as Mac and Android mobile devices being embraced by students and teachers alike.

(Next page: Improving learning with mobile devices)

In fact, the surge of personal mobile devices soon became more troublesome as preparing for Common Core instigated a sense of urgency and put a spotlight on the ever-increasing need for a network infrastructure upgrade and more robust solution for mobile device management. As one of the early adopters of mobile devices at CVUSD, our Special Education department was eager to capitalize on their success with tablets and smartphones to facilitate teaching, which put additional pressure on our limited IT resources to improve support of multiple device management across multiple operating systems.

Streamlining device discovery and inventory

In readying our environment for Common Core, we use the Technology Readiness Tool (TRT) to collect information on the technology at our schools. It’s critical to know what’s in our environment and be able to report on it, so we can take the next steps on the Common Core journey. TRT results are critical as they help our district and the state determine the level of additional funding we will receive to complete our technology upgrade.

Luckily, CVUSD previously took several important steps to streamline IT administration, including the deployment of endpoint systems management solutions to address everything from initial discovery and inventory to deployment, provisioning, software distribution, asset management and retirement of devices across operating systems and hardware platforms.

Unlike software-only systems management, which can be costly and complex, we opted for an appliance-based approach and were up and running in 15 minutes. Our staff and students realized service improvements almost immediately and we shaved annual support costs by two thirds.

We also made major strides in preparations for Common Core, because we can take advantage of an updated, accurate inventory of devices to simplify our TRT reporting requirements. Thanks to efficient endpoint systems management, CVUSD has automated and streamlined its entire system lifecycle and boosted overall reliability and security to better support staff while helping students accelerate learning.

The ability to manage IT tasks at remote locations—across our different campuses and computer labs, for example—as well as distribute software updates and patches on systems with multiple operating systems saves us time and resources. Effectively managing, protecting and updating endpoints has been crucial in enabling CVUSD to prepare for Common Core standards without sacrificing support for our multiple-device, multi-OS environment.

A common sense approach to BYOD

Our next hurdle in getting ready for Common Core and next-generation testing assessment programs goes beyond managing desktops, servers and laptops to address the onslaught of mobile devices, including iPads and smartphones. As CVUSD’s network was designed around a topology that was adequate 15 years ago, it is not robust enough to handle an unprecedented influx of devices, so we know additional infrastructure changes are on the horizon.

The reality is that BYOD would be happening with or without Common Core ─ in fact, in our district, it began when funding enabled Special Education staff to bring in tablets and smartphones to facilitate learning ─ but the new requirements have prompted a sense of urgency. The problem is the growing number of mostly Mac and Android mobile devices, particularly those owned by students, has surged faster than anticipated ─ impacting our network and taxing IT resources.

In some locations, we are running out of IP addresses due to the BYOD surge, so we need both short- and long-term solutions that support our multiple-device, multi-OS reality. In the short term, we’ll accommodate teachers’ mobile devices on the network, and keep student devices under control by blocking the IPs of personal mobile devices with DHCP Callout DLL.

In the long term, we’ll find a Network Access Control solution that allows more granular control of devices accessing the network. A redesign of the network topology will accommodate the growing numbers of devices, then we will deploy a mobile device management solution to increase control over district-owned mobile devices.

Implementing a comprehensive mobility enablement solution will help address BYOD along with district-owned tablets and mobile devices that will likely play an ever-increasing role in next-generation testing assessments.

We’ll continue to embrace best-of-class endpoint systems management. We have found that whether you’re dealing with the effects of Common Core or just trying to keep your network running ─ if you can accurately manage your entire system lifecycle ─ network, apps, desktops, laptops, devices ─ you’re on the right path.

Success will come with Systems Management best practices and the proven ability to simplify the management of multiple devices in a multi-OS world.

Georges Khairallah is the Network Specialist for the Chino Valley Unified School District in San Bernardino County, California. He uses Dell KACE products to help support his IT team and their everyday activities.

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