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What Can I Do About Bullying?

Along with the rise of technology in education, so is the rise of bullying.

Bullying comes In various forms:

Physical Bullying, Verbal Bullying, Emotional Intimidation, Racist Bullying, Sexual Bullying, Cyber-bullying

Cyber-bullying is on the rise and allows the bully to remain anonymous.  A 2016 study conducted by Dr. Justin Patchin and Dr. Sameer Hinduja surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 5,700 middle and high school students ages 12-17 from July through October.  The results showed that the percentage of students who have experienced cyber bullying at some point in their lifetime has nearly doubled from 18 percent in 2007 to almost 34 percent in 2016.

Cyber-bullying can be done from anywhere and at any time.  This makes it even more threatening.

 

Bullying oftentimes starts at home; it’s a behavior they have witnessed and experienced.  A positive aspect of this is that it can be unlearned.  Schools can help.  Many schools have awareness-raising resources, lesson plans and activities showing how the hurtful  bullying, hatred, bias and bigotry can affect someone.

We are all responsible to practice the skill of literally and figuratively walking away from threatening situations.  But to avoid these events from happening we need to keep communication open in schools and at home.

Cyber-Security: Are You Doing All You Can?

We are all vulnerable to cyber attacks but for varying reasons but education, specifically K-12, is at the bottom rung when compared to private and public sectors in managing their cyber security.  Due to the sensitive nature of student enrollment forms and personal information shared in the student records, it is critical to have a plan and work that plan to avoid being vulnerable to such attacks.

Here are few suggestions to get your district on its way to a safer cyber environment:

• Make sure to provide your staff and volunteers with the tools to stay diligent to suspicious emails to avoid Phishing scams
• Update your anti-virus and anti-malware software
• Incorporate a network redundancy and backup recovery plans

Cyber-security is not something to “get to” in the future, it’s an immediate risk and needs to be made a necessity to building a secure future for our students and districts.

What Online Data Management Means for Educators

There is no doubt that today’s world is data-driven, no matter what industry you’re in. As more and more academic institutions use data to reveal behavioral and academic trends among student bodies, the importance of high-quality data management within the education industry is more important than ever. Data management software allows educational institutions to use, store, share and protect growing volumes of data easily and economically. Storing important information online, such as student records, means educators can have access to them at the click of a button and in real time.

Data management in education goes much further than just storing a student’s report card. Data management systems allow institutions to collect quantitative and qualitative data on their student bodies, like demographics, attendance, course enrollment history, special education information, grades and standardized test scores, teacher qualifications, professional development, and program participation.
Being able to access this data in real-time leads to better teach-to-parent and teacher-to-teacher communication, better standardized test score analysis, and instruction review.

“If school leaders want to lead the charge in improving student performance, they must be fluent in the use of data as a leadership tool. The assumption is that when school leaders are knowledgeable about data use, they can more effectively review their existing capacities, identify weaknesses and better chart plans for improvement” (Illuminate Blog).

Data management systems go beyond just giving educators an easier way to analyze data, these systems can help ensure institutions are “reigning in data growth, managing compliance, privacy and security, and increasing visibility in order to better understand data” (Data Gravity). Regulatory requirements are continuously changing, being proactive in your data management efforts means you’ll have to spend less time “catching up” or “cleaning up”. Today’s world is rapidly moving away from the days of keeping paperwork in filing cabinets. Not only does it take up unnecessary space and resources, it is a serious privacy and security concern. When you store records manually in filing cabinets, there is a heightened risk of losing them or mishandling them.

Using a data management system allows school districts to have better control over data governance. It provides the ability to control which user groups (teachers, admins, parents) have access to specific student data and apply user group security settings to limit what can be done with each data set. Take, for instance, a student’s health records. Those should not be stored in the filing cabinet with their general records, otherwise admins and teachers will have access to the HIPPA protected information. With a data management system, security settings can be utilized so that only the districts medical personnel can view that sensitive information.

The bottom line – data management systems are the future of providing a world-class education to our youth. Not will it alleviate the burden on resources across your district, but it will eliminate administrative bottlenecks, increase and ease communication between the district, teachers, parents and students, and allow teachers the opportunity to build lesson plans based on data analysis of the student body’s knowledge gaps.

