It was like attending Carnegie Hall with 20 foot high security fences. The entry process was a bit intimidating but the experience was absolutely uplifting.
East Jersey State Prison is a maximum security facility south of Newark. We were there on August 16th to see 39 inmates receive their Associate in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Mercer County Community College just one of nine colleges and universities in New Jersey that provide higher education courses to incarcerated students and then help them transition to college life upon release.
The New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education Consortium (NJ-STEP) in partnership with the State of New Jersey Department of Corrections had organized the celebration and Edvance was invited because we built the Student Information System that supports the project.
After going through security (think airport without luggage or wallet or phone or keys) we were escorted to our front row seats in the assembly hall facing the dignitaries and beside the reserved seating for the graduates. On every seat was a printed program and a bottle of water.
Exactly at 9:30 the dignitaries were introduced… Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, New Jersey Commissioner of Corrections Gary M. Lanigan, President of Mercer County Community College Dr. Jianping Wang and many others.
Then marching music from the inmate band, cheers from relatives and friends as 39 graduates dressed in green cap and gown file into the hall. A moment to remember.
There are four speakers in all including one student chosen by his fellow graduates who spoke of his dyslexia and the encouragement of his classmates who refused to let him fall behind.
All of the speeches are inspiring but my favorite is the Commencement Speech given by Rev. Toby Sanders, social activist, pastor, advocate, and beloved teacher and academic counsellor for NJ-STEP. Rev. Sanders spoke to the graduates about redemption and courage and hope and their plans for the future.
When the speeches are over, each graduate is called forward to receive his degree from Dr. Wang. I noticed that one graduate was not present. Was he sick? Was he in solitary? I found out later that he was not present because he had already been released and was presently enrolled at Rutgers University where with the continued support of NJ-STEP he hopes to earn his Bachelor's degree. He is a beacon of light for the others who will follow.
Presently 1562 students from various New Jersey facilities are enrolled in college level courses offered by nine different educational institutions. Upon release, students can transfer into one of NJ-STEP’s Mountainview Communities where they will receive the assistance they need to continue their studies.
Because of the work of NJ-STEP as well as the leadership of the New Jersey Department of Corrections and the State Parole Board, New Jersey has become a model for others to follow. In 2015 the State’s recidivism rate decreased from 48 percent to 32 percent. Only 5 percent of the graduates from the NJ-STEP Mountainview program return to prison.
Edvance Software is very proud to be connected to NJ-STEP. We have been told that our software has had a very positive impact both on the students who now receive official reports on their progress and on the teachers who can more easily organize their marks and their lessons.
We are now in the process of forging a new partnership with the educational division of the New Jersey Department of Corrections who in 2015 helped almost 4000 inmates earn vocational training certificates or high school leaving diplomas.
Congratulations Graduates! Way to go New Jersey! Thank you NJ-STEP for inviting us to East Jersey State Prison on August 16th 2016. It was a moving and glorious day and it will not be forgotten.
Providing every child, rich or poor, with an equitable chance for success is one of the central missions of any education system. But despite heroic efforts by educators, family income continues to have a powerful influence on children’s chances for success in school.
The negative effects of poor socioeconomic status on the educational outcome of hundreds of Canadian students is well documented.1 In many of our marginalized communities, 40% and sometimes as high as 80% of our youth do not graduate from high school.2
That is, unless something is done to engage the community where those children live. Then everything changes.
Regent Park in Toronto is Canada’s oldest and largest public housing community. In the year 2000, 56% of the students living in Regent Park dropped out of high school, and only 20% of those who did graduate went on to higher education.3
Carolyn Acker, the director of Regent Park Community Health Centre, knew something had to be done. She gathered together parents, educators, municipal employees, and local business leaders to study the problem. After extensive research and discussion, the community of Regent Park adopted a vision and a plan of action.
What they wanted for their young people was nothing less than community succession. That is, they wanted the children living in Regent Park to become the leaders and professionals of the Regent Park of the future.
To achieve that goal, they focused on the social factors that seemed to be producing a sense of hopelessness for the children living in the community including even those who were doing well in school. They adopted a plan of action to offer educational, financial, and social support to all high school students living in the geographical area of Regent Park.
To help boost the confidence of the students and to assist with their studies, the community centre was made available for tutoring. Hundreds of volunteers were found and they provided each student with four nights of tutoring each week.
For financial support, the organizers enlisted the help of the business community to raise money for a reward system that offered free transit tickets for daily attendance at school and a $4000 handout for each student who graduated from high school and went on to higher studies.
For social support, the health centre hired staff counsellors who provided group mentoring to the grade 9 and 10 students and individual career mentoring to the grade 11 and 12 students and their parents. These professionals acted as advocates bringing together the different professionals involved in the lives of the students and their parents.
The founding committee named their new model The Pathways to Education Program4
After 5 years, the high school dropout rate in Regent Park dropped from 56% to 13% and the post secondary registration increased from 20% to 80%.5
Now in its 15th year, the Pathways to Education model has been adopted by 17 different communities across Canada including the Mashteuiatsh First Nations community in the Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean area of Quebec.
The Pathways to Education program does extensive testing to document their success. Communities interested in making changes can access the Pathways to Education Community Mapping Tool6 where local leaders can learn about the community in which they live and find social information to spark change.
“When you have a future... life changes”7 says Carolyn Acker, who in 2012 was made a member of the Order of Canada for her contributions to increasing access to education for thousands of disadvantaged students across Canada.
