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“With Salesforce, we can gain a holistic understanding of each student’s progress and experience at our school.” - Arpi Karapetyan, Accountability and Communications Manager, BDEA

Alternative school within Boston Public Schools uses Salesforce for competency-based learning & social-emotional progress tracking

On a Mission to Re-Engage Off-Track Students

BDEA isn’t your traditional high school. “Our school was designed to serve a specific purpose within the district: To serve students who have previously dropped out of high school or who are at-risk for dropping out,” says Alison Hramiec, Head of School for BDEA. As a result, BDEA enrolls students who are 16-23 years old and are, on average, two years below grade level.

To best support their students, BDEA takes a unique approach. Students are assessed for a full trimester when they enroll so that the school knows exactly where they are academically, socially, and emotionally, and what they need in order to graduate and move on to their college or career of choice. In BDEA’s competency-based education (CBE) model, students demonstrate understanding of content by meeting a series of “benchmarks” which taken together, prove mastery of a “competency.” Seat time, attendance, homework, and other “compliance” metrics are not taken into consideration and students move through personalized road maps at their own pace.

BDEA combines their CBE model with wrap-around social-emotional support and intervention programs. “We approach education at a very human level, helping them transition into the lives they want to live.” says Brian Connor, Technology Specialist and Lead Teacher.

Challenged by Data Siloes

In addition to tracking metrics relating to academic progress, demographics, attendance, etc., BDEA also needs to track and integrate data relating to various student risk factors including incident reporting, social/emotional support interventions, and post-secondary planning. Previously, the data they needed was stored in a variety of disparate systems and longitudinal analysis was nearly impossible to conduct. “No other system allowed us to do competence-based assessment in a way that was authentic to the integrity of our process,” said Arpi Karapetyan, Accountability and Communications Manager. These challenges created major headaches and were ultimately interfering with the school’s ability to deliver on its mission.

Connecting Data for Actionable Insights

“As we think about changing schools and allowing students to have personalized pathways, the tech has to be there,” Hrameic says. “It has to be flexible enough to support our truly student-centered approach, and it can’t be costly.” To meet these needs, Karapetyan and Connor leveraged the Salesforce platform to build and customize a holistic database called “Connects,” which houses all of BDEA’s most important data and provides actionable insights to key stakeholders.

“Salesforce allowed us to put everything in one place so that we weren’t banging our heads against the wall managing all these different systems,” Connor says.

With Connects, BDEA has access to many new metrics and is able to do predictive analysis based on risk factors that are entered into Salesforce during intake.

“Now we have the ability to really dig deep and make thoughtful and informed decisions. It’s all about building a system that can allow us to better help our students, and with Salesforce, we can see what is working and then scale that out,” says Andrea Kunst, Director of Advancement.

Meaningful Data for Students, Teachers, and Staff

BDEA used Salesforce Community Cloud to launch three online portals in late 2015: one for students to track how they’re doing and get class emails and alerts; one for teachers to keep an eye on student progress; and one for advisors to monitor and deal with behavior and other issues.

“On their own, students might have a sense of how they’re doing, but they don’t always realize when they’re engaging in a behavior that could undermine their success,” Karapetyan says. “Giving students access to their data creates transparency and allows the conversation to move forward.”

The advisor portal, meanwhile, helps advisors better understand and serve each student. “We’re able to be a lot more thoughtful about the way we support students and easily see how we’ve worked with them before,” Karapetyan says. “With Salesforce, we gain a holistic understanding of each student’s progress and experience at our school.”
For teachers, looking up student data used to be a real chore. Now they get and use data quickly. For example, they recently saw more than half of their students self-report anxiety and depression—this prompted BDEA to seek additional resources to address those issues.

Future-Proof Customizability

With help from implementation experts at 501Partners, Connor and Karapetyan have been customizing BDEA’s Salesforce instance since deployment—despite having no previous experience with the platform.

“The system is so intuitive…It lets our team think big and do things that we wouldn’t have been able to figure out with a less intuitive system,” says Karapetyan.

Teachers are also seeing the possibilities Salesforce presents and are thinking differently about how to use information to better reach their students. “We get more requests from departments asking for additional data so they can make decisions,” Karapetyan says. “We didn’t get that two years ago. Now that people can see the sorts of things we can do, it’s really changed their thinking.”

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