Understanding Data Security Threats in Your District

As recent as a few years ago, cyber-security threats were not on the radar of most school district leaders.

That’s according to the sixth annual broadband and infrastructure report released by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a nonprofit made up of K-12 school technology leaders.  An increasing number of district leaders are realizing the importance of bolstering their network security, the report found, and their budget priorities reflect as much.

“School districts, like every organization and person in the world, are concerned with keeping data private and secure,” Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, tells EdSurge. “It’s dramatically up from recent years.”

Based on responses from 386 U.S. school districts, more than one-third (36 percent) of districts spend 10 percent or more of their technology budgets on network security, and another third (31 percent) direct between 5 and 9 percent to security issues.  These security funds are often spent on services such as breach detection and security vulnerability assessments.

As the necessity of data breach avoidance measures increase, so must the awareness to stay on top of this issue.  Our district’s, students, employees, volunteers and others, all deserve the peace of mind that security measures offer.

 

Why Move to an Electronic Document Management System?

If you haven’t already thought about moving to an electronic document management system, here are valid reasons why you should.

  • Reduced Storage Space:  Mounds of paperwork can fill up precious office and storage space.
  • Enhanced Security: Digital vs. hard copy paperwork eliminates the risk of confidential documentation getting into the wrong hands.
  • Improved Compliance:  Paper documents are difficult to track and monitor.  The costs involved with non-compliance could be hefty.
  • Easier and Faster Retrieval:  Searching for documents can eat up productive hours with wasted time and resources.
  • Better Collaboration:  Sharing documents allows for more efficient time management.

The above reasons should prove that moving to an electronic document management system benefits staff, parents and your bottom line.  There are various solutions out there so taking time evaluate what solution will work best for your school or district will be worthwhile.

Are You Managing Your School’s Safety Clearances?

A common topic facing today’s school districts is student safety – taking the steps to ensure staff and volunteer safety clearances are managed can protect a child and a district’s reputation.

We all appreciate the dedication and sacrifice that school volunteers provide to students – that goes without saying.  But it’s imperative that along with staff, volunteers and counselors undergo the appropriate background checks and safety clearances to ensure we are placing students’ safety in the proper hands.  Read below to learn more details into this critical issue.

As a result of child abuse cases that have gathered national attention in recent years, there has been a growing trend among states to increase background checks for professions that come in close and regular contact with children.  To clarify what a volunteer is, here are some examples of unpaid positions as a volunteer responsible for the welfare of a child or having direct contact with children can include:

  • Parent/Chaperone at school events
  • Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts
  • Agency volunteers who help with transportation or other services
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters
  • Literacy programs
  • Little League/coaches/sports officials

A Pennsylvania law was passed in 2014 requiring anyone who works with students at public and private schools in the state to obtain background checks.  This requirement, which was effective July 1, 2015, defines a background check to include both criminal and child abuse checks.  This mandate is not uncommon in education settings across the U.S.  Does your state have similar requirements?

Unfortunately, the safety clearance process sometimes can cause feelings of anger and distrust among volunteers.  While it may cause feelings of privacy invasion, background checks provide an extra layer of protection and put parents’ worries at ease.  The majority of volunteers will be happy, willing participants in these strict procedures to protect the vulnerability of children.

Residence Fraud Costs More Than You Think

School Address Fraud in the U.S. 

As mentioned in the article in Fraud Magazine’s Aug. 2014 article, “Investigating Residency Fraud”, by Philip A. Becnel IV, address fraud affects those who rightfully pay taxes to attend these schools and are being forced out by those who do not belong there.

Fraud, Fraud Everywhere

Address fraud is prevalent throughout the U.S. but one area that experiences an extremely high percentage of this fraud is in District of Columbia.  The District has approximately 35,000 public charter school students where the tuition can be as high as $15,000 per student.  If only 1% of those students are non-residents, the financial impact on DC taxpayers would be more than $5 million a year.

From Philadelphia, PA to Beverly Hills, CA, there are those facing fines and jail time for misleading school districts into believing their utility bills and inaccurately filled out forms are viable pieces of address identification.  Some districts have gone as far as implementing anonymous tip lines with the promise of monetary rewards, should the perpetrator get caught.

