"We had a shared vision from the start about how to use technology to best serve our students. Now, with Salesforce in place, we have a world-class platform that can bring together a variety of pieces of information and data points in a single place." - Curtiss Sarikey, Chief of Staff, Oakland Unified School District
Oakland Unified School District Drives Holistic Student Success with Salesforce
Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to building a Full Service Community District focused on high academic achievement while supporting the whole child and eliminating inequity. Serving more than 36,000 students across 83 schools, OUSD aims to equip students with the skills to ensure they are caring, competent, fully-informed, critical thinkers who are prepared for college, career, and community success.
The district is recognized as a community schools pioneer and leader, and has been held up as an example for schools across the country. As part of its community schools model, OUSD goes beyond educational instruction and provides wraparound services to help each student succeed—everything from counseling and mental health services to nutritional support and shelter. This model of supporting the whole child is particularly important in a school district where 33% of the students are English Language Learners and 71% are eligible for free and reduced price lunch.
“What’s important is that we’re getting the right services to the right students at the right time to operationalize equity,” says Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell.
The process for matching students with services had long been undertaken with whatever tools were available—from paper to online spreadsheets—but OUSD saw an opportunity to improve the system and eliminate the individual silos of information that these disparate processes created.
“From very early on in our community schools work, we had a vision of having a universal, single point-of-entry student record that would allow us to track what services and supports every student was receiving at every school,” says Curtiss Sarikey, Chief of Staff. “The challenge was figuring out how we could leverage technology to best realize this vision and better support student success.”
Expanding Usage of a Proven Platform
For several years, OUSD has been using the Salesforce platform as an asset management solution to track the location of nearly 5,000 valuable science kits within the district. It was only natural to build on that foundation and expand its usage of the platform.
“I think that school districts really are in need of modern, best-of-breed applications to manage procedures and information,” notes Susan Beltz, CTO. “In this respect, the Salesforce platform is pretty much everything you could ask for. It provides a secure, reliable, and up-to-date way for a variety of stakeholders to manage information, and we definitely thought it would be a great fit for other strategic projects and use cases across the district.”
Using a combination of Salesforce products—including Salesforce.org’s K-12 Architecture Kit, Salesforce CRM Licenses, and Salesforce Communities—OUSD worked hand in hand with Salesforce to start building solutions around driving student success.
Matching Students and Resources, Quickly and Efficiently
One important piece of the overall student success solution has been a grants and program management tool. OUSD manages a large after-school “Expanded Learning” program comprising 76 individual programs, managed by 17 independent agencies, and operated by over 300 partners. These programs are funded by federal, state, and local grants.
Salesforce enables OUSD staff to better manage all aspects of the service provider relationship.
“We now have one place to see which providers are offering specific programs and services, what contract they’re being paid under, and other crucial information,” says Andrea Bustamante, Executive Director of Community Schools Student Services. “This used to be a very paper-heavy process, and Salesforce has allowed us to almost entirely digitize it. We’re able to systematically track data points around our interactions with the service providers in a way that we weren’t easily able to before.”
After successfully developing this first piece, OUSD then focused its efforts on creating a solution that could more efficiently link these providers to students, to ensure no student falls through the cracks. The result has been an intervention management tool referred to as the COST tool because of its usage by the Coordination of Services Team (COST)—the individuals who coordinate school-wide efforts focused on making sure students are successful in school and life.
The COST tool allows OUSD staff to collaboratively triage individual student needs, provide support services, and track outcomes, helping to directly improve the lives of students by reducing the amount of time it takes to connect them with services.
“Salesforce helps us move students through that referral process faster and facilitate more effective matches with the services they need,” says Bustamante. “Teachers can use the COST tool to enable referrals in just a few clicks and quickly get updates on where students are in the process.”
Having this capability streamlines the entire COST process by reducing paper and automating much of the previous manual tracking and follow up. Ultimately, this efficiency saves time, which means teachers can spend more time teaching and working directly with students.
Empowered to Support Students Holistically
Utilizing Salesforce reports and dashboards, both the district office and respective school sites now have easy access to the health of the COST process and the students being served. Details around important success metrics—the number of students in COST, where they are in the process, and how long they’ve been waiting to receive services—are easily accessible.
In the COST tool’s initial rollout to five schools within OUSD, the district is starting to see results—94% of referrals have been reviewed and assigned to the next step for follow up. Additionally, 100% of referrals have a known referrer, compared to 60% at the schools not participating in the pilot. The tool is also helping OUSD ensure students are receiving services during school closures.
Feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive with many staff members commenting on how easy the technology is to use.
According to Bustamante, “Teachers who have been using paper their whole lives have embraced online referrals.” She adds, “One of our COST coordinators asked all her teachers to convert to online referrals only, and she wasn’t sure how it would go over since some of the teachers were more confident with technology than others. She got 100% adoption, which I think speaks to how accessible the technology is and how convenient COST makes the referral process for our educators.”
Jaymie Lollie, a Community School Manager at Frick Impact Academy, says, “When constantly asked to do more with less, having a product that helps us leverage and maximize limited resources is exciting and necessary. It allows us to not only work smarter, but provide meaningful feedback that every staff member needs to support our students and families effectively and efficiently.”
“This Salesforce solution will make a huge impact on culture and climate across our school,” adds Nicole Pierce-Davis, Co-Principal at Skyline High School. “In the past, COST referrals would sometimes stall, making it challenging to keep our staff on the same page. Now there is two-way communication between COST and staff. Plus, our team now has greater insight into student needs to better support the whole child.”
Combining Passion with Technology
Starting in school year 2020-21, OUSD plans to roll out the COST tool to every school in the district that is staffed with a Community School Manager, bringing the tool to nearly 50% of the district’s schools. The goal is to then expand the tool districtwide by the following school year.
Sarikey concludes, “We had a shared vision from the start about how to use technology to best serve our students. Now, with Salesforce in place, we have a world-class platform that can bring together a variety of pieces of information and data points in a single place. That aggregation paints as rich a picture as possible about the students we’re serving and the resources available to support them, so that we can best help them succeed. At the end of the day, that really gets to the heart of the community school.”
OUSD’s trailblazing work with Salesforce isn’t just an inspiration to other schools who want to follow a community schools model; it has also been an invaluable partnership, informing Salesforce’s own product development for Student Success Hub.
“Leveraging Salesforce was 100% worth it,” says Bustamante. “We’re passionate about supporting our students, and we now have the technology to empower all the work we’re doing in our schools and across our communities. It’s been a great match, and we’re excited to see where things go next.”