As its immediate southern suburb, the city of Quincy is a major part of Metropolitan Boston. With a population of almost 100,000 people, it’s the eighth largest city in the state, which means there are a lot of children to educate in Quincy Public School District.
Known as the City of Presidents, Quincy is the birthplace of two US presidents – John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams – as well as John Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence. It’s also the home of Dunkin’ Donuts. With that kind of history, it’s no wonder Quincy Public Schools remains devoted to its long-standing tradition for innovative curriculum and excellence in public education as it strives to prepare students to become leaders in everything they do.
Quincy Public Schools (QPS) comprises 11 elementary schools, five middle schools, two high schools, an early childhood center and a comprehensive extended and continuing education program.
In early 2013, QPS realized a new Student Information System would allow the growing district to improve communication – and therefore efficiency – in everything they do. Challenged to keep up with the myriad demands of communicating effectively with staff, parents and students using their current SIS, QPS administration set out to find a new system that would improve communication at every level, but would also allow for better data collection and state reporting, gradebook usage, special education needs and provide a dynamic student portal.
After consulting neighboring districts and hearing about Follett Aspen™ Student Information System, QPS made the decision to adopt the new software. In August of 2013, they began integrating Aspen, and even today, they continue to learn and discover its many benefits. As Ellen Garofalo, IT Data Coordinator for the district, can attest, Aspen’s vast capabilities mean the district is constantly learning what more they can do with the software. “Quincy is now in our third school year with Aspen and we’re still implementing new features. Aspen is a full-service product, not just a reservoir for student demographics and grades,” Garofalo said.
QPS administrators pointed out that since implementation, they’ve been happy and satisfied with their decision, and they have made a concerted effort to educate all patrons on how to use Aspen. “We’ve held parent academies that we call Connecting Homes to Schools and Student Performance, for introducing new initiatives and training. We also reach out to staff and parents through emailing of newsletters,” said Nicholas Ahearn, Elementary School Principal. “We hosted 200 parents over two nights to help them learn how to use the student portal, and our principals held coffee hours in the morning to introduce parents to standards-based grading. We wanted everyone to know how to use the program and see its benefits.”
Reaching all audiences to tell them about the training sessions was easy, due to Aspen’s email feature that allows a principal to email newsletters and other traditional “backpack” mailings to multiple contacts to ensure it is received by the parent. This email feature extends to the teacher gradebook for communication to either student or parent or both, as well as to the student support staff for scheduled appointments, assessment schedules and student schedule modifications – for high school notification of college and career information workshops and fairs.
“The most significant benefit to Quincy is improved facilitation of communication to families at home,” Garofalo said. “The Aspen portal allows parents to see in real time attendance information, for example, if their student is tardy. Parents can see current contact information to determine if perhaps a cell phone number or address is outdated. Student assignments, due dates, plus scores for assignments, quizzes and tests are also available. A high school student and parent can see at a glance a student’s progress toward graduation requirements and transcript information.”
Ahearn agrees. “Aspen allows parents to see their child’s progress, which is helpful all around. They like seeing that their child is mastering some standards and may need progress in others,” he said.
As the district grows and helps its students strive for success in college and career, they plan to continue to unveil Aspen’s features and help all patrons learn how to best use them, said Keith Segalla, QPS Executive Director of Career and Technical Education. “We’re happy to have a system that allows us to serve parents, students and staff so well,” said Segalla. “We are eager to continue our planning, implementation and assessment of existing and new features offered by Aspen.”
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