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Online Registration Systems Save Schools Time and Money

online registration saves money for schools

Some California Districts have made it their goal to figure out ways to save their schools time and money and service their “customers” better.

For one school in California, its goal was to reduce the time students and parents spent waiting in line during the registration process. The administration understood that students’ and parents’ time is important and wanted to find an effortless way to achieve their goal during registration, a time when students and parents come to school prior to the beginning of school to register their students.

According to Aaron Peralta, Principal of Costa Mesa Middle School in California, implementation of K-12 Online‘s online registration reduced the time spent by students and parents in line to about 45 minutes. The previous year, parents and students waited close to 3 hours. Not only did the online registration system save time for the students and parents, but the easy usage and ability to prepay for school items was a great feature.  Unlike some built-in SIS registration systems, K-12 Online is more robust with many features that ultimately save schools time and money.

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Celebrate Presidents Day this year by saving some cash

In these challenging economic times, just about everyone is looking for ways to cut back—even schools. From implementing virtual technology to accepting online payments, districts are continuously seeking money-saving methods. Here are some of our favorites.

 

Automate Your Processes. Thanks to companies like K-12 Online, districts can simplify everything from managing their lottery and registering students to updating PTA forms. K-12 Online offers an online payment system for uniform orders, field trips fees, textbook fines, and any other payments your district collects.

 

Channel Your Inner Jerry Lewis. Fundraising is an easy and effective way to raise money. Offering online fundraising options for parents has proven to increase donation amounts by 30%.

 

Realign Your Resources. Parents are a great resource for schools.   The contributions they make and impact they have on the success of a school are immeasurable.   A key aspect in managing school operations is ensuring that parents are happy. Online registration for schools is a proven parent-pleaser, reducing the amount of time parents spend in line and filling out forms.

 

It’s Easy Being Green. Reducing paper consumption is an easy, eco-friendly way to help save the planet. By using web-based technology, schools help set the example and address the increasing concerns of deforestation and environmental conservation.

 

Take our Free School Savings Survey and let us help you save some cash this President’s Day.

 

Tips for Choosing the Right Educational Technology

Are you looking for ways to cut or reallocate your budget? Do you need to streamline processes? Have you considered improving educational technology by implementing an online registration system?

If you currently process student enrollment and registration forms manually or with outdated software, your staff works overtime during peak enrollment weeks, or updating your SIS requires manual labor, then an online registration system may be right for you.

More and more schools and districts are turning to educational technology solutions to help manage everyday tasks. The trend of working with partners has proven to be valuable however; the daunting task of comparing products, attending demos, etc. can be exhausting.

We’ve compiled a list of questions to consider as you review educational technology to ensure the service provider you select will perform how and when you need it. Our list pertains directly to online registration but can be applied to other software solutions as well.

  1. Does the system help reduce parents’ time spent filling out forms as well as waiting in line, creating a better experience for parents?
  2. Can online forms be created and used year-round (i.e. field trip forms, special event sign-up, etc.), making the system more versatile rather than just for the beginning of the school year?
  3. How easily can forms be created and edited, allowing schools to make necessary changes when necessary?
  4. Does the system provide residency verification alerts, increasing your registrar’s operational efficiency?
  5. Can forms be created and viewed in multiple languages, making it user-friendly for ALL parents?
  6. Does the system have built-in ways to solicit donations, increasing your return on investment?
  7. Will the system assist in recouping fees for lost textbooks, further saving your school money?
  8. Are e-commerce and credit card processing capabilities offered, allowing parents to take care of all purchases online?
  9. Does the software allow privileged-level access; allowing PTAs, Boosters, etc. to access certain information while still maintaining security of data?
  10. Is the software all-inclusive, allowing you to utilize all applications at no extra charge?
  11. How is customer and technical support provided for administrators and parents (online support, live customer assistance)?
  12. What other suite of products are offered (lottery management, merchant processing, web store, etc.) that integrates to allow for a one-stop shop?
  13. And lastly, one of the most critical questions is how easily does the educational technology integrate with your school information system?

Choosing educational technology that is inclusive and considers the needs of parents, students, teachers and administration is important. Make sure discussions include representatives of the student body, staff and parents. Parents want registration to be quick and easy, while administrators want a lot of information.

Any company can create an online registration system, but K-12 Online knows and understands the basic registration needs of K-12 schools and will help you identify the most useful features that work for your school and with your system.

