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Posted on
January 27, 2021
A Mesa Cloud Case Study

Diverse Texas District Levels the Playing Field of Educational Opportunity

Executive summary

Problem

The El Paso Independent School District is one of the most diverse districts in the US. But this diverse student body also created diverse challenges for counselors, each of whom were responsible for about 450 students. Counselors were overwhelmed with manually integrating hundreds of transcripts from outside the US, and resolving scheduling errors for English language learners—all while trying to prepare students for graduation, college, and careers.

Solution

El Paso ISD chose Mesa Cloud to improve its data visibility and better prepare its diverse student body for success. In addition to integrating seamlessly with El Paso ISD’s existing SIS TEAMS (now part of Frontline), Mesa Cloud gave counselors more flexibility in how they found and analyzed student data. Mesa Cloud’s automatic flagging capabilities also enabled counselors to quickly find and fix scheduling issues that could keep students from graduating.

Result

Today, El Paso ISD’s counselors spend less time on scheduling issues and more time coaching students toward graduation and beyond. Mesa Cloud now flags students with high GPAs so counselors can enroll them in the AP and IB courses they need to get into top colleges. The result is a more level playing field that helps students fulfill high expectations—no matter their language, ethnic, or economic background.

Snapshot of a thriving, multicultural district

El Paso ISD gets things right

What does it mean to empower students as knowledgeable and engaged citizens, innovators, and drivers of a robust, bicultural economy? For the El Paso independent school district, this mission statement translates to graduating every student and preparing them for higher learning and careers. As the 12th largest school district in Texas, El Paso ISD educates more than 17,000 high school students from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds, and El Paso’s educators are united in their high expectations for all students. As Superintendent Juan Cabrera said: “No matter what a student’s situation is—discipline, financial issues, academic issues, it doesn't matter—if you bring them into inclusive, engaging learning situations and have high expectations, you will have success.” 


About El Paso ISD

  • More than 17,000 high school students (54,000+ total)
  • Graduation rate of 84.8%
  • 42.6% college ready
  • 12th largest district in Texas, 61st largest in US
  • 65% of students economically disadvantaged
  • More than 8,000 employees
  • SIS: TEAMS, acquired by Frontline

Overflow of data leads to overwhelmed school counselors

With one counselor for every 450 high school students, counselors in El Paso were used to being busy. However, El Paso’s students had transcript issues that were unique to their diverse district. As Michael Phillips, executive director of 21st century learning and well-being for El Paso ISD, describes: “Our counselors are always having to deal with transcripts from other places, whether it's other countries because of the nearby military base or from Mexico. So they'll bring those transcripts or have them emailed or faxed over. That means a lot of manual entry for our staff to get that information entered in.”


These manual processes for inputting and managing transcripts for 17,000 high school students led to an overflow of data that threatened to overwhelm El Paso ISD’s counselors. Hours of their daily work was spent trying to correct schedule and transcript errors instead of supporting students toward graduation and college preparation. This overflow of data also made it difficult for counselors to identify students who belonged in advanced classes but were not enrolled there—limiting the opportunities for these high achieving students.


El Paso ISD also had problems with their existing technology platform, which failed to provide the flexible and quick analysis counselors needed. As Phillips said: “We had an in-house program, but with software developed in-house, you have inherent problems because you have one person who holds all of that knowledge. And if that one person leaves or they get pulled in a different direction, it's not maintained like it needs to be. We’re in the business of school, we’re not in the business of software. So we needed to find a solution that met our needs.”


We’re in the business of school, we’re not in the business of software. So we needed to find a solution that met our needs.”

— Michael Phillips, Executive Director of 21st century Learning and Well-being, El Paso ISD

How Mesa Cloud gave counselors flexibility and action-ready insight

To help all students meet high expectations as well as maximize counselor time, El Paso ISD needed a better platform to manage student data and resolve scheduling errors. The goal was to provide action-ready insight into any of their 450 students so counselors could fix schedule issues quickly. It was also crucial that any new technology would integrate well with their existing SIS TEAMS (later acquired by Frontline) as well as their internally-developed software. 


Mesa Cloud met these needs seamlessly. As Phillips described: “Mesa Cloud was instrumental as another set of eyes for our counselors when we're scheduling students in classes. Mesa Cloud has really helped streamline and made their work a lot more efficient and more effective. Counselors now spend less time on scheduling and audit cards and more time being able to support students in other ways than just asking ‘Are you in the right classes? Do you have the right grades? Do you have the right number of credits?’”


Beyond the technology itself, El Paso’s administrators also had a great working relationship with the Mesa Cloud team. “Another thing we really liked about Mesa Cloud was their team’s flexibility and collaboration. I could call or email them and get a response right away,” Phillips said. “The expectations of what we needed were clear up front, and the training has been very good also. The flexibility and willingness to work with us and hear different stakeholders share their needs has been great.”


Increasing opportunity for all El Paso students with Mesa Cloud

In a district as diverse as El Paso ISD, ensuring equal access to a great education is paramount. As Cabrera put it, “As superintendent, my goal is for every child, from an equity standpoint, to have access to an enriching, engaging education, where they have an opportunity to develop the ability to think, and think creatively, and work collaboratively with their peers.”


Today, Mesa Cloud continues to help El Paso ISD advance their mission of empowering all students as knowledgeable and engaged citizens and innovators—regardless of their background. “Mesa Cloud’s ability to flag students who belong in advanced placement classes is helping us level the playing field,” Phillips said. “We can pull demographics now and see if the percentage in our advanced class match the percentages in our district. This high level of visibility is really useful to someone in an administration role. When you’re reporting to the board or with principals, all that information is right there. You can see what’s going on at a particular campus and drill down. It allows us to make really educated decisions.”

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