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The Rochester City School District (RCSD) provides a quality education for approximately 32,000 students ranging from prekindergarten through grade 12, and 10,000 adults in approximately 60 schools. There are 6,000 RCSD employees serving a diverse student population that includes children from 28 foreign countries, speaking 72 different languages. Like most school districts, it is focused on improving student achievement and graduation rates, but RCSD struggled with the ability to access, report, and analyze student, teacher, and school data across the district. The district needed a system that would enable it to access and act on data related to student enrollment, graduation rates, attendance, discipline, and at-risk students. It made several attempts to deploy small, custom, Excel-based solutions to provide reporting and analysis capabilities at a local level, but it did not have a comprehensive, districtwide solution.
To meet national Race to the Top standards and enhance the district’s graduation rates, RCSD worked with Oracle Platinum Partner eVerge Group to implement the company’s School Performance Analytics (SPA) solution, which is based on Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. With the go live of the initial phase of the SPA solution, district administrators and principals are now able to analyze student, teacher, and school metrics and make informed decisions based on accurate data. Going forward, the district will tie its Oracle’s PeopleSoft Human Capital Management data into the centralized, data warehouse to enable RCSD to accurately link student performance to specific teachers and school administrators. Ultimately, more than 4,500 administrative personnel, principals, and teachers will use the solution.
RCSD, similar to other urban school districts, faces a low graduation rate—which currently stands at 54%—and a poverty rate of 87%, well above the national average. In addition, the district has a disproportionate number of special-needs children, with 18% of the student population characterized as having special needs.
To tackle the school district’s unique obstacles, administrators required better information regarding student and school performance. RCSD’s prior student management system had information loaded at the end of each grading period, rather than daily. This limited administrators’ ability to track progress in real-time. In addition, some information was loaded into a central state repository that only asked for limited information concerning student performance. While principals and administrators could access information regarding student grades, they did not have access to attendance reports and student disciplinary records.
“To tackle our low graduation rates, we needed to get a handle on retention—what is our retention policy and what is happening in individual schools,” said Annmarie Lehner, information technology officer, Rochester City School District.
Federal programs, including No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, have accentuated the importance of metrics to track student and teacher performance. Key metrics include student retention—when a student is held back a grade—graduation rate, test scores, disciplinary record, and grades. To improve success, school districts must evaluate these indicators against individual teachers to properly monitor their performance, flag challenges, and ensure students are receiving the best possible education.
RCSD needed to replace its disparate spreadsheets and reporting environments to facilitate more efficient decision-making and meet federal requirements. The district worked with eVerge Group to deploy an Oracle-based system that would store all district data online and consolidate it within a single data warehouse repository for maximum data accuracy and timeliness—enabling RCSD to efficiently analyze and report on an array of data points for each student and teacher, across the entire district.
“With Race to the Top, it is imperative that we store teacher and administrative evaluations online so that they are traceable. It is also important that we tie student performance to teachers and school administrators,” Lehner said.
RCSD used Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition and Oracle Database 11g to consolidate the student and school information into a central system. The district then created a “Campus Scorecard" for principals and vice principals. The scorecard gives school administrators access to all the information they need regarding each student via various dashboards. Users can pull reports by different demographics, as well as access state assessments, regional exams, grades, and discipline data. The district added segmented security functionality to the system to enable only authorized users to access certain data segments.
“Oracle and eVerge delivered the most efficient system available to track and report essential information. For instance, we can break out student information by different demographics, such as special education and English-as-a-second-language students. In addition, we have backed up five years of information onto the system to help generate historical reports concerning an individual student or an entire school, which enables us to compare past performance to make better decisions,” Lehner said.
As important as consolidated student information for federal assessment programs is the ability for administrators, principals, and teachers to utilize that information to help students.
With the new system, the superintendent broke administrators into teams to study various issues affecting the school district, such as retention or student disciplinary problems.
“The capability of drilling down to each student has been so helpful to our school administrators,” Lehner said. “Previously, this data had been stored in many different locations—our student management system, the New York state assessment system, and regional data sources. Developing a useful report on any topic would require pulling data from numerous sources—a very time consuming, and error-prone process. Now, everything is at the administrators’ fingertips. They can quickly pull meaningful reports and make better decisions.”