Setting Budgets and Helping Savings

Every spring, schools are faced with the arduous task of setting their budgets. Decisions have to be made about how and where to cut spending, and administrators look in all areas to make changes that will positively impact their budget without compromising the quality of education and services offered to their students.

Rather than sacrificing the educational experience though budget cuts, administrators can look for ways to streamline processes that can actually add to the bottom line.

  1. Implement systems that automate procedures such as online registration, progress reports, lottery management, and general communication with parents. There are many technological systems that schools can take advantage of to eliminate unnecessary costs while benefiting their processes.
  2. Have a process in place to collect administrative fines and fees. Lost items such as textbooks, laptops, and library books account for a good percentage of revenue loss. Use of a merchant processing account will allow parents to easily make payments for these unrecovered items, allowing the school to recoup fees that would have otherwise been losses.
  3. For most schools, fundraising is a necessity. With online fundraising, students can raise money from friends and family members near and far to support school-related activities such as jog-a-thons, read-a-thons, and more. When coupled with the use of a webstore, online registration enables schools, boosters, and parent organizations to become more effective in their fundraising efforts.

By thinking in a resourceful and innovative manner and utilizing available technologies, schools can experience significant savings without significant budget cuts.

Great teachers seize more opportunities than they miss

Over the last two weeks we’ve looked at universal characteristics of great teachers. Here are four more universal characteristics that many excellent teachers have in common.

 

Click here to read characteristics 1-10.

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#11. Great teachers know how to live with ambiguity. 
One of the greatest challenges of teaching is the lack of immediate, accurate feedback. There is no way to predict what the long-term results of your work will be. But if you have a sense of purpose and try to cultivate expectations of success for all students, you will be less likely to dwell on that unpredictability, and focus on how you can impact them today.

 

#12. Great teachers enjoy their work and their students.
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to lose sight of its importance. Teachers who enjoy their work and their students are motivated, energized, and creative. The opposite of enjoyment is burnout-the state where no one and nothing can spark any interest. Notice, too, that enjoying your work and enjoying your students may be two different things. Focusing too much on content may make students feel misunderstood or left out. Focusing exclusively on students, without an eye to content, may make students feel understood and appreciated, but may not help them to achieve their educational goals as quickly as they’d like. Achieving a balance between the two extremes takes time and attention; it demands that you observe closely, evaluate carefully, and act on your findings.

 

#13. Great teachers are reflective. 
Outside of a teacher having the desire to make a difference in the lives of their students, this may be the only infallible, absolute characteristic of all great teachers, because without it, none of the other traits can fully mature. Good teachers routinely think about and reflect on their classes, their students, their methods, and their materials. They compare and contrast, draw parallels and distinctions, review, remove and restore. Failing to observe your class on a regular basis disconnects you from the teaching and learning process and it’s impossible to create connectivity if you’re disconnected.

 

#14. Great teachers have the ability to connect with students. Cornelius-White conducted a meta-analysis of research on teacher-student relationships and found that teachers’ warmth, empathy, and “non-directivity??? strongly correlated to higher levels of student participation, motivation, and achievement. Great teachers understand that teaching is not a static state, but a constant process. Great teachers are imaginative and expect their students to be, too. They meet students where they are, but ask them to reach higher. They love their subject, and find ways to draw their students in.

 

No one can comprise all of the above attributes but every teacher has a new opportunity each day to become a better teacher. Great teachers are the ones who seize more opportunities than they miss!

What makes good teachers great?

Last week we discussed five characteristics of a great teacher. Here are five more universal characteristics that many excellent teachers have in common.

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Click here to read characteristics 1-5.

 

#6. Great teachers are comfortable with not knowing. 
There are going to be dilemmas you cannot immediately resolve, and questions you cannot immediately answer. It’s okay to not know, to be open to letting your students tell you the answer, and to understand that learning never stops, even for the teacher. If you can live with an unanswered question, think and observe, the answer may develop in an unexpected, unconventional way.

 

#7. Great teachers adapt and change to meet student needs. Can you really claim to have taught a class if no one learned any of the concepts in the lesson from your presentation? If none of your students ever pick up a book outside of the classroom, have you really taught them to be better readers? A great lesson plan and a great lesson are two entirely different things. It’s nice when one follows the other, but it doesn’t always work that way. Teachers teach so that students may learn. When learning doesn’t happen, you need to be willing to devise new strategies, think in new ways, and generally do anything possible to revive the learning process.