It takes the whole village to raise a child.
Edvance Software congratulates the many dedicated volunteers and staff of Pathways to Education. Edvance will continue to support staff and volunteers of schools, prisons, and communities across Canada and the U.S. who are working hard to provide a future for those who, for whatever reason, may feel that they do not have one.
In the physical sciences, "self-assembly is the process by which an organized structure spontaneously forms from individual components."1
In an article by Marina Gorbis2, executive director of The Institute of the Future, self-assembly schooling is the process whereby some learners are driven to create their own system of learning using a variety of community resources. These extreme learners, as they are sometimes called by the Institute, are driven by their social community and peer group and often operate outside of regular educational institutions.
Marina Gorbis predicts that what these extreme learners are doing on the fringes today will become the norm in the near future. "This" she says, "necessitates a much grander rethink of institutions and pedagogy than we have so far attempted"2
The Khan Lab School3 in Mountainview CA, founded by Salman Khan of Khan Academy fame, is experimenting with a school structure built around projects. There are no grade level divisions. In the afternoons, students work on projects; in the mornings, they work on basic skills. Everything is being recorded as one would do in a science lab.
When I look back at my own school days, highlights center around projects that I chose and that allowed me to form special relationships with peers and teachers.
Who knows if the schools of the future will be organized around projects instead of grades. Who knows exactly what education will look like in the future. Nevertheless, it seems to me that schools that are bent on allowing students to learn through creative and innovative projects will be hard to resist, and that those special creative projects that students engage in will also be of particular interest to future employers.
The school of tomorrow that facilitates such learning and at the same time tests for basics will, I believe, be the school that can best prepare students for the future.
In the near future, it may not be enough that schools are connected and that students have access to information online. If boards and universities want to attract today’s learners they may have to entice them through projects and engagement.
Reid Hoffman4, founder of Linkedin, argues that learning is ultimately a social experience and that at least one educational network that caters to the engagement of students, teachers, and parents around specific projects of interest will go mainstream.
To me, every school is unique because every teacher and every student is unique. I believe that education is a social activity which more and more needs to express itself in various creative ways.
To do that, schools will need intuitive flexible software that is able to support the unique challenges that students, teachers, parents, and administrators choose to tackle together.
Edvance is proud to be supporting big changes that are happening in some schools.
•We are building bridges to tools like Google Classroom.
•We are supporting dynamic scheduling so that students can self-assemble.
•We are building data analysis tools that allow boards to assess the results of group testing in such a way that they can improve teaching from year to year.
•We are building portals that display progress updates (written by both student and teacher) on specific objectives of the curriculum that must be mastered as groups work on projects both inside and outside the classroom.
We are working hard to advance the art of education one step at a time.
New times call for new directions. Originally we planned on being a company that would supply high school teachers with the best and most flexible software on the market. We are doing that but we are also doing much more.
Our software has gone to the Quebec Department of Education. In line with a trend to provide analytical data to the classroom teacher, we are now supplying the technology needed to analyze the question by question results of all provincial exams written by all secondary students attending English High Schools in the province of Quebec. Now administrators and teachers can learn specifics about each and every concept tested on common exams. This knowledge will allow for more focused teaching in future years and Edvance is very proud to be part of that.
Our software is also heading down the path of differentiated instruction. Some years back we started building IEP tools that helped special education teachers create detailed curricula for each of their students. We are now focused on providing all teachers with the tools needed to personalize the classroom curriculum for all students.
With our new software, students at different levels in the curriculum sequence can be assessed daily on their progress and can be guided on a more individual basis. Now through a student portal, teachers and students together can assess progress on an informal basis. Activities geared either to remediation or advancement can be assigned using the same technology.
Our software has also gone to prisons where it helps incarcerated students who are following college courses brought to them through a consortium of universities in New Jersey and Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Edvance is very proud to help in this important work..
As this school year comes to a close, Edvance will be planning again for 2015-2016 and beyond. The educational world is constantly changing and we promise to keep changing with it.
Have a wonderful summer!
I heard it again the other night on CBC. Amanda Lang on The National was advocating that we dump our Bismarckian system of education built for the industrial age and begin again. I beg to differ.
Begin again? Using which model? Some are advocating that we drop our system of grade levels and move to a continuous progress environment. Years back that was tried in LaSalle. They built an open area school and dropped it on the teachers. Within a year the teachers had rebuilt the interior walls using bookcases, projection screens, desks.
Should we go with the Studio model that seems to be catching on in England? Proponents of this model say that the students are engaged because their studies are “real” and meaningful. In Quebec in the 70s we built comprehensive high schools and filled them with expensive shops. Today most of those shops have been removed.
Should we go with the Flipped Classroom where students can listen to a lesson online at home and the teacher can facilitate individual progress in the class? Why not adopt the Harlem Community Zone project which engages the complete community in the progress of the child?
But does progress require a new beginning?
It seems to me that we ought to look at what we have done and see how we might invest in making it better using what we now know while learning from our previous mistakes..
What do we know? We know that knowledge itself is a commodity. Our students can find it everywhere and a lot faster than educators can supply it. We know that we have to teach our students the skills they need to learn from what they know, to create and to solve problems using what they know.
We know that students learn differently. Teachers have known that for a long time. The difference today is we have the technology to provide individualized instruction. But it won't happen by throwing out the baby with the bath water. I think we can succeed if we support and encourage teachers to make changes by giving them the tools and the training that can lead to timely interventions for each of their students.
