Take a journey with me through the first year of Naviance implementation.
This is an update to a series of posts I wrote almost a year ago about my Road to Naviance which are linked to here if you would like to read it for some context. I hope to share some of the cool things that Family Connection has allowed us to do and some things I feel could be improved or better implemented through other means.
Short history - when I came to my district (a smaller, rural school district with 2 comprehensive high schools and a continuation high school - ~ 1200 HS students total), I came with a personal mission to embed technology wherever I could. One of the first things I asked the superintendent was if he had heard of Naviance. Much to my pleasure - his last district used it and he used to be in the tech industry (score!). The fall of my first year (first year paid counseling job as well), I wrote and was awarded a grant to bring in Naviance district wide. The grant funded us for a year (basically the startup costs and year one student fees) and I am grateful to the district for picking up the costs for at least 3 more years. I am the person in charge of Naviance for the district and coordinate with the other two high schools. That brings us to today.
Where are we now?
I had introduced Family Connection to last years 9th - 11th graders in May 2013 so when we kicked into full implementation mode in August 2013, about 75% of students had registered, worked on a personality assessment, and utilized some of the college search features. I worked through the alphabet of incoming 9th graders and got about 20 students at a time in an intro Naviance lesson in the early Fall. That said, we still are not quite at all students registered due to absences, conflicts in schedules, and other things getting in the way.
The majority of students who are logging in and using the tools are the upperclassmen who are researching careers and colleges in their advisory classes or at home. I have a departmental (department of one + intern) requirement that all seniors must add all schools to which they are applying to their accounts and reporting the college decisions. I am only seeing "Admitted" being reported as of now and anticipate not many will report being denied - I will have to brainstorm how to get more of the negative results reported. At senior checkouts, I will be updating their applied to lists before I sign off their forms to have correct data.
If I were to give a word to where we are now - I would choose "emerging". Students, parents, and staff are slowly but consistently becoming more aware of the different and powerful tools that their Family Connection account holds. Just today I sat with a parent and student and showed off the college search tools and they were amazed. Things were said like "that is awesome" and "did you know you could do that?". It is a slow process. I would be lying if I said I was where I thought I would be, but I am not upset with the progress at my site knowing what I do now.
The three different sites I "manage" are in hugely different places as well. From near full roll-out at my site, to kinda used at another, and non-existent at the third. This is not odd as the project was my baby - I am excited about using it to the fullness, but others are slowly warming and will hopefully catch up.
There are parts of Naviance that I love - my top three are:
1 - The College Search and Application Tools: The SuperMatch College Search is great. It lets you narrow down schools by about 30 different attributes that you can select. From location to sports or clubs on campus. Students and counselors can take the search seamlessly to the application stage with a click of a button and (if students keep their account updated) track their progress. It let me see deadlines of students, ask targeted questions in the halls ("how is your XX school application coming? Don't forget your deadline is next week."). Plus the rocky but still great integration with the CommonApp is super.
2 - Data Tools and Information: The counselor side of Naviance is very useful in preparing data and reports plus tracking student progress through college and career goals. I can quickly look and see how many of my seniors have college apps in or need transcripts. An add-on piece we got, Alumni Tracker, provides some key historical data and helps us see who is actually enrolling in schools and when. This is a favorite feature of the administration and school board.
3 - Course Plans: I am just diving into this tool in the last few weeks and already I love it. Although my student information system (Aeries) makes the process a bit hard - schools can import student course data from the report cards/transcripts and it gets added to the student accounts. Counselors and students can make four year course plans in a simple, kid friendly way. I am super happy with being able to visually walk students through their 4 year plans and course selection talks while being able to provide them with an accessible cheat sheet when making course requests. The tool also, once I use it more fully, lets me see predicted course loads based on what classes are in students plans. Handy when master scheduling.
There are some things that I would suggest to improve within Naviance. The lead time when implementing the program is pretty significant and takes some serious man hours to do it right. The process is a lot of collaborating between tech services, counselors, and people who do your information systems to get the data imports just right. I am still working on a few queries to find ways to get "required" fields.
Not being able to remove college applications from students files (counselor override, not student) can cause some skewed data and student confusion. Once a school is added to the "colleges I am applying to list" they cannot be removed. We just have to change the result to incomplete or withdrawn - which gets reported on in the data.
The resume builder is rudimentary at best. Highly suggest another tool for going in depth - can show some basics of the suggested layout and important sections, but they all pretty much print the same and are not flexible.
Wrap it up already!!
Sorry - long post, I know. I am a fan of Naviance and the tools it gives counselors and students. Yes - sites like www.collegedata.com and www.petersons.com are powerful (and great additional resources!), but this ties it all together in a way that lets us track and manage. As we move forward with Naviance - I see it becoming more of a staple in our curriculum and in mainstream classes. I encourage schools to see if it is a good solution for your student body and counseling departments.
Official Geek Rating:
Note: Jeff or The Counseling Geek is not sponsored by nor compensated by Naviance or it's maker - Hobsons. While they are supporters of several scholarship donations - it is not tied to any review or endorsement by this blog or the writer.