STUDENT SERVICES EDITION Digital Magazine | March 2021
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STUDENT SERVICES EDITION
Student Services Feature Article
Scheduling Turmoil in 2020-2021
By Matt Zenobi, Lead Support Specialist & Systems Analyst, Student Services
Student scheduling has been a real bear this year. Many schools had their schedules finalized and ready before August for the start of school, only to have to reschedule students based on parent/guardian remote learning preferences and county health board recommendations. Most Connect schools began the year with students either fully remote or in a hybrid model where students did not attend in-school five days each week. Some buildings went as far as restructuring their entire master schedule and rescheduling their students only weeks prior to students beginning school. School personnel in these buildings essentially had the daunting task of beginning the scheduling process all over again under serious time constraints. At the start of the 2nd and 3rd quarters, many schools began allowing students to attend in-person, some up to a full five days per week. Some schools allowed students to change their learning preferences to and from remote learning. In many cases, this required further schedule changes, especially at the semester change this winter which caused yet another scramble of student scheduling changes; causing timing issues with teachers’ term grade entry and report card processing. Historically, we have had high schools and middle schools begin their future school year scheduling processes as early as December before winter break. Overall at this point in the year, we’re pleased to see Connect customers making progress on future school year scheduling on-par with previous scheduling years. Many are anticipating a return to normalcy for 20212022 and we are seeing that as some schools elect to use their 2019-2020 master schedule structure as a starting point instead of their existing schedule. Despite scheduling being one of the hot topics during new education protocols seen this year, course request scheduling remains a seasonal set of tasks for many. It’s easy to forget some of the steps, best practices, and pitfalls. Below is a list of some of the most common mistakes we see users make. We hope this helps all course request schedulers in addition to our support, formal training sessions, and open labs.
Connect has course request scheduling customers large and small on FrontLine’s ProgressBook StudentInformation and PowerSchool’s PowerScheduler module.
Here are some general mistakes we see users on either platform experience: Misunderstanding course pre-requisite functionality
Course pre-requisites and co-requisites are a great way to control which courses students can select online when selecting their course requests for next school year. However, in both PowerScheduler and ProgressBook, a scheduler can assign any course request to a student and the batch scheduler & load processes do not consider these requisites and may fulfill the requests. Consider running verification reports to see which students are requesting courses they have not met pre-requisites for. Alternatively, a scheduler may skip configuring course pre-reqs, prohibit students from selecting those specific courses online, and bulk assign those course requests to the students who qualify.
Forgetting to enter course requests for lunch
EMIS-reporting schools track attendance hours and should schedule student’s lunch periods in the event the student misses a partial day over their noninstructional lunch period. This way the student’s missed lunch time minutes don’t count against their absence hours. We have seen schools in the past get very close to completing their scheduling, filling all remaining open periods on student schedules with electives and study halls, just to realize before they send schedules home that lunches are missing! It’s quite a chore to undo schedules to fit lunches in and keep section fillings balanced at that point. Some schools successfully schedule their students into their lunches at the end of the scheduling process without the use of lunch requests. Due to the nature of their master schedule and number of courses students request, the
students are guaranteed to have at least one open lunch period to schedule into. This is uncommon and we recommend entering course requests for lunch for those students expected to eat lunch in school.
Not verifying room availability, teacher availability
Putting a schedule together with balanced sections and full student schedules can be a huge puzzle. It would be a shame if on the first day of class you have 100 students from 4 unique course sections show up to a classroom that comfortably holds 30 because the room was booked with multiple course sections that same period. Run room & teacher verification reports to verify overbooking does not occur.
Misinterpreting scheduling result percentages Everyone hopes for a good first-run percentage in their scheduling results. Having the scheduler do most of the work prior to making manual adjustments to student schedules is key. But the percentage represents how well course requests were fulfilled - not necessarily how complete student schedules are. Run verification reports to find students with too few requests or no requests. Otherwise, your high scheduling percentage may not be as good as it appears. On the other hand, some schools that allow students to request more courses that can fit into their day may not have high percentages since it isn’t possible for all students’ requests to be fulfilled. For instance, a student may have only 70% of their requests fulfilled but are scheduled in 100% of their academic periods across all scheduling terms. Consider running verification reports to find students with free academic periods to get a better picture of how well schedules were created.
