A three year review of Naviance Family Connection
From a high school counselor perspective
As we move into April, I figured it is about time to update a popular series of posts that I called The Road to Naviance. My district started down this road about three years ago (two of those in implementation) with initial grant funding, a lot of planning, and a gradual roll-out. It has been quite the journey through the years so far, but the journey continues. You can view posts from the series by clicking one of the buttons below:
To be fair and completely honest – my school is really only at about year 1.5 of true implementation school-wide. However, in that one and a half years, we have made some good strides towards students engagement, figuring out how to use the different features to the full potential, and beginning to hit some targets. I think one of the biggest improvements is that this is not some “new program that will be gone next year” and it has trickled down into student conversation and vocabulary. Students no longer have a blank stare when I ask them to log in to their Naviance accounts (like the Fresh Prince on the right) and parents are calling/emailing with questions of how to do this, that, and the other with their kids on Naviance. Looking back to year one, student usage was a big factor in how fast implementation could happen. I find us still having to train all the new freshmen, engagement improves with grade level and I would now classify our position as established.
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Below you can see a few behind the scenes screenshots of Naviance:
A major activity that has helped establish this awareness and engagement is the use of Naviance’s Course Planner feature in all of my Individual Learning Plans (ILPs). Using your Student Information System (SIS), Naviance allows you to import all of your course data and be able to create a course list/catalog in Naviance. Throughout last year, I spent time putting together plans of study (minimum CSU/UC reqs, Graduation reqs, etc) for different pathways our students may look at pursuing. I have used these pathways in the Course Planner feature of Naviance to setup the student Four Year Plans. Families and I have found this super easy and very helpful for a number of reasons.
- It creates a living document that is saved to the student’s Naviance account and we can pull it up to edit at any time.
- It is accessible from home or any computer.
- I can print out copies of the Four Year Plans for inclusion in student files AND to send home with students for their digital course requests.
- It is a nice visual to walk through each year with families as we have our ILP meetings.
No – not THAT data…the department and goal shaping type. Accessing key pieces of data through Naviance has also been a great tool for driving decisions. I mentioned before that an important component to our district decision makers is the integration of the National Student Clearinghouse through the Alumni Tracker add-on. The School Board was highly interested in data on how and what our graduates are doing with a big focus on how well students are prepared for post-secondary education. This alumni report is provided twice a year (I believe) with updates on current enrollment and matriculation. One great piece is to see, based on student reports, how much the summer melt takes hold on our kids as well as how long it is taking our students to obtain degrees.
Naturally, this data is only one factor – but combined with alumni reports, we are gathering a good baseline on how our preparation is supporting the student college experience.
College and Communication
The final great growth areas in the last year has been the impact on communication (with students) and college applications. I mentioned the College tools in the first year review of Naviance, but in my mind – it is a huge part of this software suite. It is really fun to show parents the powerful tools within Naviance for the college and career research. The image on the right is usually the look that parents get when I show them the different career and college research tools within Naviance. My particular favorites are the SuperMatch College Search, the Career Interest Profiler, and the very detailed information within each college page. My students have gotten better with the integration of the Common App this year and the process to link, request things like School Reports and recommendations, and keeping their college app lists up to date. With my younger kids, any time I have a ILP meeting, I make sure to get at least one or two prospective schools and add it to the student’s account. I do this so that it triggers me to ask them about these schools each time I see the student in the future.
My district is a Google District and we use the Google Apps suite of tools (Gmail, drive, etc). It still amazes me that we, in year two of this integration, still do not have student email groups. Because we do not have an easy way to email all students from different grade levels – I have been using Naviance to communicate with students pretty frequently. The email tool allows you to create rich text emails, send attachments, and also be very specific with who you are sending it to. These search fields can get you as specific as you want. This is especially helpful for larger schools as you can search by grade(s), gender, GPA range, college apps, specific student groups (GATE, ELA, Sped, etc), etc. Of course, the search is only as good as the info you upload (see more about this below).
Still plenty of room to grow.
While Naviance has been good about listening to their users and I have seen some great updates in the last two years – there are still some frustrations and things that I think could be improved to make counselors’ lives easier. While the things below are not game changers and don’t change my love of Naviance – I think people should know some of the downsides to any program or tool they are considering implementing.
Student Information System – Naviance Integration (aka Makin’ Data Work)
This is one big area that I think Naviance/Hobsons could make strides with. Our district (and really it is our County Office of Ed) uses the Aeries SIS and keeping our information updated is a pain. We spent lots of time looking for a way to do the data integration that will automatically pull data imports from Aeries and for many reasons (some beyond even my Geekiness), it doesn’t look like it can work. That leaves us doing occasional manual uploads. This gets us by but not ideal.
We also have a ton of the optional data fields with things like Language, test scores, and more, but because Naviance needs the data in a certain format – our data cannot be easily uploaded because it is not stored/reported in that same format. Playing devil’s advocate – I know there are many SISs out there and they typically differ between districts to certain levels. Creating an easier communication route between Naviance and the SIS will help streamline all of our work and that of our district office folks (if you are lucky enough to have one…which I don’t).
These data fields are key to disaggregating data, running detailed reports, and narrowing down email messages.
My district uses the eDocs system to send transcripts and use the Common App integration, but we also use Parchment for alumni transcripts and for that need to be mailed. I only allow students to order transcripts through Naviance (for free!) that can be sent electronically (CommonApp or eDocs). They would need to go to Parchment for any other types of transcript orders. I do my best to explain to students how to tell if transcripts can be sent electronically or need to be mailed, but many students still try to order mailed transcripts. I cancel these requests and send an email with instructions, but I get afraid that students will not act in time to meet deadlines on sending transcripts in.
In the eDocs options, I wish there was a way to limit the types of transcripts that can be ordered based on the delivery method. This seems like a pretty simple thing to add and would save people like me a lot of time following up and give me peace of mind.
Lastly, one major idea that would be great is a Recent Activity Center that reports on all requests, communications, or actions that need to be taken by counselors. We can see when there are new transcript requests, know when a student’s app status changes, or a teacher submits a Common App document. I find myself having to dig through student electronic folders or check the transcripts daily so I don’t miss something. Of course – this should be something that can be disabled for schools or counselors who don’t want this feature (or think it would be too overwhelming).
Where to next?
I am excited about where we are going with Naviance in the coming years. There are talks about Freshmen electronic portfolio projects that follow them through high school, initial 4-year planning with incoming freshmen using Course Planner, and better use of the Career area of Naviance with our Career Technician. I hope to some year make it to a Naviance Summer Institute to learn more about this great tool and how to embed it deeper into our program.
Do you use Naviance? What is your experience and what tips may you have for me or your fellow readers? Please share below in the comments.