Solutions

A progressive, non–traditional school district on the Alaskan frontier uses a specialized FileMaker Pro–based data management system to prepare standards–based lesson plans, and automatically report student progress in both conventional, and standards–based formats.

Bering Strait School District

Bering Strait School District extends along the coast of the Bering Sea, close to the border between Alaska and Russia. The district consists of 16 schools spread out over a series of small villages, and educates approximately 2000 students from three Eskimo subgroups. The district manages the unique data–management challenges of this environment with GradeWrite, a flexible classroom information tool based on FileMaker Pro.

Overview

  • One of the largest, and most remote school districts in the United States, located along the coast of the Bering Sea, a short distance from the Russian border
  • Based in the Alaska Native village of Unalakleet, AK
  • About 2000 students in 16 locations far from any road system
  • Roughly 99% of students are Inupiaq or Siberian Yupik Eskimo
  • Does not use grade levels, or traditional subject areas, making it hard to find off–the–shelf software for teacher use
  • Curriculum model based on 1,474 standards in 10 content areas

Industry

  • K–12 Education

Solutions

  • Prepare lesson plans, and export this information for use in SQL and other databases
  • Generate both standards–based, and traditional report cards and progress reports
  • Teachers can access statistical analysis tools to help drive student progress in the classroom

Benefits

  • District retains the flexibility of its own local grading system
  • Teachers prepare their own specialized graphical student progress reports without the need for special statistical training or assistance

Business Challenge

The remote location and diverse student body create unique challenges for Bering Strait School. "Although we're geographically about the size of Minnesota, the population is sparse," explains Educational Technology Coordinator John Concilus. "Our student population is 99 percent native, representing the Upaiq, Yupik, and Siberian Yupik Eskimo cultures."

Meeting federal and state requirements while at the same time recognizing the cultural distinctiveness of the student body requires a unique educational philosophy. "Our programs are standards–based rather than standards–referenced," John continues. "We don't use traditional A–B–C–D grading, and our students are not classified by grade levels. Rather, we assess student progress through a rubric–based system, classifying them as Advanced or Proficient or Developing. We also don't have traditional subjects—instead, our students are taught in various 'Content Areas', some of which may be traditional and some of which may focus on non–traditional topics."

While these unconventional strategies are effective, the district must also adhere to state and federal requirements mandating tracking and testing students using traditional grade–level systems. And it must also follow established guidelines for reporting on its compliance with Special Education requirements, and monitoring student progress on IEP objectives.

Successful Solution

Translating the district's own specialized reporting system into a more conventional form for state and federal purposes requires specialized tools. "No existing off–the–shelf system had the flexibility we needed to prepare the needed reports," says John. "We've been using another product, but it didn't have the power or flexibility we needed to handle what we were asking of it."

The district turned to FileMaker Pro developer Robert Joseph of Vizmotion for help in creating a solution. "We contracted with Vizmotion to create a FileMaker Pro product that would work with our unique standards–driven reporting requirements, and would allow our teachers to easily create standards–driven requirements," John relates. Working in conjunction with the Math Learning Institute, Vizmotion created GradeWrite—and within a year, more than half the district's teachers signed up to use the new application.

Our teachers aren't statisticians, but using this FileMaker Pro–based system allows them to create reports that use detailed statistical techniques to assess student progress, while also retaining the ability to generate reports according to more conventional grading systems.

— John Concilus, coordinator of Educational Technology, Bering Strait School District

Customer Benefits

The FileMaker Pro–based GradeWrite application is valuable in everyday classroom settings. "When creating assignments our teachers can use pulldown menus to select standards for each new assignment," details John, "and they can use the system to generate graphical displays of how each student is doing. Those reports can be generated under different methods of grading depending on the specific reporting requirements. No other gradebook program out there offered the sort of flexibility we needed to do the job."

FileMaker Pro's ease of use simplifies a complex task. Reports generated in GradeWrite are automatically translated into formats that meet state and federal requirements—a process which would otherwise require extensive paperwork and cut into vital classroom and lesson–planning time. "Our teachers aren't statisticians," John concludes, "but using this FileMaker Pro–based system allows them to create reports that use detailed statistical techniques to assess student progress, while also retaining the ability to generate reports according to more conventional grading systems."

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.
408-987-7227
kevin_mallon@filemaker.com
http://www.filemaker.com

For Bering Strait School District:

John Concilus
Coordinator of Educational Technology
Bering Strait School District
907-624-4237
jconcilus@bssd.org
http://www.bssd.org