 

#8. Great teachers form strong relationships with their students and show that they care about them as people. Great teachers are warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. Teachers with these qualities are known to stay after school and make themselves available to students and parents who need them. They are involved in school-wide committees and activities, and they demonstrate a commitment to the school.

 

#9. Great teachers are masters of their subject matter. They exhibit expertise in the subjects they are teaching and spend time continuing to gain new knowledge in their field. They present material in an enthusiastic manner and instill a hunger in their students to learn more on their own.

 

#10. Great teachers communicate frequently with parents. They don’t wait until parent/teacher conference night to connect with parents.   They frequently send emails/notes home and don’t hesitate to pick up the telephone to call a parent if they are concerned about a student.

 

Next week we will discuss the last of these universal traits. Let us hear from you. What characteristics do you think embody great teachers?

Who said great teachers are hard to come by?

In September, K-12 Online discussed how leadership factored into the success of a school. Although essential for quality education, research revealed that leadership was second only to teaching among all school-related factors that contribute to student performance.

 

Essentially, the single most important factor in determining the quality of education a child receives is the quality of his or her teacher. A good teacher improves a child’s test scores in the classroom, enhances his or her chances to attend college, increases his or her potential to earn more money and decreases the likelihood of teen pregnancy, according to a 2011 study, conducted by economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia.

 

Teaching is one of the most complicated jobs today! So what makes for a quality teacher? Think about your best teachers. Their techniques may have been different, but more than likely, they all had some sort of connective capacity. They were able to connect themselves to their students, their students to each other, and everyone to the subject being studied.

 

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Characteristics of Great Teachers

Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at some of the most important characteristics of great teachers. It is not meant to be an all encompassing or definitive list. Many excellent teachers may possess only some of these traits, and consider others not mentioned to be just as valuable. The characteristics detailed below are just a guideline to help teachers create and sustain connectivity in their classrooms – a universal characteristic of great teachers.

 

#1. Great teachers set expectations of success for all students.

Since the famous Rosenthal experiment in the late 1960s, the Pygmalion effect—the observation that teachers’ expectations for their students affect how well students learn—has been well documented. Great teachers expect that all students can and will achieve in their classroom, and they don’t give up on underachievers. There are so many factors in a students’ life, that it’s impossible for a teacher to guarantee success to all, however, if you give up on your students, adopting a fatalistic, “it’s out of my hands??? attitude, students will sense your lack of commitment and tune out. The main objective for a teacher is to create a climate for success in your classroom to meet the needs of all students.

 

#2. Great teachers have clear, written objectives.

Effective teachers have lesson plans that give students a clear idea of what they will be learning, what the assignments are and what the grading policy is. Assignments have learning goals and give students ample opportunity to practice new skills. The lesson plan serves as a road map and may be altered depending on classroom needs.

 

#3. Great teachers have a sense of purpose.

A RAND study conducted more than 30 years ago found links between student achievement and teachers’ sense of value—their belief in their students’ ability to succeed, as well as their own ability as teachers to help those students succeed. You can’t be good in a generic sense; you have to be good for something. As a teacher, this means that you know what your students expect, and you make plans to meet those expectations. You, too, have expectations about what happens in your classroom, based on the goals you’re trying to achieve. If you want to prepare your students for employment, you expect punctuality and good attendance. If you want your students to become better readers, you allow time for reading and provide access to books.

 

#4. Great teachers are prepared and organized. They are in their classrooms early and ready to teach. They present lessons in a clear and structured way. Their classrooms are organized in such a way as to minimize distractions.

 

#5. Great teachers engage students and get them to look at issues in a variety of ways. Effective teachers use facts as a starting point, not an end point; they ask “why??? questions, look at all sides and encourage students to predict what will happen next. They ask questions frequently to make sure students are following along. They try to engage the whole class, and they don’t allow a few students to dominate the class. They keep students motivated with varied, lively approaches.

 

Watch for our next post where we highlight more characteristics of a great teacher. Join our discussion. What characteristics do you think embody great teachers?

 

Raise Money Online – Increase Donations by 30%

In addition to being educators, teachers and admin have the never-ending task of hand wringing and scrounging to provide the simplest school needs. But the effort it takes is sometimes not worth the payoff. One of the easiest and most effective ways to increase school donations is to raise money online.

