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Alabama's Largest School District Turns to IBM to Build a Smarter Education System

Helps Mobile County Public Schools to identify, monitor and assist students at risk

ARMONK, N.Y. - 13 Jul 2009: IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced today that Mobile County (Alabama) Public Schools has selected IBM analytics technology to more effectively measure student performance, immediately identify students "at risk," and adjust academic programs in real-time in order to best deliver smarter education services that prepare students with 21st century skills.

 

Sample IBM dashboard being used by K-12 school districts to monitor the complete lifecycle of student performance. (PRNewsFoto/IBM)

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090713/NY45010 )

Mobile County Public Schools System (MCPSS) is the largest school district in Alabama, with an enrollment of over 63,000 students in 95 schools covering 10 incorporated cities and a population base of over 400,000. Committed to fulfilling national education standards, MCPSS officials found it difficult to tap into their vast student information stores using their previous reporting system. Information for each academic year was in separate physical databases, rendering simple report generation into a multi-stepped, complex process that ultimately provided limited student performance insights that were often out-of-date or inaccurate.

After an extensive review of competitive offerings, MCPSS turned to IBM analytics technology to improve its student performance management practices. In collaboration with IBM business partner DecisionEd Group, MCPSS will deliver accurate analytics for up to 5,000 users across the school district, including central office administrators, principals, guidance counselors and teachers.

Customizable dashboards will give them access to up-to-date reports and measures, offering users the transparency they need to quickly and effectively gauge how well their schools are delivering education programs, and monitor the entire academic lifecycle of each student, including class attendance, grades, interventions and any special educational requirements. With information in hand, teachers can then tap into the school district's Teacher Resource for Instructional Planning (TRIP) website, access special lesson plans and individualize instruction according to each student's needs, while still protecting confidentiality.

School district executives are particularly focused on tracking students who are at risk of dropping out of school. With the previous student performance management solution, school administrators had to wait for quarterly reports from the central office. The longer it took to get information out to the fields, the greater the risk of students dropping out. With IBM technology, all information will be available locally for immediate insights. A set of notifiers built into the IBM system will proactively alert the proper personnel once a student has crossed specific "At Risk" thresholds, such as absenteeism and grade levels. With this advanced warning system, school officials will be able to focus on preventing or resolving issues before they escalate, helping steer students on the right path and monitoring their progress moving forward.

This smarter system will also ensure that schools do not bear the education burden alone. MCPSS partners with the Mobile County District Attorney's Office on a number of special joint education initiatives, including the Early Warning Truancy Program, and the Multiple Education Pathways Blueprint Initiative, which is designed to help connect high school dropouts to alternative learning opportunities. With the help of IBM, MCPSS expects to foster a more comprehensive exchange of critical, real-time student information with the District Attorney's Office in order to more effectively engage youth in career preparation and encourage them to pursue an education.

The Obama Administration has made education reform one of its top priorities. Each year, only 70 percent of American high school students graduate, and only 39 percent of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have a post-secondary degree. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) includes $41 billion in total grants to local school districts, ensuring they receive the support they need to improve education standards and help enhance the nation's long-term prosperity.

"Mobile County Public Schools has an important mandate to fulfill - one that plays a critical role in the development of every student in our school system. To ensure that each student learns to high standards, we needed a smart system in place where we could easily access and share real-time student information and identify where we are successful, and where we are not meeting the needs of our students," said David K. Akridge, executive manager of information technology services at Mobile County Public Schools. "Through invaluable information insights delivered by IBM technology, we move closer to fulfilling our mission of graduating citizens who are prepared with the skills they need for the 21st century."

IBM analytics and business intelligence is also expected to help MCPSS comply with ARRA transparency and reporting mandates. Despite intense fiscal pressures around the world, economic stimulus programs offer the opportunity to foster real innovation in the way education is delivered.

Over $1.7 billion has been earmarked to the State of Alabama, of which $26 million will go directly to MCPSS under Title I, which constitutes funds to help educators improve education for academically at-risk students and close the achievement gap among schools while stimulating the economy. "IBM gives us the capabilities we will need to quickly monitor funding effectiveness, track individual programs against key performance indicators, adjust plans accordingly to ensure optimal delivery, and deliver detailed reports up the chain, showing progress and successes to date," added Akridge.

Analytics and business intelligence is driving new innovation in information management as organizations transform the way they use information to better understand what is going on inside their business.

"Educational institutions are challenged to identify what critical drivers impact student performance, and then adjust accordingly to maximize each child's opportunity to a quality education," said Robert Dolan, government and education industry executive at IBM. "With the right information at their disposal, educators and school administrators can then take the next step to creating a smarter education system, safeguarding the academic welfare of every student and paving their way towards a successful future."

IBM's Academic Initiative works with 9,200 faculty members from 4,600 educational organizations worldwide to help them prepare students for emerging career opportunities that span the future of business and technology.

About The Mobile County Public Schools System:

For more information on Mobile County Public Schools, please visit http://www.mcpss.com/

About IBM:

For more information on Smarter Education, please visit: http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ideasfromibm/us/smartplanet/topics/educationtechnology/20090601/index.shtml

For more information about IBM Information Management, please visit http://www.ibm.com/software/data/

Contact(s) information

David DeRosa
IBM Media Relations
613-356-6033
david.derosa@ca.ibm.com

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