CA-BOCES, an entity of the New York State education system, recently launched a product called SchoolEval. Our intentions were primarily to provide additional value to the 22 local districts we support. As of this school year, changes in education policy demand teacher and principal performance be more rigorously monitored, and the State has released standards by which such performance can be measured. However, the tools to be used to collect and manage evaluations are up to districts. SchoolEval provides the means for a school district to design its own forms and rubrics to satisfy these requirements.
We see two main types of evaluation forms being used here. To satisfy State requirements, lengthy performance evaluations must be done. These will take time to complete and will not be conducted frequently. But, to gather data for these larger evaluations, school principals often walk through classrooms to observe a teacher and make a few notes. Simple observation forms or checklists synchronized with offline capable mobile devices make this process very easy.
SchoolEval, the web application, allows an organization to define both its meta structure as well as its physical structure. Depending on the size of an organization, it might make sense to think of it in terms of divisions and departments with various staff types that may fit into different places within the organization. Regions and buildings can also be defined in order to group staff or to keep track of where an evaluation takes place.
Also on the web end of things is the actual ability to create evaluation forms. SchoolEval allows you to set up custom answer choices and corresponding widgets. For example, a simple Yes/No answer option might be horizontal radio buttons. A 1-5 rating might be a slider widget. Ineffective/Developing/Effective/Highly Effective might work best as vertically stacked buttons. The actual evaluations themselves are divided by sections which contain any mix of questions and rubrics.
Evaluations can be designated to apply to specific staff types or be universal. Similarly, they can be restricted to one or more divisions/departments within the organization or remain global. Evaluator accounts can also be restricted to specific areas, so that the staff they can evaluate is dependent on who they should have authority over.
At it’s core is a MySQL database. Sitting on top of this are two servers providing two different methods of access. The web app is built on the Yii Framework, a wonderful PHP framework we have used for several apps. The mobile app communicates through a Node.js server utilizing Persistence.js.
SchoolEval’s web application uses a fair amount of jQuery and jQuery Mobile for conducting evaluations. Even though this is intended for desktop use, the jQuery Mobile evaluation forms work perfectly well for this scenario and lead to a common experience in the performing of evaluations. The only other bit of web app technology worth mentioning is Angular.js. Angularjs provides the mechanism for actually building evaluation forms.
School Eval’s mobile application is built on jQuery/jQuery Mobile. Persistencejs provides client side storage through WebSQL, which it can synchronize with the server side database through a plugin. When the server is not accessible due to lack of WiFi access, the app continues working, storing new records until the next time it is online.
Packaging for the App Stores