By implementing Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, RCSD officials acquired the ability to analyze key student information to make better decisions for the entire district and each school. For example, a principal can monitor spikes in student absences and communicate concerns to teachers. District administrators can analyze retention rates in schools and relay any red flags to principals. With Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, everyone, from administrators to counselors, can access comprehensive information for each student to tailor a learning plan that fits their needs.
“It is helpful for our principals, vice principals, and counselors to take a look at students that are struggling and access information about them from one place, so they can determine how best to help each student. This implementation has helped everyone to better reach our students and respond to their needs, which lowers retention [holding students back a year) and subsequently enhances graduate rates,” said Lehner.
In addition to its Campus Scorecard initiative, RCSD relies on a number of other Oracle solutions to streamline business processes and improve service to its internal stakeholders. For example, administering purchasing and payroll for a school district as large as RCSD can be an arduous task, as RCSD was plagued with budget overruns and inefficient manual procurement and payroll processes, costing the district time and money. By implementing Oracle’s PeopleSoft Financials, RCSD significantly enhanced its financial procedures. For instance, the district automated procurement processes to enable administrators to approve purchases electronically, ensure vendor invoices flow through accounts payable for timely payment, and install automatic budget deduction to eliminate overspending. In addition, the district was now able to use PeopleSoft HCM to automate additional payments for employees who perform extracurricular activities.
“People would consistently overspend their budget with our previous paper-based procurement system. PeopleSoft Financials provides a robust workflow process that facilitates proper approval processes. We never have any questions or concerns expressed, like whether or not a purchase was approved. Everything is in the system, date and time stamped, and the employee number is stamped regarding who approved every step—from a manager to the CFO. With proper approvals, cost overruns have all but disappeared,” Lehner said.
To promote HR efficiency, RCSD recently worked with eVerge Group to upgrade to Oracle’s PeopleSoft Human Capital Management 9.1 to optimize business processes while implementing new functionality. With the upgrade, the district streamlined benefit deductions and enabled retroactive benefits for employees. RCSD’s human resources department also gained the ability to manage employee salary information from one page, while improving Time and Labor processing time.
With Oracle, the district streamlined online time entries and enabled online benefits enrollments. The district’s prior open enrollment processes were paper-based, and filled with inefficiencies. Now employees can research benefit plans from their computer and easily sign up for the plan that best suits their needs. In addition, RCSD implemented employee self-service ePay, which enables employees to access their paycheck stubs and history entirely online. Finally, employees now have an option to review their deposit stubs online, replacing paper mailings, which reduces districtwide costs.
RCSD also uses Oracle’s PeopleSoft Planning and Budgeting to tie position management into its PeopleSoft Human Capital Management solution for additional visibility and enhanced planning. The district is currently extending its enterprise performance management capabilities by deploying analytics for its PeopleSoft human resources and financial management applications, so it can fold that information into the overarching Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition warehouse for greater insight. Eventually, the system will roll out to 4,500 employees, and the district will be able to link student performance to staff performance.
“We work with Oracle because it maintains the best-in-class, top-of-the-line products on the market. The company is highly respected and always provides robust products that are not equaled by any other vendor,” said Annmarie Lehner, information technology officer, Rochester City School District.
Rochester City School District worked with Oracle Platinum Partner eVerge Group to implement the School Performance Analytics (SPA) system, based on Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. The SPA system enabled the district to utilize prebuilt dashboards to accelerate the project.
RCSD began the implementation in May 2010 and soon populated data elements from its student information system to the new framework. The project initially went live in August 2010 for district administrative personnel and will soon be deployed for 4,500 RCSD employees.
RCSD also worked with eVerge Group to upgrade to Oracle’s PeopleSoft Human Capital Management 9.1. The district formed a cross-functional upgrade project team separated into human capital initiative, payroll, benefits, budget, and information management and technology departments. In total, approximately 75 people provided input for the project team. The upgrade was completed in late 2010, with testing completed in early 2011.
“We worked with eVerge Group on our implementation because it has extensive K-12 experience. The company can speak to our specific needs as a school district. In addition, eVerge Group had the expert product knowledge and structure in place to give us a jump start to our Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition implementation,” Lehner said. “It only took a matter of months from the time we started the implementation to the time we rolled it out at the executive level. This is appreciably faster than the industry average.
“eVerge Group’s staff and resources are top notch.”