Teachers now can use thousands of Khan Academy videos to reinforce what an individual student might have missed.
Teachers know that some students don’t need to attend every class lesson they have planned. Now new technological scheduling features can allow those students to be somewhere else...with a mentor, a master, an executive or a retired teacher online.
Today we have adaptive learning software that can analyze the way an individual learns a concept. For example. suppose two students are shown an abacus online and asked to create the number 48. One student might immediately form 4 tens and a group of 8. Another might hesitate and move 48 beads one at a time. The software will analyse the result and direct one student to the next concept and the second student to exercises involving groups of 10.
Edvance is proud to be a software company that is working hard to advance the art of education by providing learning analytics. Recently, we contracted with the Education Ministry of Quebec to provide administrators with insights via dashboards that allow them to view the individual results of all questions on ministry exams so that teachers can improve instruction when they teach that topic again.
We at Edvance Software are in the process of developing software that will allow students to make choices about how they might spend their day, when they will schedule their homework, how they will form groups to creatively solve a problem, etc.
At the same time we are building software that will help engage parents.
Recently we have been working with Holy Trinity School in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Founded in 1981, HTS is an exceptional school that has grown and adapted.
With the help of Edvance Software, HTS has recently initiated steps that support differentiated learning within the classroom. The staff at HTS has built a database of specific curriculum objectives along with the resources needed to teach those objectives. Through an Edvance portal, those objectives and resources are made available to students, teachers, and parents. Using their own login, students can assess their progress on those objectives independently from their teachers’ assessments and parents can view these exchanges.
Keeping what they have, HTS is improving upon it. It is not a question of adopting a new model so much as moving forward with an added layer which is now completely possible because of technological advances. The school’s train is rolling along nicely. HTS has moved the tech train along side so that students, teachers, and parents can jump aboard without any loss of momentum.
Our teachers don't need to be told that what they have been doing is wrong and that we need to begin again. They need to be supported and encouraged. They, like their students, need to know that they might not always get it right the first time. And that is ok. We need to support an atmosphere where adventures as well as misadventures get iterated so that our schools and our teaching improve from year to year.
Don’t advise us to begin again. Help us to learn from our mistakes and improve day by day.
The New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP) is an association of higher education institutions in New Jersey that works in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Corrections and State Parole Board to provide higher education courses to students under the custody of the State of New Jersey and assist in the transition to college life upon their release into the community.1
NJ-STEP needed a web-based student information system that could track their students across different institutions; a system that could provide their staff with advanced reporting and curriculum planning abilities as well as ongoing unified data that could be evaluated by their funders. After a thorough search, they chose Edvance Software. Edvance Software will partner with NJ- STEP to provide the customized software they need to manage their unique program. Edvance has tailored their student management software system (ESS) to ensure that NJ-STEP can collect real time data on all their college bound students.
“We are always looking to make a positive difference in the world of education”, said Michael Bush, the president and founder of Edvance Software. “NJ-STEP has given that goal a real push. We feel privileged indeed that among all the options available they have chosen us. We are honoured to be able to contribute to this worthy cause.”
Although NJ-STEP is relatively new, the work of providing postsecondary courses in New Jersey correctional facilities is not.
An early champion of this idea is Dr. Celia Chazelle, a professor of history at the College of New Jersey. In 1997 she went to the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordenville to do research on the recidivism rate of the facility but quickly became interested in giving academic lessons. With the help of her college and the cooperation of the department of corrections she set up a History 101 course inside the facility.
“I had all these preconceptions about it,” she says. “I mean, some of them are accurate. Prisons can be places of violence, they’re very harsh, you don’t question authority, that sort of thing. But at the same time, what I had not been expecting was this level of intellectual engagement and interest and the courteousness of the students I was teaching. They were very grateful and very eager to do the work.”2
The NJ-STEP program is presently funded by the Ford Foundation, the Sunnybrook foundation and others. It is part of Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education, an initiative launched in 2012 by the Vera Institute of Social Justice. Three states are participating in the Pathways program and results will be evaluated by the Rand Corporation in 2017.
According to Fred Patrick, the director of Pathways, approximately 44% of the individuals released from prison are re-incarcerated within three years. But studies suggest that graduating from college programs can decrease the recidivism by approximately 72%. The recidivism rate for the graduates of the NJ-STEP program is less than 10%.3
NJ-STEP operates out of the Office of the Chancellor at Rutgers University. Some of their staff are academic counsellors who screen and test the candidates. The students’ needs are compiled and courses are provided by an institution closest to the facility. Upon release, students are supported until they have graduated from their chosen college. Job counselling and contacts with employers are also provided.
Enrolment in the program is voluntary and applicants must pass a General Education Development test. Once accepted, the slightest infraction will remove them from the program.
NJ- STEP is presently operating in six facilities associated with 8 higher education institutions including Princeton and Rutgers. Eight hundred students are enrolled. Recently the Governor of New Jersey promised funding for expansion into 11 more facilities.
The goal of NJ-STEP is to connect every state correctional facility in New Jersey with a college in New Jersey so that every incarcerated student who qualifies for college can have the chance to follow courses and then continue studying upon release.
This is their vision. Edvance Software is proud to support it.
The first time we saw the Summit School Players perform was in November 2010 at Oscar Peterson Hall in Montreal. The musical extravaganza was called “The Godfather- a Family Reunion.” We haven’t missed a performance since.