Deleting a student’s scheduled course section but leaving their course request
In the event a student or group of students no longer needs a class on their schedule after schedules have been loaded, be sure to also delete the course request. If the scheduler is run again, that request could be fulfilled, possibly for the same section you deleted from the student’s schedule. If sections of that course are deleted because the course is not running next year, remember your schedule result percentage could be impacted if those student course requests remain.
Assigning study halls too early
Again, you’ll want to run verification reports to identify students who were under-requested or did not get nearly enough academic periods filled on their schedules prior to bulk assigning students into study halls. Otherwise, they could end up with too many study halls which will have to be removed and replaced with academic classes to complete their schedules. Some schools even wait until they return from summer break to bulk assign student study halls.
Committing or Finalizing the schedules too early
In both PowerSchool and ProgressBook, there is a schedule commit or finalization process that must occur. Most notably, it’s required to make the schedules available in teacher gradebooks. Both systems have their own unique downsides of finalizing too early. It’s best to use the batch scheduler or load process and related scheduling reports as much as possible prior to finalizing schedule results to reduce student-by-student manual schedule changes.
Here are some mistakes specific to PowerSchool/PowerScheduler: Too many student and/or teacher avoid constraints
Student avoid and teacher avoid constraints are a great way to ensure the load process doesn’t schedule specific students together, or selected students with specific teachers. But the load process isn’t magic! If you have too many of these constraints, it could seriously hinder your scheduling results.
Not closing sections at max
Each section has a maximum enrollment setting and a checkbox for ‘Close section at max’. When you perform a load you also have a checkbox option ‘Close sections at maximum’. In order for a class to close at its maximum, both checkboxes must be checked. Otherwise, the class may fill beyond its max.
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Continuing to make schedule changes in PowerScheduler after committing schedules
If there is a need, it’s possible to commit schedules multiple times, but the recommendation is to complete all scheduling in PowerScheduler prior to committing, then make any necessary scheduling changes on the live-side. Sometimes users are not aware of when the commit occurred for their building and continue to make schedule changes in PowerScheduler, which don’t migrate to the live-side automatically. Once committed, make sure your building schedulers are on the same page and working on the live-side. Some schools will remove the PowerScheduler link from user security groups to ensure this.
Enrolling students into classes prior to running the Load process for those students
When you perform a scheduling load in PowerScheduler and import the results, the process deletes schedules for students involved in that load and fulfills their course requests the best it can. If you manually scheduled a student into a course section and run a load for them, that assigned class will be lost. Here are a few potential solutions you can consider to work around this: • Create student preference constraints so the load process fulfills student requests into a particular section number or with a particular teacher. Note, the preference constraint does not guarantee the student’s request will be fulfilled.
• Based on how your master schedule is setup, you may be able to utilize section types to accomplish what you need. For example, if you have 6 sections of ELA and 2 are special education sections, your special ed ELA students can have course requests for ELA that include a section type of special education. The two sections are set with that special ed section type. Then when the load runs, the students with course requests marked with the special education section type can only be assigned one of the two sections. The use of teams is similar but students only load into same-team sections across their schedule, in addition to sections of courses without a team assigned (electives, lunches, study halls, etc). • When you reach the point when you are confident that you no longer need to run scheduling loads in PowerScheduler, make the manual adjustments to the student schedules. Be sure to notify your building’s scheduling team so nobody attempts to run any further loads. Some schools may even wait until their schedules are committed and make the schedule changes on the live-side for these students. The automated walk-in scheduler allows users to lock manually scheduled classes in place and run the load process for an individual student, fulfilling any remaining requests they have.
