In Arizona, Kyrene School District is an ‘A’ rated district comprised of 19 elementary schools and six middle schools. In all, more than 17,000 K-8 students and 400 pre-schoolers spend their school day in Kyrene’s classrooms. The district includes a wide area, serving parts of Tempe, Chandler, Guadalupe, Phoenix, and Gila River Indian Reservation.
Kyrene’s approach to digital curriculum is among the nation’s most exciting, and as one of its technology leaders, Lynette Nield works to provide each of Kyrene’s students a consistent digital learning experience. We spoke with Lynette about the excitement – and the challenges – that come from Kyrene’s use of technology both in the back office and in its classrooms.
Can you talk a bit about the district’s tech initiatives for 2015?
As Kyrene looks at new initiatives, we are always putting student learning in the forefront. We’re focused on evaluating current programs and seeking out resources aligned with Common Core. Most recently, we rolled out Carnegie Math on the Clever platform. Clever helps us work through these challenges as we add more resources.
How does Clever help you in the classroom?
Back-to-school is a critical time for staff, students and other stakeholders. It’s our goal to make sure students and staff have access to the technology resources they need as quickly as possible.
The key in the classroom is to focus on student achievement and not the technology, such as the mechanics of a device or the process of signing-in to apps. Clever Instant Login helps us alleviate the issue of multiple passwords across the different programs.
Middle school students from Kyrene School District participate in a code-writing exercise. (Allison Hurtado)
How are you using Clever behind the scenes?
We want to make sure that every kid has access to all necessary resources, and this access depends on data in our Student Information System. Clever’s rule sharing allows us to provide student, staff, class and enrollment information upfront, and modify sharing rules on the fly.
For example, we use one app with all of our elementary students, and we use this same app in some middle school classrooms when it is determined that a particular group of students needs this resource for intervention or additional support.
What kind of technical challenges does Kyrene face due to student mobility?
Students are transferring from school to school on a daily basis. In addition to the fact that students and families move from time to time, students in Arizona can apply for open enrollment in schools inside and outside of the district in which they reside.
I personally drive my daughter 20 minutes so she can go to a Kyrene school – and we even have kids who travel from the opposite side of the Phoenix valley.
It can be a big technical challenge because you have to keep the rostering current for each student – in each app – as they come in and out of the schools. It’s a daily process for us. Using Clever, we can avoid sending multiple iterations of the same data to multiple vendors daily, so Clever makes the process much easier as we send one set of files that can be disseminated to venders.
As an added bonus, if a student changes schools or classrooms within the district, this student retains access to Clever supported resources, and is able to login into various systems using the same process and credentials. It makes the experience much more seamless for students.
The key in the classroom is to focus on student achievement and not the technology, such as the mechanics of a device or the process of signing-in to apps.
What about your apps that don’t run on Clever?
We spend a lot of time modifying queries when someone wants to make changes to the data we send various vendors. In data processing, even small changes can involve extensive programming on the backend. Clever’s sharing rules allow us to modify the data that is sent to each app using basic logic. Turnaround time can be longer for programs that require more manipulation of the data being sent. Clever helps us to get the right data to the right vendors more timely and efficiently.
Do you plan to use Clever with more apps?
We definitely plan to expand our use of Clever with apps that meet our needs. In many conversations with vendors, we ask, ‘Are you using Clever?’ and the answer is becoming a ‘yes’ more often. When we use Clever, providing class, teacher, student and enrollment information becomes a lot less time-intensive. The data is already there, and we can fine tune access by applying app-specific rules. It’s nice when you can solve problems with simple solutions.