Elmhurst 205 uses Seesaw to share student learning with families while keeping evidence for standards-based reporting
District Name: Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205
Location: Elmhurst, IL
Implementation Grades: K-5
Students in Implementation: 3,550
Nikki Tammaru (Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Leadership Development) and Dave Beedy (Director of STEM Education) from Elmhurst School District 205 share how Seesaw has helped them improve parent-school communication in their district after establishing standards-based grading. Now their school district lauds high family engagement metrics, and empowered students and teachers who can choose what and how they’d like to share classroom happenings with families at home.
Note: In this group interview, we have collectively labeled Nikki and Dave’s responses as Elmhurst.
What problem did Seesaw for Schools solve for your district?
Elmhurst: Last year, as we started doing standards-based grading at the elementary school, we received some parent pushback and feedback around no longer seeing evidence of their kids learning coming home. Due to the new standards-based grading system, teachers were hoarding student evidence at school because they needed it to deliver the final grade at the end of each trimester. The problem was work wasn’t coming home, parents felt left out of the loop, and they were really struggling with it. Seesaw was the main thing that was helping us alleviate the problem of parents not getting the information they wanted. We investigated and saw the potential of Seesaw as a communication tool to get student work in the hands of parents. Seesaw made sure parents felt less anxious about what was happening at school and enabled them to help students at home if they were struggling in school.
We also noticed that our early childhood center, Madison, was really utilizing the resource and had so much momentum around it. We talked with Madison’s principal and she showed us all the different ways students could take ownership of their learning and teachers can inform parents about what they are doing with Seesaw. That was another reason we decided to fully implement Seesaw for Schools, so we could track the data holistically and create systems and expectations around the use of the resource.
What factors led to your successful implementation of Seesaw?
Elmhurst: We made it half of our opening Institute Day where we pulled in teachers who were using Seesaw and had them plan with us to create three hours of professional learning for their peers. Having teachers share that information was really powerful because it wasn’t coming from us (admins), it was coming from other teachers using it — they could hear directly from the horse’s mouth.
It was really important to get the principals on board before they went home for the summer. I think that's one of the things we’ve done well and has ensured the success and the utilization of Seesaw. We made principals part of the process, we clearly communicated to teachers on Institute Day, and we differentiated their PD instruction so if they were already Seesaw users they could take it to the next level. We provided a time, space, and place for them to learn more instead of just asking them to do it without any training.
We’ve also been looking at the data and our contact at Seesaw helps us stay on top of the data. We can talk through it and it’s very beneficial because then we can say with 100% accuracy when reporting to the Board of Education or to the Superintendent: “We have fully implemented Seesaw and this percentage of our teachers and students are using it and this percentage of our parents are connected.”
What has contributed to your strong family connection numbers?
Elmhurst: We have facetime with our principals once a month. Principals are busy doing five million things, so sending them an email isn’t as effective. We have them come in, show them how many students have a parent connection, and tell them please go back and reach out to those parents that aren’t connected. We show them how to use their data in person and give them tips to help get families connected. Another reason why Seesaw has grown and dug in so quickly is because both families and teachers have really liked using it, seen the positive effects, and it’s user friendly.
What kind of impact has Seesaw had on your district?
Elmhurst: Now families know what’s happening in the classroom. We’re using Seesaw in a multitude of ways so it gives parents a clear picture of what’s taking place at school. Teachers are finding it’s a very valuable communication tool to share newsletters, some are even using it as their sole communication tool. Seesaw makes it so much easier to keep track of conversations with parents all in one place — instead of strung out messages between a bunch of different email conversations.
We were at one of our schools not too long ago and experienced a really powerful moment:
We walked into the classroom and asked a girl what she was doing. She said she was doing a book review and explaining to her mom why she liked the book so much. We asked, “What do you think your mom’s going to say when you get home?” And she replied, “Well, my mom’s not home, my mom’s in China so this is how I’m staying in touch with her so she knows what I’m doing in school while she’s traveling.”
We just thought wow, that’s amazing. Seesaw is empowering students to take ownership for their own learning and how they report that out to their parents. They’re talking to their parents on a regular basis about what they’re doing. Students have voice and choice with Seesaw and that’s important to us as educators and as leaders of educators.
What advice do you have to other districts considering implementing Seesaw for Schools?
Elmhurst: Meet with principals, get them on board. I really think that's why we've been successful. You get results from something that you keep your eye on and have clear expectations. It’s the one thing that we do here that we make look easy. We wish that everything else we did were as successful as Seesaw.