Education is a challenging and intensely rewarding calling. As demands on educators continue to grow, automating district processes wherever possible is a critical component to keeping up with the fast pace of every school year. Once your district has unburdened staff from the mountains of paperwork by implementing a document management solution, process automation is the next step to granting them the time to refocus on the real prize — helping students thrive.
1.IMPROVED SERVICES FOR ENGLISH LEARNERS
In the US, there are 4.6 million English Learners (EL) in K-12 schools, which represents approximately 9.4 percent of the national student population. In some states, that number is as high as 22.4 percent. Districts must adhere to federal guidelines as well as state mandates when educating their English Learner students. In Illinois, for example, EL students who are new to a district must complete a home language survey to identify those with a language background other than English. Students then take an English proficiency exam for initial eligibility, and they test again every year to monitor their progress, reassess their skill level, and determine continued eligibility for the program. Districts must continue to follow EL students for two years after they complete the EL program.
The process for EL eligibility in your district probably mirrors that of Illinois—bringing together parent completion of forms, student assessments, admittance into the program, document storage, and the setting of permissions for administrators and teachers who are tasked with EL student monitoring. This complex sequence of steps and documents presents an ideal opportunity for process automation. Having adopted a new document management and process automation technology platform, Hesperia Unified School District in San Bernardino, CA, cut the time it took to approve students’ eligibility for their English Learners program from three months to two weeks. The greatest benefit of this process improvement is increased student access to much-needed services.
2.ANONYMOUS REPORTING OF BULLYING, SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE, AND OTHER THREATS TO STUDENT SAFETY.
In our complex society, schools are playing an increased role in keeping students physically and emotionally safe. The challenges are daunting:
21 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school, 5 and 25 percent of public middle and high schools deal with cyber bullying issues every week.
9 percent of schools reported a threat with a weapon during the 2015-2016 school year.
Suicide rates doubled among teen girls and increased by more than 30 percent among teen boys from 2007 to 2015. 22% In the US, there are 4.6 million English Learners (EL) in K-12 schools, which represents approximately 9.4 percent of the national student population. In some states, like California, that number is as high as 22.4 percent.3 30% Suicide rates doubled among teen girls and increased by more than 30 percent among teen boys from 2007 to 2015.
These statistics indicate the increasing challenges in keeping students and faculty safe and healthy and show that every district needs a plan in place where students, staff, and parents can easily and reliably report concerning behavior. Online forms serve as a dedicated hotline where behavior concerns can be reported anonymously 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. With a robust process automation system, this critical information can automatically be forwarded to the right leaders, who can take immediate action to keep their students safe.
3.VOLUNTEER APPLICATIONS THAT INCLUDE CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS.
These days, volunteering at your local school may involve rigorous vetting, with some districts requiring a multi-step volunteer application process. For example:
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina requires all volunteers to complete an online registration form and a criminal background check. Unsupervised volunteers also need to complete an in-person interview and pass a reference check.
- Las Cruces Public Schools in New Mexico requires all parents and community members who volunteer to complete an FBI background check and a criminal history affidavit.
With the overall increase in security risks at schools, some districts nationwide have followed a similar pattern for vetting volunteers. Managing this multi-step process, collecting reliable data, and keeping information securely stored yet easily accessible is no easy task. Process automation enables your district to:
- Post an online volunteer application that parents, or community members can complete anytime, anywhere.
- Collect complete and accurate data for each applicant.
- Securely store forms in an easily accessible online location
- Give designated administrators permission to retrieve forms as needed
Forms can automatically be routed to the right personnel for sign-off without manual intervention, so school secretaries are not bogged down with paperwork or approvals. Your district can be assured that you have safeguards in place to protect students, while preventing paperwork or delayed response time from dissuading potential volunteers. Volunteerism and community involvement are critical components of any vibrant school district. A Pennsylvania law passed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State, requires all K-12 school visitors to be fingerprinted and undergo background checks before coming onto campus.11 Many other districts nationwide are implementing similar procedures.
4.ONLINE PERMISSION FORMS
Parents are required to complete permission slips that waive district liability and allow their children to participate in field trips, team sports, and extra-curricular activities. As any parent will attest, the paper-based version of this process is challenging at every point:
- Permission slips get buried and crumpled at the bottom of the back pack.
- Often parents are unaware that they need to be signed.
- Students must remember to return signed slips to the teacher.
- Teachers feel the headache of collecting the slips.
- Missing slips can sideline students and anger parents.
Unfortunately, many schools still rely on this old-fashioned method. Other schools may have a Word or PDF file posted on the school website for parents to download, print, complete, and send in with their child — which defeats the purpose of an online system.
The online submission of permission forms is an ideal function for process automation tools. A teacher can send a group email to the parents with a link to an online form. Parents then complete the form and submit it electronically. The teacher receives an alert when the forms are submitted, and reminders can be set to automatically email parents whose forms are missing. No slips of paper, no class time lost collecting forms, and no pressure on students to remember one more thing in their already busy schedules. The forms can be stored and accessed by staff with the appropriate permissions. This streamlines the process, saves time, and frees up teachers to focus on educating students.
5.INTERNAL FORMS REQUESTS
There is a plethora of forms needed to manage district operations, such as requests for field use, room requests for PTA and Boy and Girl Scout activities, maintenance needs, A/V equipment check-outs, and transportation requests. Often these activities are done behind the scenes but require time and energy for staff to execute. With a process automation system, all these requests can follow a similar sequence as permission slips, beginning with a secure online form, combined with online scheduling, notifications, and approvals. Your district saves on administrative time, printing costs, paper, and storage.
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