Bella Vista to Adopt AZDash

Bella Vista Elementary School will begin to use AZDash.

Bella Vista Elementary School will begin to use AZDash.


It’s been said that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. On Friday, Arizona’s Bella Vista Elementary School in Sierra Vista may have just made that first step in its journey towards improving itself technologically.

And it all occurred because one person, unprompted by her boss or any other superior, took the initiative to find a solution to an issue that has gone unsolved at her LEA. That person was Linda Wilson, Bella Vista’s designated Title 1 teacher.

She attended the Cochise County SMILE Conference to learn more about the Arizona Department of Education’s AELAS initiatives. She ended up coming away with much more.

Having heard about AELAS at a previous education conference in Tucson, Wilson was curious whether any of AELAS’ components could prove beneficial to Sierra Vista schools. Until she had attended the SMILE Conference on Friday, her only knowledge of AELAS was what she had briefly read online.

“I think at Bella Vista we’re looking to use technology more and more to our advantage,” Wilson said. “We use a lot of the Title 1 budget to purchase technology and what I see lacking at my school is that data piece.

“So I thought that this conference would probably help. And it did!”

Wilson was able to meet and discuss her LEA’s specific concerns with ADE CIO Mark Masterson, who was presenting at the SMILE Conference. It turns out that AELAS will provide immediate assistance for her district.

For her LEA, the most essential AELAS initiative at this moment will be AZDash. AZDash consolidates and presents student performance data in easy-to-use interactive dashboards.

“Those dashboards are just amazing,” Wilson declared. “The ability to see the attendance data is just going to save parents and teachers volumes of time and effort.”

In fact, Wilson stated that she could not wait to return to her school so she could rave about the dashboards to her principal. She believes that they will be ideal for parent-teacher conferences, as well as for a myriad of other uses.

“It’s going to be great when we have our child study teams because now we’re just sitting at a table with just a million pieces of paper,” Wilson added.

Just think, all of this was because one person was willing to take one step.

Ed Ahead Gives Positive Reviews of SISS

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On October 17, Ed Ahead, a.k.a. Academy Adventures Midtown, became the first LEA to opt in to Arizona’s statewide student information system. SSIS, or the Statewide Student Information System, was created by the Arizona Department of Education to allow all LEAs the opportunity to enjoy a state-of-the-art student information system for a low cost.

In developing SISS, ADE partnered with Edupoint and its Synergy student information system. The impetus for teaming up with Edupoint was to assist the smaller LEAs throughout the state, who are currently paying more than 10 times per student costs than larger districts. With ADE, all LEAs that opt-in pay the same low rate of $10 a student for the first year and $6.50 a student per year thereafter.

“ADE has worked extremely hard over the past few years to create an opportunity for districts and charters of all shapes and sizes to be able to access software that manages critical student data to support the classroom,” said John Huppenthal, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. “It has been our mission to provide great technology tools to districts and charters at an affordable price, leading to better decisions with the limited dollars Arizona has to invest in technology.”

In addition, by having technical support readily available through ADE, a small LEA has less of a need for a technology staff. However, LEAs of Ed Ahead’s size now receive equal access to critical technology, uniform licensing fees and a secure hosted environment.

While Ed Ahead opting in was a noteworthy achievement in and of itself, the story doesn’t end there. Since transitioning to the state’s system, Ed Ahead’s SAIS Coordinator Angela Towner Mertz has spearheaded the implementation process at her LEA.

Although she has not spent a ton of time on Synergy thus far, she has been quite impressed with the system, its capabilities and the trainers that have assisted her.

The SAIS Coordinator is quite pleased how quickly the issues that she has confronted have been addressed and resolved.

“Being a small school, often these systems do not work well for us because they are geared towards only big schools and big districts,” Towner Mertz said. “But Synergy is awesome because it can easily adapt to any size school or school district. I am really excited to continue learning more about it because each new thing I learn about the system makes me like it even more.”

However, she noted that when adapting to any new system, there is always an adjustment period. Towner Mertz expected to having undergone a bit of a learning curve.

“Although I have asked many questions regarding some errors and issues I have had,” she said, “Those few things have not been discouraging and have not made me frustrated with the system.”

Since being made available to LEAs, five LEAs have decided to opt in with SSIS, with a few other LEAs coming down the pike shortly. Originally meant for smaller LEAs, larger districts are interested because they say it offers a better user experience for parents, teachers and kids, seamless integration, essential live data and its existence within the cloud.

To learn more about SSIS, click here.