Thank You, PSUG

This past week was the return to in-person conferences for PSUG (which does not officially stand for “PowerSchool User Group”…but it kinda’ is). I had the privilege of teaching 5 different topics across 6 sessions. I read through the session feedback surveys and when focusing on some of the more critical comments, I found that I agreed with them.

Some of my sessions were too short and I could’ve included more material. I recognized that I had planned for a hour’s worth of content but then discovered that the session length was 90 minutes instead. OK, got it. I’ll plan better for next time.

I’m also flattered and humbled by all of the positive comments. Some remarked that they’d want me to teach for an entire week and not just for a couple of 90-minute sessions here and there. I did prep my learners that what I was going to show them was only the tip of the iceberg, so I suppose that checks out.

The one thing I was worried about and made sure to focus on was my habit of talking too fast. I got some advice from a more experienced presenter that “nobody complains if you go too slow, but everyone complains if you go too fast.” I took that to heart because I know in past presentations, I have talked too fast and burned through slides due to both nervousness and realizing that I’m not engaging with the audience as I expected and hoped to.

I feel like the success of my sessions was because I inject a lot of comedic touches in my speech. I had to remind myself that despite the size of the audience, I am speaking to peers; people who are in my line of work, who do the same things I do, and who suffer through the same setbacks and indignities as I have.

So what can I do to reassure them that I get it? I know their pain. I know their difficulties. How do I connect with them on the same level?

In my minor in college (training & development), one of the first things we need to do when designing instruction for adults is performing a needs assessment. What does my audience need from me and my content? If my content doesn’t address their needs, then it’s failed.

Answer their question: “what’s in it for me?”

Justify why they’re there.

If I can make them laugh, if I can get them to relax, to see me as a partner rather than a lecturer, then they’re more apt to be engaged and open to learning.

I did feel that my weakest sessions were the ones where I was sitting down at the computer to demonstrate steps and processes even if I wanted them to walk through it with me. The ones where I was standing most of the time and moving around to prompt participation were the more successful ones. But those step-by-step ones, I still have to sit or remain static in one place in order to demonstrate the material. So not sure how to make that more stimulating and engaging.

Well, either way, this is an ongoing learning experience for me. My first time presenting before peers was a total disaster because I panicked and did everything wrong. My second time was better. I had more experience after that, and I think this time around has been the most success I’ve had yet.

And I want to get better at it even still.

Beta PowerSchool Plugin: Contingent Student Schedule

I’m not publishing this to the PowerSchool Exchange yet because it was a rush job and I’m not satisfied with the back-end management component of it. It’s in a “good enough” stage right now because of rapid-release requirement, so to speak.

This plugin replaces the default student schedule page in the public portal of PowerSchool and prevents viewing of schedules until the family has completed a back-to-school emergency contact update form. It seems like a common concern where schools beg for this information but parents just can’t be bothered to complete it, and there’s little for the school to do to enforce it.

Some schools have had success in making completion of that information a condition for receiving student schedules, but PowerSchool doesn’t have any built-in tools to accomplish this. So I created something instead.

There are two prerequisites:

  1. You must be using Ecollect Forms to present your emergency-contact update form. The plugin requires the form ID to work.
  2. In each school’s Years & Terms, “suppress student schedules” must be turned on. Otherwise, the entire purpose of this plugin is defeated.

PowerSchool users, feedback is welcome. I have a topic on the PSUG community forum where comments and discussion can be posted.

Version 2.0 was released 8/7/23. This includes the following fixes and updates since the last available version:

  • Edited links to update form to be dynamic instead of hard-coded.
  • Added exemption for NSD and RES students to not be required to complete the update. Note: these are Troy School District specific entry codes. NSD = new students to the district. RES = Reenrolling students (students who left the district for a period of time and came back, not students who merely had a break during summer).
  • Added ability in school setup to exempt the building itself from contingent schedule.
  • Added term selector (S1, S2, or both)
  • Included quarter-long classes that fit within a chosen semester
  • Enabled navigation for Enhanced UI.

Download the plugin here.

Student Contact Address Verification PowerSchool Plugin

PowerSchool’s student contacts permit some detailed information about contacts associated to a student, but lacks any meaningful automated validation with the “Lives With” flag. This is, of course, a natural constraint as a student can live part time with one parent and another, even if their designated home addresses don’t match (to avoid sounding like I’m criticizing PowerSchool here).

This plugin compares a student’s address to the addresses of contacts claimed to be living with the student. If the addresses don’t match within a large percentage, an alert icon appears to signal a need for review of both the student’s address in Addresses or General Demographics pages or the contacts themselves.

It could be a simple misspelling or order of the components of the address (123 Main Street East versus 123 E. Main). Or it could be a custodial arrangement, but not everyone may be aware of it.

Download from PowerSource.

Enhanced Guardian Alerts PowerSchool Plugin

Plugin #2 is out on PowerSource. Like the Medical Alerts visual enhancement, this adds some additional icons under the student header in the admin portal to visually indicate whether extra attention should be drawn to the guardian page.

This initial version will include blue icons for the existence of a restraining order and whether an adult should have limited contact with a student.

Download from PowerSource

Add Former English Learner from PowerSchool Into Illuminate

Our English Language Development department wants to track students who are considered “former English learners” in Illuminate.  The criterion is if they’ve been exited from the EL program within the last four years.  This requires a few preparations.

First, set the code within Illuminate to display the former EL status.  I just chose the next one available.  I’ll use this variable in my SQL script, which comes next.

From the cog, choose Code Management

Look for English Proficiency.  I just start typing “english,” and it appears:

Then add the new code.  In our case, plain number 6 was the next available one.  I have to remember this value:

Next, I need to edit studemo.sql on the server where the SQL extract scripts are installed.  These are the scripts that build queries from the PowerSchool database, assemble the files, and then SFTPs them to Illuminate’s server.

The column that provides English proficiency status is column 14.  For that column, I use a CASE statement:

   when (sc.flaglep = 1) then 3
   when (sc.lepexitdate > to_date('6/15/'||to_char(extract(year from sysdate)-4),'mm/dd/yyyy')) then 6
else null end

The prefix sc refers to an alias for our state reporting code.  PowerSchool users outside of Michigan may have different column names.  Walking through this CASE statement, here’s what I’m saying:

  • If the “is an English learner” checkbox is marked, the value is 1 in the database, so I want to return the value of 3 to send to Illuminate (note in the screen shot above of the code table, where 3 indicates “English Learner”).
  • If the EL exit date is greater than a date of June 15 of the year that’s 4 earlier than the current system date, then return a 6.
  • Otherwise, return nothing

So the possible output values will be 3, 6, or nothing.  This is proven when looking at studemo.txt in Excel:

Once uploaded to Illuminate, this value can then be used in filters for reports, student groups, and assessments: