Forsyth County school system officials expect to be successful with a new i3 partnership after the district’s initial arrangement fell short.
Dubbed “itslearning,” the personalized system will be implemented systemwide when the 2013-14 school year begins in August.
The new system will replace both the ANGEL learning management system and Edusoft, the district’s assessment system through the i3, or Investing in Innovation $4.7 million federal grant.
For teachers, “itslearning” will mean a streamlined approach to their administrative duties.
It offers one way to track attendance, grades, assessment, communication and instructional resources.
For parents, officials say, the system will be a one-stop place for information to track all students in the family.
During a recent school board meeting, Travis Willard, chief operating officer of “itslearning” spoke about the company.
“We’re probably a little-known secret in the U.S. so far, but we’ve got a pretty big footprint in Europe, so we’re just excited about the partnership,” he said.
According to Board Chairman Tom Cleveland, “It looks like a great platform and it’s a great way to start thinking commonly about the content and the way we keep track. This interfaces with the parents so it all pulls out at one place and is the right thinking.”
As a parent of middle and elementary school students, i3 project coordinator Mike Evans said after the meeting that he has to track a separate portfolio for each child using different systems on top of various newsletters, updates and emails.
“I’m all over the place currently,” he said. “(The new program) will actually give the parents a login into the system where they can see all of their students together within that one system using that one login to access not only grades but performance and reports.”
The program replaces Engage Me P.L.E.A.S.E., short for Personalized Learning Experiences Accelerate Standards-based Education, the first initiative with the i3 grant.
The previous plan, a public/private partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, used a Pinpoint platform computer program that allowed teachers to deliver lessons and tests, and recommended activities based on each student’s results.
The program was integrated in both North Forsyth middle and high schools as the pilot schools and appeared to be successful.
Then, according to Bailey Mitchell, there were some problems earlier in the year with “what we consider critical functionality features” in addition to not being able to work with the private partner to get the project ready.
“We just didn’t feel like that would be fair to teachers and staff to experience the bump and grind of a new system if it wasn’t completely ready,” said Mitchell, the system’s chief technology and information officer.
“We basically recognized some shortcomings in the Pinpoint product and we just didn’t think it would meet expectations. Forsyth brought to the table very high expectations and ... those expectations weren’t met in a time frame that would have been important for us to implement.”
Evans said while the first partnership didn’t work out, the five-year i3 grant has an ongoing budget and no money went to the private partners.
The funding, he said, is spent internally to support development, personnel, training, implementation and other resources.
The new effort, Evans said, will meet the goals for the i3 initiative and will come at a slight annual savings.
The former system cost a combined total of more than $602,000, while the annual cost for the new one will be about $581,000.
Evans said staff members will be trained on the system before the school year begins and instructional videos for parents will be posted on the district’s website. Individual schools will also show parents how to navigate it during open houses and curriculum nights.
“We’ll have resources available from day one ... on how to navigate different features and functionality,” Evans said.