Summit School is a private school in Montreal that serves special needs students ranging in age from 4 to 21. Edvance Software has been associated with Summit School since 2009 when we were invited to cooperate with them in the building of a curriculum management software to help organize IEP’s and to assist in the evaluation of progress within a differentiated learning structure.
Many of the Summit players have now graduated but they continue to perform through the “I Can Dream Theatre Group,” a talented troupe of young adults with special needs who come together each year to produce a professional musical extravaganza. This year’s production was called “One night at the Copacabana” and it was superb in every way.
During the performance I was particularly focused on a young player whom I had met personally after the production of “the Godfather.” When we met then he had trouble making eye contact with me. On the stage he was once again engaging and riveting and I was intrigued by the impact that music and the theatre were having on his life.
Shortly after enjoying the musical production by this group, I happened to read an article by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek in TIME magazine titled “What’s Right with the Autistic Mind.”. In this article (and in their book titled THE AUTISTIC BRAIN) the authors argue for the need to focus on the strengths of brains that are built differently. The autistic person, they argue, is not only a person with deficits but also a person with highly developed strengths.
For example, an autistic person is often creative, good at associative thinking, prone to noticing details and patterns. Music, of course, is all about patterns found in sound.
Before the performance of The Godfather in 2010, I remember the principal of Summit School inviting us to sit back and enjoy the talents that would be displayed. We were invited to look beyond the special needs and to enjoy the strengths. We saw musicians, singers, actors, and dancers who with the help of caring educators were able to produce a very professional musical despite their deficits. They chose to not let their special needs define them. They chose instead to cultivate their dreams.
Edvance salutes the work of Summit and now the work of the “I Can Dream Theatre Group.” We wish them both every success in the future.
“What’s Right with the Autistic Mind” by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek. Time, 0ct. 7th, 2013
“The Autistic Brain” by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
Year after year we collect and publish the summary performances of the students in our schools. We know and discuss averages, failure rates, dropout statistics, etc. But does any of that help us teach more successfully the following year?
When I taught high school Math, I often used old editions of provincial exams for review because I could depend on the fact that all principal concepts in the course would be tested every year. Particular questions were never repeated but the old exams provided a good structure for an organized review.
When the exam was over and the results tallied, I compared my class average to other class averages then I filed the exam away to use it for review the following year.
But what if I had decided to dig a little deeper? What if I had collected data on the performance of every student on every concept tested on that exam? What if all teachers across the province did the same thing so that we knew, for example, that 90 percent of students in the course had failed the question that evaluated the concept of a function? Now I would have some very useful information that could help improve my teaching the following year.
For a short period in my career I was lucky enough to work with a math coordinator who collected such data. On all common exams he insisted that we collect statistics on each question asked. So when we returned the exams to the students we would say: “Raise your hand if you answered question one correctly....question two.....question three”. Then we would submit the information to our coordinator and he would analyze the results and come back to us with suggested teaching materials and suggested timelines for the following year. Slowly but surely the teaching improved.
The way we collected the data was archaic, and probably only partially accurate, but it worked!
Today educators are embracing learning analytics and the value of more relevant data about their students. In line with this growing demand we are not only providing teachers with a more meaningful breakdown of student results but have also begun providing the tools and dashboards needed to see, at a glance, the pace at which a student progresses through a given curriculum. With the proper tools in place, dimensions such as rate, overall productivity and motivation can be tracked and fed back to the teachers who, in turn, provide timely support and feedback to their students.
At Edvance we believe that to teach is to facilitate learning. In order to facilitate well, educators need simple and straightforward access to key information. Our recently upgraded curriculum management tools are a concrete and very tangible next step in this important direction.
Edvance Software continues to develop teacher tools to facilitate change. We invite you to join us as we travel down that road.
For a while, early in my career, I worked as a resource teacher in a large Montreal high school.
In part, I was mandated to help level one students who were at risk of failing.
I decided to track their effort using a form that later came to be known as the Control Sheet.
Teachers were asked to rate the daily effort of particular students by quickly giving them a C, S,
or M for Commendable, Satisfactory or Minimal. It worked! Marks started to improve.
It worked, I think, because it was simple and easy to use. The form gave me daily feedback without me needing to hunt
down each teacher. At the end of the day, I would meet with each student and praise and support movement in the right
direction. Sometimes I would phone home to share the good news.
Still, there were problems. Some students conveniently lost their Control Sheet especially when the Minimals were mounting. Others forgot to have a particular teacher sign. Some failed to see me after school. More importantly, I was not able to intervene immediately if the student needed me. Intervention was always delayed.
It is easier today to track and reward the effort of students. Today, with the right software, a teacher can record specific behaviors using any web connected device. An administrator or resource teacher will receive notice of the incident electronically. There is no need for a paper form.
Edvance Software is proud to offer such a system that makes it easy for schools to support good behavior. Our Behavior module can be easily customized to count any behavior (good or bad) that a school wants to specify. Parents can be automatically notified by email after a specified number of incidents have occurred. Because the system counts and archives the behaviors recorded, the school can easily assign an effort mark which can be part of the term report.
Best of all, the Behavior module of the Edvance Software System allows for immediate intervention by support staff thus preventing bigger issues from arising. Communication between teacher and office is immediate. One vice- principal using our system likes to tell the story of meeting a student just as he was leaving a class where he had misbehaved. He asked, "Something happen in class just now, young man?" The student replied, "How did you know, sir?"
The Edvance Behavior module is one part of a complete Student Information System which is available for use in your school. But it can also be used as an add-on alongside your present School Management System. There is no need to change your system if you like what you have.
Our Behavior module can be hosted on your server or in the cloud. And even though it is easy to use we provide you with support and training.
Speak to us to arrange for an extended trial. We will be happy to set one up for you.
For more information about this module click here.
Five days into my teaching career I experienced my first major challenge. The self appointed leader of my class of 30 six graders had decided not to do his work. I knew what I had to do but would I get the support I needed?
"You'll stay today until your work is done", I announced. I didn't have much choice. I was the new replacement. It was November 20th and the previous teacher was gone for the year due to a nervous breakdown.
It took until 6:30 p.m. but I finally won. I won because my decision was supported. I did not stand alone.
My principal called home to say "Johnny" would be late. He called again to say he would be quite late and then he sent me in coffee and food. (That was the moment of success. As I ate, Johnny started working)
Johnny's parents stood by me. I am sure they were tempted to question the judgment of this young and inexperienced educator but they didn't.
The community stood by me. I worked for a small board that was well organized and highly supportive. I worked in a town that was safe and where public transportation was available. It seemed that everyone wanted me to succeed and, through me, the children.
Edvance Software is a proud supporter of teachers. Our online student management system was designed by educators with the goal of providing teachers with user friendly tools that allow them to spend more time teaching.
Throughout the year in this newsletter we will examine topics which we hope will be helpful to teachers and others. We welcome your comments.
Edvance wishes all of you a successful and happy new academic year.
In particular, we would like to welcome the following schools to the Edvance community.
• Emmanuel Christian School, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec
• West Island College, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec
• Newbridge Academy, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia
We are happy that more educators can now count on the Edvance K-12 web-based system to manage all academic aspects of their school operations.
In all provinces and territories across Canada an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is required for children with special needs. But does this mandate actually lead to better daily instruction for those students in their classrooms?
According to A Cross-Canada Review of Selected Issues in Special Education prepared for Alberta Education in 2008 by McBride Management Ltd., the process of identifying children with special needs and organizing a team to produce an individualized instructional plan is common practice right across Canada.
What is not clear, however, is whether the process is effective. Does each child learn better because of it or is the IEP a tool that is generally mandated but forgotten on a daily basis?
Data on the effectiveness of the IEP process is simply not available. The researchers for the Cross-Canada Review note that responsibility for evaluation falls generally to either the classroom teacher or the resource teacher. Data is not collected at the provincial/territorial level and there is a disconnect between what is done in the field and what is mandated by directives.
The IEP, of course, should be and is much more than just an accountability tool. It is a teaching tool produced yearly by dedicated professionals who want to deliver the best education possible for their charges. It needs to be front and centre in the classroom influencing daily instruction.
How do we know if the IEP is effective on a daily basis? At the end of a workshop on IEPs one teacher suggested the following answer: "That's easy...if it is a good IEP it will be on the desk, wrinkled and coffee stained ...".
Summit School in St. Laurent, QC. is a special place. The staff there work very hard to develop specific instructional plans for each of their students who are all exceptional in some way. They have written thousands of measurable objectives which are carefully assigned to students and then used to evaluate progress.
In 2011, Summit teamed up with Edvance Software. They asked us to develop software that would support the specific and extensive work on IEPs that they had already produced. The first module we built facilitates the sorting and classifying of thousands of measurable objectives that can be assigned to individual students. The second module facilitates the evaluation of the assigned goals.
We are confident that the work mandated by Summit will be helpful to other educators teaching exceptional children in a variety of classroom situations. In fact, we are proud to report that the modules have already been adapted for St. Bonaventure's College, a K to 12 school in Newfoundland. They are using the software to evaluate all children enrolled in their various elementary grades.
We find this development significant. If, because of technology, it becomes relatively easy to assign and evaluate goals specific to each and every child, would that change the way we teach? Would a better tracking system change:
• the way we schedule the students' day?
• the way we assign homework?
• the way we organize the curriculum?
• the way we engage mentors from the community?
Is it possible to make the process of writing and evaluating individual education plans so easy and so painless that future generations of teachers will look back at the way we are doing things now and say "I can't believe that they taught the same topic to the entire group at the same pace in the same room"?
A Cross-Canada Review of Selected Issues in Special Education http://education.alberta.ca/media/938183/crosscanadareview_mcbride.pdf
The Good IEP! http://www.bbbautism.com/news_arch_pdf/vol_2_iss_1_IEP_pdf.pdf
A colleague of mine once said to her grade nine drama class: "I know you are going through puberty.....just don't do it in my class!"
Is there a better way to view those formative years? In his excellent article titled "Beautiful Brains" in the October edition of National Geographic, author David Dobbs argues that adolescent behavior that is exasperating to us may in fact be key to the teenager's future success as an adult.
From an evolutionary point of view, some researchers are beginning to see the teenage brain as crucially adaptive "wired almost perfectly for the job of moving from the safety of the home into the complicated world outside."
Do teenagers act the way they do because they underestimate risk? Apparently not. Studies show that teenagers estimate risk much like adults do.
Teenagers take more chances because they give more weight to the payoff. They weigh risk versus reward differently than adults do. "In scientific terms"' writes Dobbs, "teenagers can be a pain in the ass. But they are quite possibly the most fully, crucially adaptive human beings around."
