Bad Axe Public Schools, located in eastern Michigan, manifested a vision of “Empowering successful learners for today, tomorrow, and the future.” Before their vision could become a reality though, Bad Axe High School needed to improve interpersonal relationships, raise student achievement, and optimize communication.
“The biggest problem we had at our high school was the delay in timing as far as collecting and ascertaining the data and getting to high-needs students in proper time,” explained Kurt Dennis, the principal at Bad Axe High School.
Until recently, the high school did not have a strong connection with many families. Even when data was processed on time, staff still grappled with communicating student information effectively. “We struggled with messaging parents,” stated Greg Newland, the superintendent of Bad Axe Public Schools. “When we collected data the old way, we didn’t have a connection with students’ homes.”
Determined to achieve their vision, the high school invested in Skyward’s Student Management Suite. By implementing online classroom tools such as Behavior Tracking, Gradebook, and Attendance, Bad Axe High School improved transparency and established relationships needed to cultivate the successful environment they envisioned.
"ONCE YOU BRIDGE THAT DISCONNECT AND PARENTS BECOME INVOLVED, IT'S A WHOLE DIFFERENT BALLGAME FOR SOME STUDENTS."
The first goal Bad Axe High School needed to achieve was identifying at-risk students earlier. To distinguish which students were at risk, the school established early warning signs criteria that could be pulled from Skyward’s Attendance, Behavior Tracking, and Gradebook solutions. Examples of data monitored included student absences in a certain timeframe, types and numbers of disciplinary incidents, and classroom performance. This data could then be incorporated into Skyward’s Custom Forms, making it easier to identify students’ unique needs and collaborate on solutions.
“Not only are these three tools accessible, but you can use them in an organized manner,” explained Dennis. “Skyward gives us instant feedback, compiles the data, and allows us to be more assertive. We can observe and tackle issues in real time opposed to a week later when it’s not quite as meaningful.”
With the early warning signs data available, Bad Axe High School staff can respond quickly and help students get connected to the resources and learning opportunities they need. “In the ‘old days,’ students may have just stayed in a class they were struggling in for a whole semester and failed out,” explained Newland. “Now we have the opportunity to jump in and make a class or schedule change to address students’ needs before the whole semester is lost.”
In addition to using data to assist at-risk students, Skyward’s Message Center has allowed staff to become more proactive about communicating with students and families. Teachers can send tailored messages regarding performance, events, and upcoming assignments. Having such messages can reduce dropout rates by a staggering 41%
, making the newly improved communication between students and parents that much more significant. Most importantly, the data helped teachers meet student needs and build stronger relationships. “Skyward allows us to have one-on-one interaction with early-warning-sign students sooner,” stated Dennis. “It helps show that we notice what’s happening, that we care, and that we want to help them.”
Students weren’t the only ones affected by Bad Axe High School’s implementation of Skyward. The Family Access feature helped increase parent engagement, too. In fact, by engaging parents, student accountability improved throughout the school. “Skyward bridges the big disconnect that many times happens between school and home,” explained Dennis. “Once you bridge that disconnect and parents become involved, it’s a whole different ballgame for some students.”
The transition to Skyward also resulted in some surprising benefits. For instance, Bad Axe High School has noticed a decline in attendance at parent-teacher conferences – but not because parents aren’t getting involved. “Parents don’t have to come to the school as often. They see how well their son or daughter is performing in real time,” explained Newland. “We still want to have those in-person conversations, but on the other hand it’s a dynamic that has changed with the accessibility of information.”
"TAKE IT AT YOUR OWN PACE BY HAVING A PLAN, BEING PATIENT, AND PROVIDING TRAINING TO YOUR STAFF."
By offering parent training at the beginning of the school year, Bad Axe High School has involved parents earlier and set the stage for better school-to-home relationships. Counselors assisted the parents’ training by providing user tips, answering questions, and helping identify login information. By employing an effective onboarding strategy, students, parents, and teachers maximized the use of Student Management Suite solutions.
Whether it was students, teachers, or parents, each group became more connected through Skyward’s Student Management Suite, giving every individual an opportunity to help make Bad Axe High School’s vision a reality.
For schools and districts looking to replicate Bad Axe High School’s successes, Newland recommends Skyward with the following advice, “Take it at your own pace by having a plan, being patient, and providing training to your staff.”
With Skyward’s Student Management Suite as a driving force behind their overall goals, Bad Axe High School has created a culture that experiences stronger relationships, higher student achievement, and a smoother flow of communication.
Follow-up resource: Student Management Suite
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