• The load process allows you to run the scheduler for a selected group of students. You could exclude the students you manually scheduled from every load attempt so their manually created schedules are maintained. • Create a ‘placeholder’ course with a unique course number and sections. The students needing a specific section of the actual course will instead receive requests for the placeholder course. The scheduler places students into placeholder sections that align with sections of the actual course. These sections of the real course you plan to use next year usually have their capacities reduced since at the end of the scheduling process, you will bulk assign the students from the placeholder sections into the appropriate sections of the actual course. This option isn’t used much due to all the extra master scheduling work it requires but has been an effective method over the years for some.
A student’s schedule modified on the live-side (Modify Schedule link). The manually scheduled Phys Ed class is locked in place. Then a user can run the automated schedule to fulfill their remaining course requests. The 3rd period Phys Ed class will remain on the schedule.
Here are some mistakes specific to ProgressBook/StudentInformation batch scheduling: Mass deleting course requests in the wrong school year
Using course request mass update groups is helpful in mass-assigning or deleting course requests for groups of students. Be certain that you are working in the future scheduling year when using these features, especially when mass deleting requests. Mass deleting requests will also mass delete the corresponding course section assignments that resulted from previous batch scheduling jobs. So if you mass delete requests in the current school year by mistake, the course section assignments that were assigned by the batch scheduler from those course requests will be deleted from student schedules.
course they have requested. If you manually add the course section assignment to the student and leave the unfulfilled course request for the same course, the batch scheduler could potentially place the student into another available section of that same course. It isn’t necessary for the student to have a course request for a course section you need to manually add to the student’s schedule, but if they have a request for the course, place them into a section from the request.
Deleting a course request for a course that has been scheduled by the batch scheduler, but leaving the course section assignment
When a student no longer needs a class on their schedule, be sure to delete both the assignment and the request. Deleting just the request will not automatically remove the assignment and may cause issues with any future batch scheduling runs and reported results.
Scheduling students into classes in Gradebook
This is a common mistake with new users and with courses that are mistakenly configured to allow teacher roster updates in gradebook. When students are assigned to classes within gradebook instead of StudentInformation, the teacher will not be able to save report card marks for students if those marks are setup to integrate with SI. For some schools it may prevent attendance from being taken properly in gradebook too. Schedule students in SI and allow class rosters to migrate properly into gradebook. For nonacademic classes like caseloads or sports teams, it’s okay to manage those within gradebook if they don’t need to appear on any reports or schedules run from SI.
Manually scheduling a student for a requested course but not from their request
The student requests and request assignments screens allow you to manually schedule a student into a section for a requested course, which is recommended when manually scheduling a student to a section of a
Student Requests page. Click the Plus icon next to the course request to manually schedule the student to a section of that course.
Now the manual assignment to the WEB course shows under the assignment column, aligned with the course request. When running a batch scheduler job configured to keep manually scheduled classes, this class will remain and the scheduler will not attempt to fulfill the WEB course again. Note, this screen will only show course section assignments assigned from a request.
The Request Assignments screen also allows you to manually schedule a section from a request using the pencil icon in the assignment column. This screen shows you each section of the course and each section’s available seats and if it conflicts with the student’s existing schedule. The request assignments screen will display manually assigned classes that were not assigned from a request, such as CCP Test and ELA2R seen above.
STUDENT SERVICES EDITION
Student Services General Updates
Roster Verification at Connect By Heidi Rhodes, Support Specialist, Student Services
Roster Verification (RV) season is upon us! RV is the process by which school districts can ensure that teacher-level value-added reports accurately reflect how a teacher’s instruction impacted student progress by allowing teachers to assign instructional responsibility for the students they teach in support of value-added student growth measures. There are several phases to the RV process as shown in the timeline below provided by the Ohio Department of Education: 2021 Roster Verification Process Timeline
This data includes schools, staff, students, and courses that are included as part of the RV process. This year, the teachers who will participate in roster verification are those who teach students taking the following state tests during the 2020-2021 school year: • Elementary and Middle School Tests: • Grades 4-8 – English Language Arts • Grade 5-8 – Mathematics • Grade 8 Science • End-of-Course Tests for High School Credit: • Algebra 1, Geometry, Integrated Mathematics I and II • English Language Arts II • American Government • Biology From the SIS extracts, Connect assists with some initial cleanup to prepare it for the data loading process. Once an initial load is complete, each district’s designated RV coordinator will receive a summary report that they should review and verify the reasonableness of the data. Based on this review, we assist with making any necessary corrections in the SIS or the data files and rerun extracts & data loads as needed.