Online giving has proven to increase donation amounts by about 30%. Parents can make a one-time donation or set up recurring payment plans. An online system allows parents to use a debit or credit card, which typically increases donation amounts and set-up is easy through either your school web store or by adding a “Donate Now??? button directly to your site. It provides individuals a simple, accountable and personal way to address educational needs and raise money online.

Another great fundraising tool for schools is DonorsChoose.org. DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. It connects public school teachers with people who want to support classroom learning.

Public school teachers from across America can post classroom project requests; anything from pencils for a poetry writing contest to instruments for a school recital, balls for P.E. class, or iPads for online book access. Donors can then browse project requests by location or subject, or even search for a particular school, and give any amount to the one that inspires them. Once a project reaches its funding goal, Donorschoose.org delivers the materials to the school.

Fundraising does not have to be a time consuming, shake-down job. There are tools available to help you raise money online!

Successful School Leadership: A Conversation with an “America’s Best High Schools” Principal – Part 4 of 4

We conclude our Successful School Leadership series with a look at autonomy versus centralization. Just how much freedom should a school have? Take a look at our other posts on successful school leadership and let us know what you think:

Part 1: Leadership within a school

Part 2: School leadership as it relates to educating diverse groups of students

Part 3: The accountability of educational leaders

 

Autonomy vs. Centralization

A report written in 2011 by Erin Dillon, a senior policy analyst at Education Sector, studies the correlation between the success of a school and its autonomous capacity. The report suggests that as a whole, successful schools tend to be more autonomous in school management, staffing, and instruction. Greater autonomy can free educators to try new approaches with instruction, staffing, and schedules so they can respond quickly and more effectively to student needs. With expanded autonomy, districts let the schools themselves—the principals and the teachers—make big decisions like how to spend the budget, what curriculum to use, and how to hire and train teachers. As the theory goes, those who know students best are best able to direct resources and take actions on students’ behalf.

The surge in charter schools and other autonomous school reforms points to the theory that granting schools more flexibility can yield more innovation in school management, staffing, and instruction and thereby lead to greater performance levels by students. Not all schools, however, have the capacity to render the resources and effort required by autonomy with actions that improve student learning. Often times, schools don’t have the proper leadership, staff, or vision to make good independent decisions. Union contracts, legal constraints, and financial realities can also limit autonomy, preventing schools from making substantial changes.

So the key question is this: Just how much freedom do you give a school? There are several ways to approach school autonomy (success-based, site-based, partnership schools, collaborative, etc.), so how do you reach a point where individual, autonomous schools are capable of making decisions to improve student performance and where the district can give them the support they need to do so? And is autonomy in school reform really the answer?

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, based on interviews with the leaders of five highly successful charters, identified seven “autonomies” essential to success: freedom to develop a great team, freedom to manage teachers as professionals (including giving them merit-based raises), freedom to change curriculum and classroom structure, autonomy over scheduling, financial freedom, freedom of school boards to focus on education instead of politics, and freedom to define a school culture.

But the struggle to make autonomy work must be approached with caution. There must be a balance between autonomy and centralization. It is proven that when those closest to the children are capable of making decisions, student performance improves, as is the case in many charter-based schools. However, there are proven cases whereby increasing centralization and reducing autonomy has led to improvement as well.

 

In studying winners of the coveted Broad Prize for Urban Education, a $1 million award given annually to an urban district demonstrating high student achievement and progress in closing racial and economic achievement gaps, most of the public school district recipients showed significant gains in test scores, particularly among low-income and minority groups, and significantly narrowed the achievement gaps between these groups and white and/or higher-income groups, respectively.

But these improvements did not come from granting schools more autonomy. On the contrary, the districts sought to standardize practices across the district and increase central office control, building a stronger accountability system and focusing on strengthening and energizing its personnel and leaders.

Does the success of these Broad-prize winning districts mean that centralization, rather than autonomy, is the most effective strategy for school reform? Yes and no. Although centralization took place across a district, the common factor among these schools was that each allowed programs, intervention plans, and capacity-building initiatives to be implemented to meet the needs of individual schools.

 

Steve McLaughlin, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County, California, agrees with the notion that it takes a healthy balance of autonomy and centralization for a school to be successful.

