Midlothian ISD makes necessary upgrade to improve customization, culture, and interoperability
A brand-new information services team, new devices for students and staff, and a new superintendent may sound like a lot for any district to handle in one year. Midlothian Independent School District in Midlothian, Texas, about 30 minutes southwest of Dallas, decided to add one more change: implementing a new student information system.
Needing a system that would complement their strategic vision and help the district move forward, Midlothian ISD was eager for an upgrade. Jessica McWhorter, director of information systems at Midlothian ISD, has worked with Skyward in some capacity since 2007, including being certified in the solution. Based on her background, she was excited for the district’s decision to implement Skyward’s Qmlativ Education Management System for the 2021-22 school year.
"If you were to ask the teachers at our district what system they wanted, most would have said Skyward"
Prior to switching to Qmlativ, Midlothian ISD struggled with a system that was customizable, but lacked standardization. Since technology leadership at Midlothian ISD is engaged in a relentless focus on refining processes for increased operational efficiency and enhanced interoperability, this lack of standardization became a challenge.
Customization + standardization
“Customization is great when you need it, but if someone leaves the district and did all of the customization without documenting anything, all of that information is lost,” explained McWhorter. “Unless you’re that one person at the district who knows all of the ins and outs of the system, over-customization isn’t beneficial.”
Midlothian ISD was also one of the only districts in their surrounding area not using Skyward, making it difficult to ask other districts for help.
“When you call fellow districts and ask, ‘Hey, how did you guys do this?’ it becomes difficult to move forward when you’re the only one with a different piece of software,” said McWhorter.
This led to another reason that Midlothian ISD decided to switch to Skyward for their SIS.
“If you were to ask the teachers at our district what system they wanted, most would have said Skyward,” said McWhorter. “Because so many other districts use Skyward, it’s something that the teachers were used to.”
Taking all those factors into consideration, along with the district’s experience using Skyward for their ERP software, Midlothian ISD decided to implement Skyward’s SIS.
"When you have software, especially one where teachers do their grading, take their attendance, etc., teachers can get the data they need as quickly as possible. his allows them to focus on the things that are most important, which is not their software—it is absolutely the students."
Aligning SIS with strategic vision
After choosing Qmlativ, Midlothian ISD quickly realized how well the system fit into the district’s strategic plans.
Midlothian ISD has three main beliefs:
- “We believe that safe, engaging, rigorous, and diverse learning environments provide the best opportunity for students to reach their fullest potential.”
- “We believe a high-quality staff with appropriate resources is essential to creating educational experiences that promote student success.”
- “We believe that effective communication, purposeful collaboration, and strong partnerships create an atmosphere of trust and a strong sense of community vital to student achievement.”
To address the first belief, McWhorter explained that Qmlativ allows the teachers to spend less time learning software and more time doing what they love—engaging students.
“When you have software, especially one where teachers do their grading, take their attendance, etc., teachers can get the data they need as quickly as possible,” said McWhorter. “This allows them to focus on the things that are most important, which is not their software—it is absolutely the students.”
Qmlativ addresses belief number two by empowering staff to use knowledge from previous experiences in their new positions at Midlothian ISD.
“The high-quality staff that we continue to hire come from districts that use Skyward,” said McWhorter. “The less that they need to be trained in the solution, the more time they spend in the classroom.”
Belief number three is addressed in two ways: transparency and collaboration.
“If everything in the software is transparent, you can get to it quickly and see it when you need it,” said McWhorter. “This goes back to the parents: they can see their students’ grades live, so they’re not being kept in the dark. Additionally, Qmlativ allows for easy collaboration with other software, which allows teachers the ability to use what they prefer without the need to troubleshoot issues every day.”
"Skyward’s availability to grow with us is going to be important in the future"
Uncovering the benefits of Qmlativ
Although Midlothian ISD is still in the process of implementing Qmlativ, they have already realized some major improvements compared to their previous software provider.
