‘Informer’ pilot program can help fine-tune education in Federal Way

Tuesday marked the start of a new wave of information for Federal Way Public Schools.

The district rolled out a pilot for its Informer program, which allows students' test and assessment records to be accessed instantly, anywhere in the district.

Parts of the grade book program have been in effect for some time and were accessible to district employees.

However, as the software has added more functions, the district is piloting those functions in four of elementary schools: Valhalla, Silver Lake, Lake Grove and Lake Dolloff.

The program funding stems from district's last technology levy and the assessment budget.

If proven successful during this pilot year, the district may expand the program to all schools if there is funding, Director of Assessment Dave Davis said.

This means no longer waiting for the "snail mail" to arrive for students who are switching schools within the district. Now, students can come with their student ID number. A counselor or teacher can pull up their record instantly to help them figure out what classes are right for them.

"I am pleased we continue to use technology to try and find out where each child is," Superintendent Tom Murphy said.

The software has the capabilities to help the district create what it calls a "hot list," or a list of students who may need additional help.

Rather than send for hard copies of student testing results (everything from WASL to district administered evaluations), district employees can access the information from a computer. Teachers will be able to identify those students needing intervention, find out which areas students are excelling and whether students could be moved into more challenging classes, said Josh Garcia, executive director of Teaching For Learning.

Assessment test turnout around should be much faster with the program, allowing some test results for the next day, where previously teachers had to wait about a week.

Parents of elementary students should soon be able to look at their student's report cards online, similar to the parents of secondary students.

There will still be hard copies of student records in their portfolios.

"This is the most significant thing I've seen in my time on the board," school board member Tony Moore said.

The school district hopes easier access to the information will translate into getting students registered in more challenging classes.

The district can now look at the data in the new software and determine if there are students who might be better off taking Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes.

"We can pull up their scores and see if they qualify," Garcia said.

This could mean looking up the scores of a certain group that is underrepresented in the advanced classes, then let the district focus on bringing more of those students into the class, Garcia said.

"There is a lot of assessment in the district," board member Amye Bronson-Doherty said. "To just look at the WASL scores does not give us the picture."

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