Doug Mackay, Founder
The countdown continues. In about two months, schools across the U.S. are expected to throw open their gates, post COVID-19-enforced closures, for the 20-21 school year. When the schools become fully operational, the foremost challenge will be to keep the learning environment safe and equitable.
As the blueprint for reopening schools in the fall is being rolled out, masks, temperature checks, and social distancing will be the norm. However, schools must assess the risk every day to cast aside any fears. On an equal note, when learning from home has become the new mantra, a manual, paper-based response to intervention program will fall short in providing an equitable education.
Against this backdrop, inspired by simplicity in innovation and mindful of the challenges brought forth by the pandemic, Mr. Elmer’s web-based progress monitoring platform—Intervention Compass— empowers schools to become not only equitable amidst the disruption but also maintain safe operations, which is paramount.
"We are providing transparency to the community, teachers, and administrators about the health status of the school, and facilitating continuity across the entire school district"
Mr. Elmer is focused on accelerating learning for all students by ensuring that response to intervention works. To this end, Intervention Compass integrates with existing student information systems and behavior programs. It brings together the different data points—attendance, grades, personal viewpoints from teachers and parents, behavior, and discipline—from disparate systems to present a holistic student story. The platform enables teachers, counselors, principals, and parents to be up-to-date with the student’s progress on the academic and behavioral front.
In the same vein, the COVID Dashboard, the platform’s new health component, provides the latest update on every student’s health status, enabling schools to ensure students’ safety. “We are providing transparency to the community, teachers, and administrators about the health status of the school, and facilitating continuity across the entire school district,” says Doug Mackay, founder of Mr. Elmer.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has laid out definite guidelines, however, there should be a relative risk assessment in terms of whether these guidelines are working every day,” remarks John Daniel, president of Mr. Elmer.
Drawing on the guidance from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the COVID Dashboard captures relevant information about the pandemic through simple and short surveys. The schools can gauge the risk factors and assess the health status of all students and staff every day. The simple and elegant dashboard has a streamlined data entry process and encompasses both data collection and presentation. The dashboard offers three channels of communication. Students, parents or guardians, and the personnel on campus—the teachers, nurses, and principals—can update their observations voluntarily using a simple form, and the information is standardized across the school district. The dashboard presents users with the ability to view the overall risk profile of an individual school or an aggregate of schools and helps in understanding what steps have been taken or not and the mitigation measures to be adopted.
“We are helping schools implement the practical nature of the CDC guidelines,” says Mackay. He draws attention to school districts that find it daunting to implement the guidelines and try to circumvent certain aspects. The COVID dashboard is designed to help schools practically implement all safety norms and be safe.
Schools can view the history of students and ascertain whether they have collected the necessary information about COVID-19, to understand the risk profile, contact tracing, and screening for that student.
We are uniquely positioned to support school districts through a genuinely equitable education and make that transformation simple
As the federal government has not released mandated standards regarding screening, the decision rests with the schools. Taking that into consideration, the company is ensuring that the screening and the alerting functionalities of the COVID dashboard is configured to the frequency and location of screening—in a bus, or the school building. Based on that knowledge, the dashboard displays metrics on who is screened and permitted to be in the classroom.
The dashboard provides two views, one from the district’s perspective in terms of history and screening, and the other from the teacher’s perspective. The teacher gets to know those students who can be permitted to attend the class or take action when there is some information missing about the students.
The solution categorizes information into three parts; allowed in class, missing information, and not allowed in class. “We make sure to call out “missing information” as separate from “should not be in the classroom” so that schools can help coordinate their data capture, just as much as they coordinate the safety of the class, because the two go hand in hand,” says Mackay. All the student-related data is covered under FERPA, which teachers are permitted to view.
The dashboard presents reports based on the user’s role. For example, an administrator at the central office has a district view because he has to understand the risk factors across schools. In the event of a school displayed red, the administrator can drill down and know the risk factors. Likewise, the concerned principal will be able to view to understand the issues, cost, and mitigation. And in the next step, only the teacher in charge of the class with an issue will be alerted. Based on the role, a user will be able to see just the information needed to perform his job. What’s more, the cloud-based application connected to the student roster, is straightforward and hardly takes a few minutes to implement and train.
Intervention Compass: Adapting to the New
Circling back to the company’s core solution, Intervention Compass, Daniel says, “The responsibility of providing an equitable education has changed from something that sounded nice to one that is truly going to be a requirement for the schools opening this fall.”
Today, with the ongoing pandemic, most schools have missed an entire quarter of the spring semester. And those students that were struggling academically earlier will, unfortunately, be further behind, come this fall. When the education system is already feeling the pinch due to lack of funds, special education referrals will double the cost of education. “It is imperative that the schools have to be equitable with a way to do progress monitoring for academics and behavior that needs to start on day one with a universal screener,” reiterates Daniel. With the Intervention Compass, the student’s performance can be judged on the first day of school instead of needing another semester to figure out. Schools can implement the resources and therapies that are required without delay.
To be abreast of the changing times, Mr. Elmer had to consider that the schools were closed, parents were more involved in education, and teachers had to deliver content differently.
John Daniel, President
The team at Mr. Elmer quickly integrated their progress monitoring platform with the video platform in use—Zoom or Google classroom, alongside integrating parents into the education process and providing them with specific tools.
For schools that do not have a video platform, the company has built one now, which has facilitated face-to-face communication between teachers and counselors. Moreover, the solution enables online conferencing with parents, who are now responsible for following through with the additional worksheets or any other form of intervention. Besides, for schools looking at remote learning or a hybrid approach, the company has come out with an enabled video email. It enables teachers to give out lesson plans and progress monitoring updates, and parents to return messages.
Leading the Way
Daniel recollects a remarkable instance that showcases the prowess of Intervention Compass. A particular school district was unable to get in touch with a certain percentage of students when the schools were closed. However, they wanted to continue their social, emotional learning program and reach out to those students who got adversely affected by the pandemic and get ready for the continuation of remote learning or the opening of schools in the fall. In less than a week, the team at Mr. Elmer was able to push a social, emotional learning survey program, and based on the feedback, rolled out specific video clips that instructed students on how to deal with COVID related situations. “Through our platform, we were not only able to help the school district get in touch with a large percentage of the students but know exactly where those students are emotionally,” says Daniel. It is a compelling story, which has placed them in a better position to succeed this fall.
“We look at every district’s problem as a solvable proposition, and ascertain how our solution maps to every other district’s requirements, and how we can share best practices among the school districts,” states Mackay. “In a nutshell, our goal is to enable all of our customers have the same level of success.”
For the future, the duo upholds that the company’s solution will have health as a component, as the pandemic will have to be dealt with for some time. While the emphasis will be on social, emotional learning, the more definite focus going forward, in the wake of the pandemic-induced stress factors coming into play, will be in understanding the emotional state of students.
“Our ability to adapt quickly and provide the type of tools that educators need in the changing times is the key to our success and what separates us from competition,” says Daniel, a serial entrepreneur who has been creating and building successful technology companies the last 30 years. The entrepreneurial experience perfectly dovetails with the team’s in-depth educational experience to accelerate technology development that delivers simplifications to the new data-driven school, bringing new ideas to the market ahead of time.
According to Daniel, with the pandemic impacting the learning ecosystem, a more significant percentage of schools will review how equitable their education is, and seek tools that make it easier for them to succeed and reduce the cost of education. “We have all the historical data and can predict how students will perform this fall, and whether they are safe to be in school on a given day,” states Daniel. “We are uniquely positioned to support school districts through a truly equitable education and make that transformation simple.”