Interesting. What are the implications for parents and educators? How can we help our teenagers be adaptive as well as safe?
We can continue to educate so that they know all the risks. Young people need to know, for instance, that brain maturation once thought to be complete in the early years continues to develop until around age 25. As neurologist Francis Jensen points out, this means that " a teenager who smokes pot will still show cognitive deficits days later. An adult will return to cognitive baseline much faster."
Also we can continue to offer payoffs in the form of praise and publicity and added choice for behavior that is creative as well as appropriate. Edvance has, for instance, a module that we call Behavior and Discipline which facilitates real time reporting of disruptive student behavior to the school administration. What if we used it to report the adaptive, creative, and fascinating behaviors that students do everyday ...as well as the disruptive behaviors.
Why do teens act the way they do? It helps them find their path in life which, in turn, helps all of us move forward.
Researcher Danielle Pillet-Shore of the University of New Hampshire has shown that parent-teacher conferences are frequently not about the student but more about the parent's ability to parent and the teacher's ability to teach. Is there a better way?
Maria C. Paredes, director of community education at Creighton School District in Phoenix, Arizona, has developed an alternative to the parent-teacher conference which has caught the interest of the U.S. Department of Education.
Called the Academic Parent-Teacher Team (APTT), parents meet collectively with the teacher three times a year to learn and practice specific activities related to classroom objectives. They are then asked to practice these activities with their child and to assess the progress. A parent liaison is chosen to help with problems and parents can also meet with the teacher individually.
During the 2009-2010 school year 12 teachers signed up for the new approach. They found that the time commitment was the same as the old approach but that class results were much better. And parents reported liking their new involvement.
This year (2010-2011), 79 teachers representing 1732 students and families are using the APTT model. Parent attendance for APTT meetings averages 92%.
The APTT model is proving successful at the primary level. What kind of changes would be needed to adapt this model to a high school setting?
A high school teacher will often meet parents as a group only at the beginning of the school year. What if strategies were in place to involve the parents in specific classroom objectives? What if parents were taught, as a group, certain activities which were known to improve student performance?
Could software be created to help record and summarize the progress the parents were initiating? What if they could immediately see the improvements of the whole class because data was being collected and analysed daily? What if they knew each other well enough to offer and receive team support?
The parent-teacher night as it exists now is often a dreaded event both for the teacher and the parent. Maybe a new model is needed.
At Edvance Software we are always searching for new and creative ways to advance the art of education. Our Family Homepages presently support the scheduling of more meaningful parent-teacher interviews and are being developed further to give parents access to course topics and homework assignments. Software that helps support Academic Parent-Teacher Teams could very well be next. Tell us what you think.
For further reading:
What kind of school management software will be needed when the World Wide Web gets smart enough to evaluate and organize the information educators want?
The next step in the evolution of the web is called Semantic Web and it is already influencing the way we teach. When you read "semantic" think "meaningful": Semantic Web technology is making information more meaningful to us by making it more understandable to computers.
The U.S. Library of Congress has recently incorporated Semantic Web technology into its Teaching with Primary Sources program. Teachers can now custom build their lesson plans in real time based on their selection of relevant topics. Students will have access to the same technology and will be able to prepare and present projects based on their own selection of relevant key words or pointers.
As this Semantic Web technology develops, the impact on education will be profound.
Imagine you are a student or one of several in a group assigned to research Egyptian unrest. Using a search engine, you type in 'politics in Egypt' and you get an overwhelming number of hits many of which may be irrelevant or outdated. But with Web 3.0 in place, the computer could provide a multimedia report instead of a list of hits. This report might present points of agreement and disagreement with appropriate links. In addition, because the web would know something about you, it would alert you to local lectures, cable T.V. programs, or even local groups that you could contact regarding this topic.
The students of today are digital natives whereas most teachers are digital immigrants who are sometimes slow to incorporate the latest technological advances. The connected generation wants to be engaged in interactive, collaborative learning environments. The Semantic Web can help make that happen.
As teachers change the way they teach, will schools need to change the way they organize themselves? Will management tools that are now in place be appropriate for a school that might be more student-centric and socially connected?
The World Wide Web is changing the way we govern, the way we do business and even the way we play our games. Congratulations Watson! It will certainly influence the way we manage our schools.
Educators will need software that can adapt quickly to their changing needs. They will want and need to be a part of the development process.
Edvance Software is built by educators for educators. We already use a collaborative development model and we have a strong successful history of customization. Our goal is to advance the art of education by empowering schools through the development of software solutions that meet their ever-changing needs.
What kind of school management software will be needed when the World Wide Web gets smart enough to evaluate and organize the information educators want?
Only 58.8% of Quebec students who started high school in September 2002 graduated in the normal 5 year period. Of all the Canadian provinces, Quebec is in 9th place; of 30 countries in the world, Canada is in 16th place, well behind Finland which has a 95% graduation rate.
The published numbers have prompted a variety of comments, most of which are simply not helpful. It doesn't help to cast blame. CEGEPS can blame the high schools, and high school personnel can complain that the children do not know their basics. The Premier can call for more support from parents and parents can "pass the buck" back to the government.
Sociologist Michel Perron successfully intervened to significantly lower the dropout rate in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area. The dropout rate was considered more than an educational problem. It was also seen as a social problem for which, by mobilizing the local community, Dr. Perron found a successful solution.
