Re-Aligning Goal Setting

New portal allows OSTPs to better serve students

Data is no longer a burden for Summit Education Initiative (SEI)’s out of school time partners (OSTPs).

After several years in development, the OSTP Portal has launched to provide organizations working with students outside of school better access to students’ information. This process not only relieves OSTPs of extra work and time they could spend interacting more with students, but it also allows these organizations to track and report concrete outcomes to funders.

“The OSTP Portal gives participants the ability to speak more clearly than ever before about their work and the differences they’re making,” says Dr. Matthew Deevers, senior research associate at SEI. “OSTPs are also more comfortable setting performance goals for students when they have access to secure student data from schools. Now, OSTPs can set much clearer goals for students’ grades, attendance and test scores.”

OSTPs used to be dependent on students’ families to send their children to out of school time programming with their report cards. The grades OSTPs actually received ended up in binders and other files they have to manually track on their own.

“The OSTP Portal has removed time and access barriers for OSTPs interested in using student data from schools to assist student achievement,” Deevers explains. “Absences, grades, standardized and state test scores will be updated on a weekly basis. With this Portal, SEI has bridged the gap between those who work with kids during the day and those who work with kids outside of school. The Portal is like a ‘digital backpack’ for students.”

Private and secure

south street ministries students

Joe Tucker, executive director of South Street Ministries, interacts with students during an after school activity.

Before OSTPs have access to the Portal, the employees who would use it must complete a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) training with SEI. No one from any organization can have access to the Portal without FERPA training; OSTPs have the same responsibility to protect student data as do teachers and principals.

Parents must also provide written consent for OSTPs to access their children’s data via the Portal before individuals from the organizations serving their children may have live access.

Every January, SEI distributes Data Access Agreements to all 17 school district superintendents in Summit County. Assuming the superintendent of any particular district signs the agreement, SEI will have access to their students’ data for one year.

So far, in this initial effort, only Akron Public Schools (APS)’ student data is entered into the OSTP Portal.

“APS has a larger Information Technology (IT) staff than most other districts, as well as more OSTPs that work with their students,” Deevers says. “We do anticipate a time when we will be able to expand Portal access to other Summit County districts, which will further facilitate our valuable partner relationships.”

SEI particularly appreciates APS’ willingness to work with us and OSTPs to better the future of their students.

“Having OSTPs that provide students additional opportunities to learn new skills, improve their skills and increase knowledge is really important,” says Carla Sibley, director of community relations for APS. She encourages OSTPs to use the Portal as a resource moving forward.

“What is most important is that OSTPs can connect with students based on relationships,” she says.  “Students are more likely to access additional learning opportunities when they have a relationship with a positive adult who provides support, encouragement and opportunities to connect experiences beyond the classroom with learning.”

Support system

With 24/7 virtual access to private, secure student data, OSTPs may now focus on what they do best: working with kids.

“For relational, grassroots organizations like South Street Ministries, quantifying data to assess the outcomes of our work can be challenging,” says Joe Tucker, executive director of South Street Ministries. “Having access to the Portal to view our students’ academics will substantially streamline the process of becoming aware of their performance in school.”

students from Urban Vision Ministry

Students from Urban Vision Ministry proudly display their certificates during an after school event.

Although South Street Ministries has not quite yet set performance goals for their students, they hope the Portal will enable them to do so.

“Our main calling is faithfulness and instilling love for our neighbors,” Tucker says. “We know we do this well, but with the Portal we can grow in our assessment of efficacy.”

Urban Vision Ministry is also excited to begin using the Portal.

“Because our students come from diverse backgrounds, having easy access to students’ grades, standardized test scores and attendance records on the Portal will help us set individual goals for our students,” says Katelyn Marshall, assistant director of SOS, Urban Vision’s after school program. “This will be an effective tool we can use to make sure our 112 students are making improvements.”

While South Street Ministries and Urban Vision Ministry are collecting parent consent forms, other OSTPs have expressed interest in using the Portal moving forward. Not all OSTPs will find real-time access to student data relevant to the activities they host for kids; however, the potential to increase the focus on grades and attendance for students involved with everyday programs is worthwhile and inspiring.

“We wanted to make sure we took the time to make this right,” Deevers says. “Instead of asking our partners, ‘Can you collect your students’ report cards?’ we started asking, ‘How can we better support you?’”

Partial funding support from United Way of Summit County and Akron Community Foundation made possible the development and implementation of the OSTP Portal.