According to the district, Skyward Qmlativ aligns seamlessly with their organizational structure, which has helped them to improve and systematize outdated processes.
Qmlativ can also integrate with many more products, allowing the systems to share data.
“We used to manipulate data to get it to where we needed it, but now Skyward is so widespread, especially with the third parties we use, integrations are easy,” said McWhorter.
During the implementation process, Midlothian ISD was impressed with Skyward’s support and its user-friendliness.
“We’re in the thick of implementation right now, which means that we get extra support from Skyward,” said McWhorter. “Luckily the system is easy to use and the most user-friendly product I have seen, so we don’t need an enormous amount of support.”
Implementing Qmlativ has also allowed for a major change when it comes to district culture.
“Because of this software change, we are slowly changing one department’s culture, which will move throughout our campuses, to be more inclusive,” said McWhorter. “I think that’s super important for our district.”
Since Midlothian ISD is brand new to Qmlativ, they have some great insight into how the product could be improved.
“The improvements that I would want in Qmlativ are things that you naturally think of when you come from one system to another since you were used to doing it one way,” said McWhorter. “For example, I have tried to do a couple of processes in the software that I think might work and then they don’t, but that is all part of working through a new SIS.”
Midlothian ISD strongly values interoperability with their SIS, which is something that they had with their previous software, but not to the level that they wanted it.
Connecting systems with interoperability
“With our previous SIS we could get any data that we wanted at any time, but often in the form of a scripted report,” said McWhorter. “We were looking for something completely different in our SIS.”
Since Qmlativ integrates seamlessly with over 50 business partners, there is no need for districts to hire a scripter, which was a huge bonus for Midlothian ISD.
“I don’t have the time, money, or availability to have someone come in and script everything out for us, which is what happened with our last software,” said McWhorter. “The more that can come from Skyward directly, the better.”
Currently, Midlothian ISD integrates with Canvas as their main learning management system (LMS), School Messenger, and more. With one integration in particular—ClassLink—McWhorter encouraged both companies to integrate better.
“I think that we may have been the first district to push the integration to the point where I wanted it to be,” said McWhorter. “After communicating with both companies, these systems are fully integrated. It has been wonderful.”
Overall, McWhorter and Midlothian ISD are impressed with the ease of implementing third parties within Qmlativ, and they look forward to implementing more to continue to make everything easier in the district.
“Skyward’s availability to grow with us is going to be important in the future,” said McWhorter.
A bright future
Looking ahead, Midlothian ISD is excited to make their Qmlativ system even more user-friendly.
Standardization on an end-to-end supported platform has empowered the district’s users to be much more self-sufficient within the platform. This has allowed Midlothian ISD to honor their commitment to building capacity in the district and campus-wide student information system teams.
“We look forward to giving our teachers the information they need to do the software-related parts of their job more quickly and spend as little time in there as possible,” said McWhorter.
For other districts considering the move to Qmlativ, McWhorter stresses the importance of making sure district data is clean and being prepared for any issues that are exclusive to your district before migrating.
“The longer the implementation process, the better,” said McWhorter. “This gives you time to prepare everything beforehand and make the process smoother.”
McWhorter also suggests that other districts looking to implement in the future don’t come into the process with the expectation of perfection.
“There are bound to be some bumps in the road, but if you expect them to happen, chances are you will get less frustrated when they do,” said McWhorter.
Lastly, McWhorter suggests having a fantastic project manager on staff and a phenomenal team backing you up.
“If I didn’t have the team that I have, I never could have gotten through this,” said McWhorter. “There are parts of our software that I don’t know how to use, but luckily someone on my team does.”
Overall, Midlothian ISD is enjoying their Qmlativ system and have found that the switch to Qmlativ was necessary for their district to continue to thrive.
“Qmlativ has allowed for a lot of changes that we needed to make as a district,” said McWhorter. “That is exciting for us.”