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New Snapshot tool helps teachers track student progress

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Teachers at five District schools can more easily get a picture of a student’s progress with a new tool called Snapshot.

The tool collects data from different sources on a student’s behavior, attendance, and course performance on individualized cards that are updated throughout the school year. Students who are having trouble in any of the three listed areas are arranged on a “data wall” using a three-flag system that shows their level of risk: one flag for trouble in one area, two flags for trouble in two areas, and three flags for trouble in all three.

School faculty and administrators can use physical cards of student data on an actual wall or they can use a virtual version that’s accessible any time of the day.

So far, the tool is being used at Roxborough, Lincoln, Furness, Parkway West, and Robeson High Schools. It has been in Roxborough and Lincoln since the 2013-14 school year.

Snapshot was created by Philadelphia Academies, a nonprofit organization that provides career-focused programming and preparation for post-secondary education.

David Lon, assistant principal at Lincoln, said Snapshot is an effective tool in planning intervention for struggling students because it saves him the trouble of collecting data from different sources. Before this school year, Snapshot collected data from SchoolNet, Gradebook, and Scholarship. Now it will collect data from SchoolNet and the District’s new student information system, Infinite Campus.

“It helps us to identify students in a more streamlined manner than we were ever able to before with SchoolNet,” Lon said.

Philadelphia Academies primarily works with schools that often have attendance problems and high dropout rates, so it was the right tool to address these issues, said Jay Vazquez, president/CEO of Philadelphia Academies.

“For us, this is an opportunity to provide teachers with a tool to help them address some of the issues that confront them,” he said.

The tool costs $4,200 per school per year, and it comes with additional assistance from a data specialist. Vazquez said that other schools in and outside of the city have shown an interest in the program, but making a profit is not the ultimate goal.

“We see this as an opportunity to help the students that we serve in the schools that we work in. It’s totally about mission,” he said.