Based on each district’s response to its intent to participate and from which data source it chooses (either EMIS loaded data or their student information system), Connect is involved in the second step of the process, data loading, throughout the month of March. During the data loading phase, Connect staff works with your district’s designated RV coordinator. If your district chose to use your SIS as the RV data source, we run data extracts from either PowerSchool or ProgressBook.
Once the data is submitted we will continue to assist districts as they move through the remaining phases and begin to review & update the loaded data. Should you have any questions about the data or the RV process, we are here to assist with helping to understand what was loaded and how to update your data if necessary. Please be sure to visit the Roster Verification website to review the RV Guidelines, Frequently Asked Questions, and participate in the various training modules: https://www.ohio-k12.help/rosterv/
Student Services General Updates
Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) The P-EBT program grants benefits to parent/guardians for their qualified students due to school closures, remote learning, and students missing school due to illness. If a child in your district usually attends a school building, is in pre-K through 12th grade, and is eligible for free or reduced-priced meals at school through the National School Lunch (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP), they may be eligible for the P-EBT program. CLICK HERE for further qualifications and frequently asked questions about the program. Connect student services created custom queries for our districts to produce files with qualified students beginning with the first P-EBT submission in April 2020 and has been assisting schools with each submission since. Connect also submitted files on school’s behalf September 2020 and worked with The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services on submission
corrections. Program requirements and file templates have changed since last school year. Beginning with the submission due February 2 2021, districts and qualifying schools are to submit their own data through a portal provided by ODE. Basic instructions on how to access the portal and upload files were sent to district superintendents, food service directors, and EMIS coordinators via email in January 2021 (from email@example.com). Future submission deadlines and information will be provided throughout the school year. The portal not only allows submissions but provides data warning & error validation for each submitted file and districts can track the number of processed students in each submission. The file template includes columns for each month of the school year where schools must complete the number of qualifying days for each student.
The submission schedule for 2020-2021 is as follows: (known schedule as of March 5. Dates subject to change.)
†Date estimated. Notices will be provided to superintendents, food service directors, and EMIS coordinators for each submission window. CLICK HERE for the list of uploaded file record errors and their definitions.
STUDENT SERVICES EDITION
Student Services General Updates
Excel Tips & Tricks: Joining Datasets Together By Matt Zenobi, Lead Support Specialist & Systems Analyst, Student Services
Often times in I.T. there are multiple solutions to a problem. When I’m joining datasets together to build a report, I often do so by writing an SQL query. Other times, I may import data into tables in a Microsoft Access Database, join them together, and select the desired fields using the query designer. For simpler projects, it can save time to use tools within Excel. Below is a simple demonstration of how to join two datasets together to produce a report from two sources of data. Suppose we have Table A with student test scores and we need to add the student’s name to this to share with counselors. Table A has hundreds of records:
Table B will be our data source for the student name we need in Table A. We also need a field in table B that will link it to table A. In this case we will link the tables using the student SSID. We can pull something like this from our SIS or another data source. We included all students in the district in Table B and it has thousands of records:
For this example, we have both datasets in one sheet separated by column E. In many cases the datasets are separated in their own sheets within the Excel workbook. We create the Student Name column we want added to Table A, and begin a VLOOKUP formula in cell D3:
We have 4 arguments for the VLOOKUP formula =VLOOKUP(B3,$F$3:$I$7,4,FALSE) 1. The lookup value from Table A. This is the student’s SSID value that will link us to Table B, since both tables share this lookup value. 2. The selected data range in Table B, excluding column names. Since we don’t want this to change as we copy the formula to other student rows in Table A, note the use of $ symbols in the formula. 3. The column number we want returned in our results. The student name in Table B is the 4th column in our selected data, so we enter 4 in the formula. 4. FALSE will only provide us with Exact Matches between tables.
