School District Helps More Students Succeed With Smartsheet
MSD of Lawrence Township uses Smartsheet to track academic and behavioral information in a central location and make it available to the teachers and counselors who need to understand how best to meet individual students’ needs.
- Large (1,000 - 9,999 employees)
- North America
- Automation Features
- Project Visibility
We would do enrollment for weeks and now we can do it in a day, and that’s everything to me. Knowing how many teachers I need to hire—I can get that updated on a daily basis so I’m not waiting until the last minute.
To help students succeed, schools have always tracked information about everything from attendance to grades to disciplinary actions. But these days, the old-fashioned “permanent record” has given way to a more holistic view of everything that’s happening in the student’s life, including health issues, family crises and more. In large education systems like Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township in the northeast Indianapolis area, collecting and securely sharing that information on more than 16,000 students can be a complex and time-consuming prospect.
“In the old days, if a teacher was concerned about a student, they would send an email to the counselor or leave a note, or say something to an administrator,” says Steve Goeglein, assistant superintendent of secondary education for MSD of Lawrence Township. “We needed a way to get all that information in one place, in particular for high school. High school kids have at least seven different teachers, a coach, a band director, a counselor, an administrator. All those people know their little slice of that student. We're just trying to bring all that information together in one spot.”
To capture a unified view of the whole student, MSD of Lawrence Township created a system called ABAI (academics, behavior, attendance, and infractions). ABAI is designed as a system of care that charts six key issues for students: Ability to read and write, ability to do math, likelihood to graduate, school attendance, behavior at school, and any social/emotional issues that are interfering with the student’s success.
The system was originally created in Google Docs, but the volume of data to track made the original format too cumbersome to use effectively. A government teacher who had used Smartsheet for his students’ constitutional law prep thought that it might be an optimal new platform for ABAI. Smartsheet made it easy to capture and categorize information and share it with the teachers and counselors who needed a deeper understanding of their students’ individual needs.
“It’s like the old permanent record or the brown folder about you that sat in the principal’s office,” Goeglein says. “Every night, the counselors and administrators get the report on any changes that affect their students. It’s just keeping them informed. Our high school principals love it because there are a lot of layers of people between them and the kids, but they still have to be connected. It’s a different job now; they have to know their kids as much as an elementary principal does. And this is a way for them to know what’s going on.”
Goeglein and his administrative assistant, Kim Morris, use Smartsheet permissions to enable staff to view the information they need, while limiting who can make substantive changes to the records for the district’s 16,000 students. Morris uses Smartsheet reports to share specific information with only those teachers, counselors, and staff who need to manage specific groups of students or defined projects and tasks.
In addition to ABAI, Morris and Goeglein are using Smartsheet for a variety of district functions:
- Field trip approval. Requesting approval to schedule and plan a field trip used to be a paper-based process that could take days to complete. With Smartsheet, teachers can now fill out an online form that’s automatically routed for approval—which can happen in minutes. Logistical details such as requesting school buses for the trip are automatically managed by the system.
- Districtwide calendar. An aggregated record of athletic and social events, academic deadlines, meetings, and more gives MSD staff an at-a-glance view of everything happening in the district. Automated alerts help administrators plan security for upcoming events or arrange for snowplows to clear the parking lot before a Saturday basketball game. Weekly reports keep the superintendent updated on the weeks ahead and allow marketing staff to promote events.
- Strategic plan progress tracker. Superintendent cabinet members and their staff can update progress on the tasks they own and confirm what items need priority attention.
Processing student registration and hiring teachers for summer school was another slow paper-based process. With Smartsheet, students can choose summer classes online; their requests are automatically routed to counselors or other administrators for approval and alignment with individualized education plans (IEPs). Goeglein can run daily enrollment reports and build a teacher roster much more quickly than in previous years.
“We would do enrollment for weeks and now we can do it in a day, and that’s everything to me,” Goeglein says. “Knowing how many teachers I need to hire—I can get that updated on a daily basis so I’m not waiting until the last minute. Teachers can know in April and early May if they’re going to be teaching in June. In our old system we basically said, we’ll let you know tomorrow whether we need you. That’s not fair to anybody.”
Smartsheet also simplifies school-year enrollment for students who are choosing their middle school, moving from one school to another, or applying to attend from outside the district boundary. Students can submit their request and upload academic records in one session, speeding the review and approval process. Principals get automated alerts on their school’s enrollment.
A big factor in the MSD’s enthusiastic embrace of Smartsheet is its simplicity and ease of use. The platform is so simple and straightforward to use, Morris says, that the IT team didn’t take it seriously at first. “What would the people over in the student support section know about software?” she laughs. But within a few months, IT staff could see how much time and effort administrators were saving, and began asking her how they could use it for their own projects.
Morris does a lot of educating, showing staffers who feel more comfortable with printed forms and filing cabinets how to get their work done more effectively with the platform. She helps her colleagues see that if they’ve ever used spreadsheets or word processing software, they already know most of what they need to understand Smartsheet.
As MSD administrators see the benefits of simplified processes and faster approvals, Morris is planning to expand the use of Smartsheet into new departments, starting with payroll and HR. She knows Smartsheet will make it easier to manage onboarding checklists and track required certification for various professional roles. The solution promises to make district work easier for a wide range of district staff—but the most important outcome is the holistic view of the students.
“It’s allowing us to talk about more students, and the quality of information is better because we’re able to bring it all into one spot,” Goeglein says. “It’s allowing us to do more with the time we’re saving because we’re not doing busywork and paper-shuffling anymore.”
For more information
For more information about Smartsheet, visit https://www.smartsheet.com/.
For more information about Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, visit https://www.ltschools.org/.