ISBE Attendance Reporting Change - Update (Illinois Only)
Over the weekend we released further updates for the ISBE attendance changes.
Tracking Calendars on Daily Attendance
As mentioned in previous articles, a student’s bucket for present attendance (in-person, e-learning, or remote learning) is calculated based upon the student’s calendar code for each day (X-Students in Attendance, XELD-ELearning Day, XRLD-Remote Learning Day, etc). Our report previously used students’ current calendar to calculate which bucket each day’s present credit goes into. If a student moved between various calendars, then their current calendar may not have the correct calendar day code for past attendance. While present attendance will be correct in aggregate, it may have inaccurate breakdowns between in-person, e-learning, and remote learning.
Moving forward, we’ll track which calendar is assigned each time attendance is taken. This will preserve the day’s calendar code, even if the student changes calendars in the future. The history is displayed on students - single view.
When students are moved to different calendars, those changes will be stored in their history. Admins can modify the calendar history as needed. We created a knowledge base article to help explain this new feature and will be hosting a webinar tomorrow morning. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the webinars page for anyone who is unable to attend.
Knowledge Base Article: Attendance Calendar History
Getting Old Data from Backups
However, the new feature only captures data going forward. Changes that occurred before the release (this past weekend) were not tracked because no framework existed for storing this data.
When thinking about this problem, we realized that most schools don’t even have this data. Few customers would track calendar changes outside the system. So it would likely be impossible for most customers to enter old data.
After some technical research, we were able to utilize our nightly backups to fill in the missing information. We restored every backup for this year, and took a snapshot of each student’s calendar for the day. This was a long and tedious process, but we felt it was important to get the data. We then applied the calendar codes to production. The result is every student’s calendar history should be available and ready for reporting to the ISBE. In these cases, no further changes should be required by school staff.
We’re glad that we were able to solve this problem for a majority of our customers.
Custom Attendance Codes
This past fall, instead of using our newly built software, some school districts invented a procedure to track e-learning versus in-person instruction. They created new attendance codes, instead of using calendars to track whether students were in-person or e-learning/remote. While it worked at the moment, this approach left those customers without good reporting.
In general, situations like this are problematic for us. Development resources are a very scarce resource, and we think hard to optimize it. It’s very painful to deploy dev time to “save” customers who chose not to use an existing solution. It’s double work that takes away time from valuable new features we could’ve built.
In all fairness, the particular situation is more nuanced. Everyone was scrambling with covid-19. The ISBE guidance left room for interpretation. Our software was delivered late in the summer, and some customers didn’t have time to digest our changes. We have a significant minority of customers that took this approach, so we probably didn’t communicate as well as we should have. It’s likely that our technical services team didn’t push back hard enough when customers asked about these approaches to ISBE attendance.
The point is that we’d like to really discourage customers from inventing procedures in the future. Please don’t create new codes to track information that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. Don’t re-use fields to hold other data. Please reach out to us so we can outline the designed workflow for each situation.
Anyway, we DO think we have a good solution for these customers. We’ll be releasing a mass edit page that will allow users to migrate to the new data structure with minimal effort. It’ll basically set a calendar code based upon an existing attendance code. We’ll release more information about these changes in the coming days.
We appreciate your patience as we work through these changes.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you,
The Common Goal Team