A state mandate put Illinois public schools in line for a change with how they handled teacher evaluations. Bloomington Public Schools District 87 took it as a chance for bureaucratic efficiency with a collaborative touch in the cloud.

The district consists of six elementary schools, a junior high and senior high school, as well as an early education and career center, covering just less than 5,600 students and located throughout Bloomington in the center of Illinois. A new state law pumped up teacher assessment requirements, not to mention the associated documentation. Rather than be “hamstrung” by an eventual state-developed model for handling these new requirements, Bloomington Assistant Superintendent Dr. Herschel Hannah sought out a document management process that was personalized and actually cut back on time compiling evaluations.

Already at work in the Bloomington district with other tools, vendor Ed Automate developed an automated process management solution in the Amazon cloud for the K-12 district based on the generalized solution called ProcessMaker offered by its partner, Colosa. The software maker held meetings in the spring to develop a solution for 14 administrators to evaluate 12-to-18 teachers at a time with differing forms split between tenured and non-tenured teachers. After discussion, they settled on 10 forms to satisfy state and in-house monitoring needs, which have collaboration features, pre-populated fields and can be accessed with laptops or iPads. The process flow of the forms cut “hours” from old methods and what would have been even more time spent with face-to-face reviews over “Word doc cutting-and-pasting” into different applications or handwritten notes, says Principal Danel Harr. By July, teachers and administrators – both of whom use the system – were accessing test files through the cloud portal, and training was underway as scheduled by August, with the first rounds of reviews off and running in September.

After initial use instances, a few kinks have come up, like a missing auto-save feature for some users, though those continue to be ironed out between district officials, teachers and software developers in conference calls. Through the first school year of use, the solution will be continually reviewed against user experience, cost and efficiency, Hannah says.

“We’re doing benchmarking right out of the box, so one of the things we’re going to learn is how much time this new process takes and how efficient this is for us,” he says.

Surely, the Bloomington school district is dealing with the documents volumes and complexity that would be dwarfed by many enterprise implementations. But it is part of a growing pool of municipal and public institution use cases of both advancing collaboration solutions and applications in the cloud.

Brian Reale, CEO at Colosa, the company behind ProcessMaker, said the number of school districts using its tools or a variation through an OEM partner, like the Bloomington district, has grown to approximately 100 in the last few years. Among that sample size, Reale says he finds an increasing appetite for the cloud, which opens up the chance for modernized applications for districts that may only have a few users and nearly always have financial constraints.

“In terms of U.S. school systems, the cloud is taking flight in some cases,” says Reale.

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