Joliet Township High School District 204 Launches 21st-Century Educational Initiatives from PLUS 360 Suite
Public school district in Joliet, one of the fastest growing suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, Joliet Township High School has two campuses, Central and West, with an innovative academy structure and strong emphasis on technology. The district educates over 6,000 students.
“We believe in the products—that the integration will work and that we’ll be able to get the information we need without duplicating entry.”
Karen Harkin | Director of IT Services, Joliet Township High School District 204
Reinvent education to prepare 21st-century learners to compete and contribute in our global society.
Choose one proven software suite, SunGard’s PLUS 360 products, to manage student information, assessment, curriculum, special education, finance, and human resources. Once implemented, the PLUS 360 suite was leveraged to launch initiatives that extend and enhance student learning opportunities.
meet the challenges of an increasingly diverse, globalized, and complex society, Joliet Township High School District 204 is re-envisioning its educational processes for the 21st century. In recent years, the award-winning district has launched innovative programs—including career academies and a 1:1 technology initiative— which are supporting student achievement.
Bolstering the success of these initiatives are SunGard K-12 Education’s PLUS 360 products, says Karen Harkin, director of the district’s Information Technology Services organization. “I think the systems we have in place with SunGard products are very reliable,” she says. “That’s a huge advantage that we have over some districts that have disparate systems or poor support from their vendors.”
The Transition to PLUS 360
Over the past several years, Joliet Township has been making the transition to SunGard’s PLUS 360 products.
“Because of our satisfaction with the products, we’ve been moving more and more applications to the suite,” she explains. “We believe in the products—that the integration will work and that we’ll be able to get the information we need without duplicating entry.”
Since Harkin’s arrival, the district has implemented eSchoolPLUS, the PLUS 360 student information system; eFinancePLUS, the suite’s human resources and financial management system; and PerformancePLUS, its assessment and curriculum management system. Harkin has led upgrades of these products and transitioned a few other district processes to PLUS 360 solutions to take advantage of unique features and the synergies created by operating from one integrated software suite.
The district installed the PLUS 360 Online Assessment module when the district’s previous vendor went out of business in November 2011. “When our teachers no longer had access to their assessments, they looked to us for help,” she remembers. “The implementation of the PLUS 360 Online Assessment module only took a couple of months. By the time the teachers came back in January, we had the solution in place. Bringing a new solution online is not an easy undertaking, but we worked together with SunGard and made it happen.”
Thanks to the integration between PerformancePLUS and eSchoolPLUS, Joliet Township now can create targeted education plans. “Our educators can pull information about student performance. And, because they have access to the data, they can customize the learning to meet the student’s needs,” says Harkin.
Joliet Township also transitioned to the eSchoolPLUS gradebook to leverage the features in Home Access Center to better involve parents and guardians in the educational process.
“Our strategic plan calls for engaging parents and the community in the education of our students,” she says. “Prior to the transition to the eSchoolPLUS gradebook, parents had to go to multiple pages. It was disjointed and more difficult to navigate. Now, they get all their information from one place. Home Access Center enables our parents to have access to their student’s attendance, discipline record, grades, and schedule.” This transition not only has improved communications but it also enabled the district to eliminate progress report mailings—saving time and money.
In addition, Joliet Township is now accessing some software from SunGard’s servers, which frees space on district servers and allows its IT staff to support other technological initiatives. Recently, the district also purchased IEPPLUS, the PLUS 360 special education software solution, completing the transition to the suite.
Integrated Data Creates Educational Possibilities
With the strong capabilities and ease-of-use of the full suite of PLUS 360 products, Joliet Township is thinking innovatively about its programs. Six years ago, the district launched a wall-to- wall Career Academy Program. Joliet Township educators are now implementing Individual Career Plans within eSchoolPLUS to ensure that every student is empowered to acquire and apply the attributes necessary to compete and contribute positively to our global society.
Educators are also taking an interdisciplinary approach to their work in revising the core curriculum—understanding that the purpose of education in the 21st century has fundamentally changed.
“The focus of education is no longer just the memorization of facts,” says Harkin. “Critical thinking and problem-solving skills have become essential components to the instructional process. Teachers leverage technology to enhance instruction in a manner that allows students to actively engage in their learning.”
To support this new focus, Joliet Township launched a 1:1 technology initiative at the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year.
“The integration of technology is essential in motivating and engaging students in rigorous and relevant lessons,” she says. “1:1 technology provides anytime, anywhere learning and opens the doors to the critical thinking and problem- solving skills that students need.”
Harkin cautions that 1:1 technology is not the complete solution to the challenge of a 21st- century education. “If you just give a device to a student and you’re not really leveraging it for instructional purposes, it will just go by the wayside,” says Harkin.
So, to support the transition to 1:1 technology, Joliet Township also launched a new learning management system, JT Learn. “JT Learn is an online environment and student resource portal that provides students with access to their classroom activities, resources, and other information anytime, anywhere. The system provides teachers and students a common learning space to enrich, engage, and extend the teaching and learning that occurs in the physical classroom,” explains Harkin. “With the eSchoolPLUS data, we were able to develop this and really take a huge burden off of our teachers as far as learning how to manage that system.”
With technology in place, Joliet Township is well on its way to fulfilling the promise of a 21st-century education. “It’s all very exciting. I feel really good about where we are and the difference that we’re making for our students,” she says.