Notice that I don’t specify which column in Table B I want to link to Table A. The VLOOKUP uses the first column in Table B automatically. Make sure your lookup values in Table B are listed in the first column. I built a report recently and my VLOOKUP didn’t work because I forgot about this requirement of VLOOKUPs. This column ordering is a non-issue in my SQL and Access queries, so I was curious about finding an alternative method than VLOOKUP in Excel. And since there’s more than one solution to most anything, I found something and I like it better - the INDEX-MATCH method.
The formula uses 2 functions in cell D3 =INDEX($I$3:$I$ 7,MATCH(B3,$F$3:$F$7,0)) The INDEX function has only two arguments: 1. The data range in Table B that I want returned to me in Table A. Use $ symbols 2. The row number from that index range we want returned. Since we don’t know this, we use the MATCH function to find it for us, which has 3 arguments: 1. The lookup value from Table A (SSID). 2. The lookup range in Table B that links us to Table A. Use $ symbols. 3. 0 will only provide us with Exact Matches between tables. It’s easy enough to re-order columns, but I like INDEXMATCH because the column order is irrelevant unlike with VLOOKUPs. I can select any column as my lookup column. I also select the range of data I want returned, rather than selecting an entire table range so there’s no need to determine the column number that
the VLOOKUP requires. According to some online sources, the INDEX-MATCH method has faster execution than VLOOKUP, though I don’t suspect a user would notice unless working with enormous datasets. On the other hand, I do see how VLOOKUP may be easier for some since it is one function with fewer arguments. Whichever you choose, you can achieve the same results seen here:
For the last record we got an error #N/A. This is because neither method found a match in Table B. This can happen for a few reasons: 1. The SSID in Table A is incorrect for the student, so no match was found in Table B. 2. The StateID in Table B is incorrect for the student, so EE1234567 was not found in Table B. 3. The StateID in Table B is missing because it doesn’t exist in your data source or the student was omitted by mistake. 4. The columns used to link both tables together have mismatched formatting. Make sure the cell formatting is the same between both tables (Number, Text, etc). 5. Your formula has errors.
STUDENT SERVICES EDITION
Student Services Questions & Answers QUESTION:
In PowerSchool I’ve been alerted by a few parents that they are receiving student attendance and grades email alerts for the previous term. We started the new term a couple week ago. Why are they still receiving alerts for the previous term?
You will want to verify the current term setting for each building in the district under Start Page>School>Current Grade Display. Those email alerts use this term to determine what data to provide to the parent guardian. Some current grade & attendance reports in your district may also use this term. You should also verify the School>Quick Lookup Preferences at the end of each term after grades are stored.
In DASL (ProgressBook StudentInformation), I was working in a previous school year and found a student who is currently enrolled in my district but was not enrolled in that previous school year. Why am I seeing the student in this previous school year?
The most common reason for this is the student has manual course history entered for that previous school year. When you enter course history for a previous school year, it creates a “shell” record for the student in that past year to allow data entry for that student & year. The student profile record will be incomplete and this is normal - you don’t have to fix their profile if they were not enrolled in your district that school year.
ProgressBook SI Batch Scheduling (Zoom) April 9, 2021 1-2:30 p.m.
PowerScheduler Open Lab (Zoom) April 14, 2021 10 a.m - 1 p.m.
ProgressBook SI Batch Scheduling (Zoom) April 21, 2021 10-11:30 a.m.
PowerSchool EMIS Exchange (Zoom) April 23, 2021 10-11 a.m.
PowerSchool Final Staff/Course May 5, 2021 1-3 p.m.
PowerSchool EMIS Exchange (Zoom) May 27, 2021 10-11 a.m.
PowerSchool EMIS Exchange (Zoom) June 25 2021 10-11 a.m.
PowerSchool EMIS Exchange (Zoom) July 23 2021 10-11 a.m.
CLICK HERE to register.
CLICK HERE for past news or news from other Connect departments. 10 I N F O R M
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STUDENT SERVICES EDITION
Inform is the digital magazine of Connect. This issue features our Student Services Department.