As a district that serves schools at varying ends of the socio-economical scale, Newport-Mesa has made great strides over the last few years in striking a delicate balance between autonomy and centralization. Their increase in statewide test results and overall academic performance is proof that their approach and philosophy of “All kids are successful” is working.

In order to narrow the disparity between schools in lower socioeconomic communities and those in more affluent ones, Newport Mesa has had to maintain a clear organizational vision while providing the appropriate support to individual schools so that they may better serve their communities.

“It’s important for schools to understand the needs of their communities,” explains McLaughlin. “Schools are a resource to the community, and the more welcoming, approachable, and accessible they are, the better they instill the ‘we are here to serve you’ mentality.”

But this type of support and communication has to begin with the district. This service-oriented model must come from the central office and continue to be instilled into each site in a way that is meaningful and achievable. “Because our sites present varying backgrounds, it’s essential for them to have the ability to create local programs. A district must offer guidance, support, service, and accountability and then work with individual schools to personalize the framework,” says McLaughlin. “It’s imperative for districts to use data to cultivate conversations around school needs and then work with the staff to develop programs that help target identified areas.”

 

Autonomy is a mantra among highly successful schools, and few leaders of the most successful charter schools and district schools would say that they could have achieved highly effective results under typical district rules and regulations, but autonomy is NOT the shoe that fits every school.

Leadership at any level takes time, but the one thing that effective leadership cannot stand without is trust. Trust trumps everything. And everything flows from trust — learning, credibility, accountability, a sense of purpose, and a mission that makes “education” bigger than oneself.

 

Do you have good leadership at your school or district? What practices implemented by school leaders have had the greatest impact on your school, staff, and students? What leadership practices should be changed? Please share your comments below.

Successful School Leadership: A Conversation with an “America’s Best High Schools” Principal – Part 3 of 4

So far, our blog series on successful school leadership has covered leadership within a school and school leadership as it relates to educating diverse groups of students. In part three of our conversation, we discuss the accountability of educational leaders.

 

Accountability: Every school is unique in its own right; however, schools share special challenges and opportunities that require effective responses from educational leaders. One such example may be with policies designed to hold schools more accountable. Leadership practices that help schools succeed when they confront various forms of accountability mechanisms may include:

– Creating and sustaining a competitive school.

– Empowering others to make significant decisions.

– Providing instructional guidance.

– Strategic planning.

 

In the case of University High School (UHS), providing instructional guidance and empowering others to make significant decisions are accountability tools highly regarded by UHS leadership. An example of this is shown as Galen Hunsicker, professor of zoology at Vanguard University for 20 years and currently a science teacher at UHS, points to three main practices that have had the greatest impact on teachers and staff:

  1. An open door policy and giving the teachers a “heads up” regarding upcoming issues or events.
  2. Continuous positive support for effective teaching strategies through summer reading (Teach Like a Champion) and regular, thought-provoking articles sent via email.
  3. Having confidence in the staff’s professionalism and streamlining issues to save teachers time in doing what they do best: TEACH. The UHS administration excels at this! “For example, two years ago during WASC accreditation, our UHS leadership developed focus groups each with an effective teacher leading the discussion,” Galen explained. “Near the end of this process, the leaders of these groups came together to hash out our action plan, which was circulated for editing by any teacher, and released as a final hard copy. We all felt great about our input, time management, and our individual value. At no time was there a sense of a top-down style or a central controller. We all had a voice, all of us were important, and as a result, I believe we became more cohesive and more aware of who we really are.”

Galen went on to say that all UHS administration leads with vision, but they also guide and engage… not micromanage. “In my 42 years of teaching at over a dozen colleges and two high schools, University High School is a unique place, for I have never been in such an organized, positive, and uplifting environment.”

 

We know that school leadership is most successful when it is focused on teaching and learning, but there is still much more to learn about the essentials of quality leadership, how to harness its benefits, and how to ensure that there is a holistic approach to placing good leaders into bad systems so that they are able to contribute and enrich in a way that is meaningful rather than having a system that will tear down even the best of them.

But leadership goes beyond just teachers and principals. Schools exist within a district, and effective leadership must occur through networked interactions in which schools and districts work cooperatively towards a common goal. School leaders cannot effectively change their poli­cies, programs, and practices without “permission” from their districts. A district’s specific actions impact schools and their capacity to implement school change and attain higher standards.

 

We’d love to hear examples of accountability from your teachers up through the district!

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