International School of Brussels – A glimpse at some unique PowerSchool Challenges and Successes

Well, contrary to popular belief, I do actually work once in a while on my many trips all over the world. This past week I was working with the International School of Brussels, a Pre-K through Grade 13 private school in Belgium. Inevitably, one of the first questions I’m asked is if communicating with people at the school is a problem for me, and I tell them, yes. The people I work with are mostly Irish, Canadian, British, and of course the most difficult to understand, my fellow Americans! Seriously though, ISB is an English-Language instruction school for the most part, with opportunities for students to do class work in French, and learning in Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and many other instructed and tutored languages.

The ISB brain trust working away in the PowerScheduler War Room

Like all schools, one of the major challenges at ISB is developing a master schedule that works in a balance of offering as much quality and variety of curriculum/instruction as possible, with the right balance of time on learning, resources, common planning time for multiple combinations of teachers, manageable class sizes, and making everything available at times for students to be able to get as many of the courses they want or need to take. After 4 years of working with ISB, this particular year had some extra challenges – the High School is moving into a temporary building (that hasn’t been completed yet) with slightly fewer and for the most part smaller rooms. We had to find ways to define our information in PowerScheduler (the scheduling component of PowerSchool) to target sections of smaller courses to fill the smaller rooms, science courses to go to specific rooms but share with other courses, and medium-sized sections to medium-sized rooms in order to leave the larger rooms available for the courses that needed them. For all of you scheduling geeks out there, we actually built it all on the second run using a combination of course room constraints, preferred rooms, facility codes and department use onlys which were specific to the sizes and types of sections. Good stuff – let me know if you want to hear more about it! ; )

The Middle School had many of the same challenges, but more related to when everything got scheduled (and no new building/room issues!). Most people I know would think, it’s JUST a middle school, all the kids will get everything! The Middle School at ISB (Grades 7-9) has over 80 different courses, 11 different language courses/levels, 24 unique elective course choices, options for instruction in English or French in social studies and science, an intermediate, intensive and advanced ELD program, and 12 different math courses to choose from. After we programmed in all the constraints on the schedule, common planning time for multiple combinations of teachers, and students didn’t even have alternate course requests to take the place of primary choices if they didn’t get everything – we ended up with a student load of over 97%! Over 97% of middle school students got into EVERYTHING they requested – Not bad at all!

The High School Head admiring the Middle School Load %

Later this summer, I’ll blog a little bit more about the other unique PowerSchool-related projects I’m working on at ISB, including developing online report cards accessible directly by parents through the parent portal, the conversion of grading in the upper divisions from a traditional A-F grading scheme to a criteria based assessment model, and new tools for the elementary and early childhood divisions for capturing testing and assessment data for targeted analysis to improve learning strategies. If you’d like to know more about what I do, or how I can help your school, please let me know. Thanks for reading!