There is the debate that the quality of education in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods need to be drastically improved, so there is no need for this address fraud exercise.  We are sure to hear more about this soon.

The Unintentional Ways Schools Might Be Violating FERPA

We are learning today that being FERPA compliant isn’t as simple as tossing out your old student records.  As Tina Nazarian mentions in her article, “The Unintentional Ways Schools Might Be Violating FERPA”, don’t just put them in trash cans—shred them first.  If you don’t, your institution might get accused of violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, which protects student education records in both K-12 and higher education.

FERPA experts state that there are several ways schools may be unaware of their non-compliance; one area often overlooked is with using outside vendors prior to properly vetting them.  It is the school’s responsibility to ensure that vendor doesn’t misuse students’ information records.  Some “free” online apps may be mining data to sell to third-parties which is in direct violation.  To stay compliant, schools should understand exactly what vendors are doing with their data.  Schools need to emphasize the information is NOT for the vendor’s own benefit. Continue reading The Unintentional Ways Schools Might Be Violating FERPA

The Impact of Increasing Administrative Efficiency

Written by Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper

Secretaries are the secret superheroes of our schools. They are truly required to be a jack of all trades while keeping smiles on their faces. It seems as if a school secretary’s work is never done. Their job descriptions include a long list of tasks such as working as a liaison between the community and school staff, keeping student records up to date and transporting them, answering calls on multi-line phones, and much more. Administrative efficiency can make or break the reputation of a school district.

Unfortunately, many schools aren’t having these resourceful staff members work in the most efficient ways. Secretaries are being overworked. According to Dr. Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), “Sadly, support staff feel over-utilized and under-valued.”

In most school buildings, secretaries are the first people visitors interact with and thus the first impression they have of your school. This first interaction hints at your overall school climate. Is your central office empty because secretaries are filing papers in a back room? Or do your secretaries look frazzled and disorganized with countless stacks of papers cluttering up their desks?

A bad first impression can discourage families from enrolling their children in your school or scare away a potential teacher you were hoping to hire. When the administrative staff is backed up, the entire district is backed up. You want your secretaries to be present, organized, and cheerful. This will create a better perception of your district overall.

How Does Administrative Inefficiency Affect your District’s Reputation?

Consider this scenario. One of your secretaries starts her day with piles of returning enrollment packets that need to be manually typed and logged in the school’s Student Information System (SIS) and a stack of record requests to be typed and forwarded to individual schools. Parents come to turn in registration papers and watch as their forms get added to a large pile of papers.

Meanwhile, phone calls pour in frequently and the secretary answers in a distracted tone as she motions for another visitor to wait a minute. By the time she finds all the volunteer forms for him, she has forgotten where she put those registration papers. Not much has gotten accomplished for your school and the list of essential tasks to accomplish has grown rather than shrunk. She is too busy to help out other staff members.

Here is another option. A secretary in your school logs into the administrator’s side of an enrollment portal and approves new students who have correctly filled out their online registration forms. Those approved flow directly into the SIS and are organized accordingly. Those that are not ready for approval are sent an automated message that their enrollment information needs more attention before the school can accept them into the system.

Then your secretary warmly greets a couple who is considering enrolling their child at your school. She takes them on a tour around the building. When they ask for registration papers, your secretary directs them to where they can fill everything out online. A phone call comes in from another school that needs a former student’s records. Within a few clicks, everything is sent.

A group of volunteers and the hired photographer, who have already filled out the necessary paperwork and submitted background checks online, are walked down to the gymnasium to set up their annual blood drive. The secretary returns to the office, grabs a cup of tea, and asks the principal if there is anything she can help with.

The second scenario is clearly the more desirable one. So how can it be accomplished? Administrative technology transforms these cumbersome traditional tasks into a series of clicks that streamline, organize, and automate a school district’s electronic filing cabinet, allowing your administrative staff to spend more time being personable and present with your community.

Impacting the District’s Bottom Line with Increased Administrative Efficiency

In recent years, the amount of money poured into technology for schools has been increasing, but mainly in classrooms. Technology geared to the administration positively affects the district’s bottom line, and the secretaries’ efficiency and attitudes, by streamlining their daily tasks.

Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools, said in a speech at NYEdTech week last year, “Think differently about what constitutes innovation in education. Understanding how schools are really working and what their needs are for effective and efficient ways of doing things is most helpful.” She later went on to say, “I have found the education space just way behind every other sector in terms of how do we do things fast, better, more efficient. There is enormous inefficiency there, and we certainly could use a lot of products to improve the home-office situation.”

If you expect your students to embrace technology, the rest of your school needs to embrace it as well. This includes your hard-working secretaries. Rather than swimming in pools of paper, many secretarial tasks can be completed more accurately and efficiently with the proper tools. Student registrations, volunteer clearances, and record requests are just a few of the tasks that can be reduced to a matter of minutes and clicks.

When freed from spending so much time on tedious tasks, your secretaries can spend their energy elsewhere. They can answer family’s questions, assist teachers in overflow tasks, and manage schedules. Secretaries appreciate cards and kind words complimenting their work. But the best way to show you realize the complexity of their job is to help make it simpler. Making their job more efficient means they can accomplish more each day without having to work overtime.

Your parents will enjoy the increased attentiveness, your teachers will be less stressed with the extra help, and your secretaries will benefit from the increased focus. Secretaries are everyday superheroes, but even superheroes can use some help from time to time. When you give secretaries the necessary tools to succeed, your entire school runs more smoothly.

 

#PublicSchoolsWeek All Year Long

This past March, Twitter imploded with the hashtag #PublicSchoolsWeek, drawing attention to our nation’s public schools. The hashtag was part of the “I Love Public Schools” campaign, an ongoing effort to highlight why public schools are essential to develop the future generations that will maintain our country’s status as a world leader. The campaign works to re-frame the current national dialogue around public education to highlight the critical role public schools play as the bedrock of our civic society and their work to prepare students to be successful, contributing members of their local, national and global communities.

The campaign was launched by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, following the organization’s 2017 Legislative Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. where hundreds of superintendents—America’s foremost thought leaders in public education—discussed critical issues facing our schools. During the meeting, AASA’s Governing Board drafted, finalized and adopted the official resolution in support of the campaign.

While the true intention of the campaign is to protect education funding from budget cuts and tax reform that includes tax credits which direct funding away from public schools, this campaign additionally created a platform for Americans to join together and express their strong feelings toward public education. Public schools truly deserve the recognition; 9 out of 10 American kids attends public school, and in many communities the school district is also the largest employer. We joined in the celebration of teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, parents and everyone who plays a critical role in helping students succeed, because we’re proud to call them all colleagues.

Now that #PublicSchoolsWeek has ended, will its impression fade as it leaves our Twitter feeds? We think not. Some people believe the processes we automate, such aSchool Choice Lottery and Online Registration only last a week, too. Your registrars and administrators would echo us in saying that the process is ever ongoing, throughout the entire school year. There’s too much to appreciate about our public schools for a single week to encompass. Our mission is to celebrate and assist the public school districts we work with every single day, and we hope you will join us.

The campaign website, www.lovepubliceducation.org, includes details on how anyone associated with advocating for the strength of public education can get involved. As the campaign unfolds over the year, this website will be your go-to source for information, resources and more.

In the meantime, we came up with a list of new age ways to show your appreciation for your school district:

  1. Diligently Update your Social Media Accounts – Not only is social media a great way to inform parents of scheduling updates and events at the district, it shows your students that you can embrace their lifestyles as much as you want them to embrace the district’s code of conduct.
  2. Adopt the I Love Public Education Message – Use the AASA toolkit to publish a press release, a letter to the parents, a letter to your school board, and post on social media in support of the movement to protect public education funding.
  3. Save Money for the Classroom – We know it’s easier said than done, but find places to cut your own spending and reinvest it in instruction. Nothing could bring a more positive result and attitude to your community. Check out this Clever Savings Case Study for some ideas.
  4. Protect Your Data – Not only is clean, secure data a mandate of FERPA and HIPAA, it is a sign of good faith to your district. Make sure access is permissioned accordingly to your staff, students and guardians. Check out this blog on equipping the district and training staff to protect network security.
  5. Increase Transparency – As much as student data deserves protection, your community is equally owed transparency in regards to district endeavors, conditions, and processes. One such process is placement in schools of choice, where unfair admissions processes are rampant across the country. Read more here about bringing transparency to this process.
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