Dr. Perron encouraged the people of the area to support a community initiative to keep students in school and the region now boasts a 76% graduation rate up from 66% in 1998. Dr. Perron discovered that the school dropout rate was costing the region 200 million dollars a year in lost economic opportunity and his documentation enticed stakeholders outside the educational sector to support the plan - parents, employers, health officials etc. The formula helped inspire a province-wide school retention program with a target of 80% graduation rate by 2020.
We can read about other inspiring initiatives all across Quebec. Youth Fusion just announced that in the Montreal area, 8 universities, 7 school boards, 30 businesses and institutions have agreed to pool their resources and donate more than 1.1 million dollars to help encourage student retention. In Verdun, the program Toujours Ensemble offers students a place to study and gather after school.
At Lasalle Community Comprehensive High School (LCCHS) dropout rates have decreased significantly thanks to a united effort by the whole community. When students reported employment hours as a principal obstacle to graduation, local employers were contacted and agreed to reduce student work hours to a reasonable limit. As well, LCCHS connected their students with The Montreal Board of Trade which offers students summer internships in stimulating jobs; with Youth Fusion which has offered its support; with the Montreal Alouettes who come to the school to speak to students about the importance of staying in school. In addition, the school supports over 30 different sports teams and a variety of programs including the Phoenix Alternate Program and the Cooperative Learning Work Skills Program which help keep "at risk" students in school.
Progress is possible, especially if we work together.
At Edvance we have always looked for ways to contribute to the success of all students. For instance, our Behaviour and Discipline Module gives administrators real-time feedback on student behaviour patterns which can then be reported online to parents. Our Attendance Module is a proven winner against "skipping". Edvance helps schools make informed decisions about their students.
We are committed to the development of customized software and believe in a "what if" philosophy that challenges us to do things differently.
What if we use software to track and evaluate collected data about students and why they are leaving school? What if we use software to track signs of failure? What if we use software to track signs of success? What if we connect mentors with targeted students allowing for personal online support? What if we offer an anonymous hot-line for students thinking of dropping out of school? What if we link our day care data so that we can target "at risk" children early?
Edvance Software seeks to advance the art of education and we believe that there is much that can be done. What can we do to help reduce the dropout rate in your school or your school board?
Share your concerns with us and perhaps together we can create a viable solution.
It takes a village to raise a child. It is our collective responsibility to support our students every day.
Register an activity for the Montreal Hooked on School Days!
The deadline is January 27, 2011.
From February 14 to 18, 2011, the Montreal area will be holding its first Hooked on School Days. This week long event will be a unique opportunity to rally the entire community.
For more information or to register, visit www.reseaureussitemontreal.ca/spip.php?rubrique2
Bullying occurs once every seven minutes on the playground and once every twenty-five minutes in the classroom according to a study quoted by Rob Frenette and Katie Neu, two students who have launched a national campaign against bullying. (see BullyingCanada.ca)
Being safe in school and in relationships is fundamental. Canada has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which specifies in article 29, that education shall be directed to "the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, and tolerance."
Bullying is truly about relationships. It is harmful to the children who are victimized, harmful to those who do the bullying, and harmful to the children who witness it. Furthermore, the stress and anxiety caused by bullying can often have a negative effect on learning as it can inhibit a child's ability to focus.
Studies have also shown that youth who witness incidents of bullying have wanted to do something about it "on the spot" but were often afraid to act.
• What if it were easy for children to report incidents of bullying quickly and anonymously?
• What if they could quickly and easily text an incident to an adult authority?
• What if new software developments could facilitate an immediate response?
Edvance has an effective behaviour and discipline module which helps educators track student behaviour, but we are interested in your comments on how we can, as software developers, help educators track and treat incidents of bullying.
Share your ideas with us! What do you think would be helpful in the prevention of bullying in our schools and communities?
References and helpful websites:
Edvance is proud to support the 16th edition of the Student Stock Exchange project where young entrepreneurs from 17 different high schools in the Montreal area will soon be promoting and selling their various products.
Approximately 250 company teams of 6 to 10 students will be working hard in the next few months to bring their products to market.
The project begins in each schools level 5 economics class but is designed to engage administrators, other teachers, parents, and business leaders.
The fun continues until April when the whole school comes together on the Stock Exchange floor to watch the ticker tape powered by Edvance Software record the real time stock prices of the various companies.
This year the grand finale for all participating students will be held at École secondaire dAnjou. To learn more about this project visit www.SSX.ca
Edvance Software is proud to be the technical support behind this fine project and will continue to support novel initiatives that advance the art of education.
Edvance expands with a sleek new design, improved use of space, integration of Gradebook and Course Planner, and a new Seating Plan module.
Edvance's collaborative model of development continues to grow and strengthen. We are proud to announce that in co-operation with Loyola High School we have completely redesigned our Edvance School Management System.
Our existing clients will be getting this new 3.0 version as part of their annual license fee and at no extra cost. They and all future clients will continue to benefit from the changes made by the expanding Edvance developer community. Our software continues to grow; it is built by educators for educators.
Key enhancements of Edvance version 3.0 include the following:
Previously separated modules have been merged thereby increasing the overall efficiency of the system and enhancing the user experience. There is now less navigation between modules.
Editing on the Spot
Authorized users can update records by clicking on any area of their choice. A 'save' or 'cancel' icon will appear, as needed, in that location.
Users can find the profile of any student in the school by entering a part or all of the student's first or last name. You can also search by class, level, or teacher.
This new module allows teachers to see their students before the first day of classes. They can start outlining a seating plan by dragging and dropping student pictures into a virtual classroom.
Bar Code Technology
Administrators have the option of scanning a student's ID bar code to record lates and absences. Personalized 'admit-to-class' notes can also be printed automatically.
When entering marks, a teacher can view how a change to a particular grade will affect the entire class set thereby allowing for more efficient interactions and fewer clicks.
Modern Site Design
An entirely new look with a simple and beautiful layout allows users to quickly find content and view more information per page. Schools can continue to use their own logos, colors, fonts, and styles.
At Edvance we are committed to the creation of adaptive learning communities through the use of online technologies. The launch of School Management System 3.0 demonstrates that commitment.
"We believe the education sector can benefit immensely from advances in technology. Access to information anytime, anywhere is only the first logical step. A year ago we delivered a fully online system compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. With 3.0 we deliver a robust, relevant and easy to use software that allows teachers to focus primarily on their roles as mentors...The future of educational software should remain in the hands of educators, and we're going to keep working on new and innovative ways to give them this opportunity."
To learn more about the Developer License and how your school can directly influence the development of future versions of the Edvance Software System click here.
With our new module, parents go online to select a convenient interview time. No fuss. No lining up to meet the teacher.
In the past the task of pre-scheduling parents for teacher interviews was so daunting that often it was not done. Parents had to wait in line. No longer.
The Edvance Software System recently included a module that allows parents to login and schedule appointment times with teachers. Final schedules are then published via the parent and teacher homepages. Parents and teachers can then print schedules and prepare for the interviews in advance.
Although the parents request specific interview times, the administration retains full control and can modify requests as needed. The administration can set priorities allowing, for instance, parents of underachieving children to be scheduled first. In addition they can set a "blackout" time between meetings thereby forcing parents to respect travel time between classrooms and assuring that the evening proceeds smoothly.
We are very happy to share with you that our beta test of the system went extremely well and that in one Montreal school the task of scheduling was reduced from approximately forty or fifty hours to just a few! We are hoping that we can help other schools do the same.
If you already schedule interviews for your parents and teachers or would like to be able to do so at your school, we encourage you to contact us about this new and time-saving module of the Edvance Software System.
Testimonial February 2010
For a number of years I have been manually scheduling Loyola's Parent/Teacher Interviews which occur three times a year. Recently Paul Donovan, Principal, and I were calculating approximately how long it took me each time to do this. We came up with about 40 hours per session. So when the possibility of it being made available on-line so that parents could schedule their own appointments, I was very excited.
Many variables came into play whenever I did do the scheduling, so I had a few reservations of how this would be accomplished on line. Mike spent some time with me collecting information of what exactly I took into consideration when scheduling, eg. how long between appointments, locations of different teachers, etc., in order that he could create a similar program. Although I was looking forward to being relieved of this long process, I certainly had my reservations of how it would actually work successfully. I anticipated spending hours on the phone 'walking' parents through the new process.
My reservations were unfounded. I was blown away at how smoothly this entire process played out. The instructions given to the parents could not have been any simpler. The phone calls I received were minimal, and were for the most part, the parents inability to understand simple instructions - not the program. A couple of glitches occured, but mainly due to our not considering a particular situation ahead of time. They were rectified immediately.
It was the first attempt at this new system and I am thrilled to say how impressed I was with the outcome. There are a couple of changes that I feel will help improve the process even more, but all in all it was great!
Loyola High School
With the evaluation results already entered during the term, what if the only thing teachers needed to do at report card time was to enter comments?
With the Edvance Software System data needs to be entered only once. By using the attendance and evaluation features throughout the term, during reporting periods teachers can simply import existing data into the mark entry view and add comments.
For teachers needing to report competencies, cross curricular and course evaluations are preentered in our database. At reporting time, our system will automatically create a competency profile for each student based on traditional marks calculated by the teacher. These auto-profiles can be modified as needed and serve to offer teachers a suggested starting point on which to base their final term evaluations.
Attendance patterns are invaluable to any school administration. But the daily task of tracking attendance can be very time consuming to both support staff and teachers. It can interfere with the flow of instruction and it can make late students even later as records are updated and late slips are issued.
It doesn't have to be like that. There is an easier way. With the Edvance Software System teachers record period by period lates and absences online from their classrooms (or from any location). This information is compared automatically with lates and absences authorized by the school office. Discrepancies are instantly highlighted. Patterns of suspicious behaviour are easily identified and can be dealt with immediately.
At one Montreal high school, a month after our software system was installed, a student went to the office to announce that he had missed period four. "I figured I should face the music now because I knew you would see it by the end of the day."
With our system the benefits are measurable. Teachers are interrupted less. Attendance is up and lates are down. In addition, at reporting time attendance is not a concern for teachers since the data is already in the system.
Handling admissions is a full time job. Since there are many inquiries at Open House as well as throughout the year, the information gathered needs to be organized and centralized in one easy to access location.
Our admissions module was designed to do exactly that. Custom fields allow you to track whatever is most important to you as you make decisions regarding who will make up the next generation of students at your school.
One school for instance, uses entrance exam results and interview ratings to help them assess applicants. The Edvance Software System organizes all the data allowing for faster and more accurate decisions.
Saving you time remains one of our highest priorities. Once you have determined which students are to be accepted into the school, a single click of the mouse will import all their profiles into the main school system. There are no data redundancies nor is there the need to re-enter any information already in the system.
Enter the data once and maximize its service to you.
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