Founded in 1945, Lincoln School in San José, Costa Rica, offers an international education from Preschool to High School. Starting their IB journey with the Diploma Programme, the school now also offers the Middle Years Programme, and will shortly begin implementing the Primary Years Programme too.
High School Assistant Principal, Michelle Lampinen, oversaw the school’s implementation of ManageBac for the IB Middle Years Programme in July 2020, while Lincoln School was operating virtually in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had used ManageBac for many years for the DP core elements, like the Extended Essay and CAS,” says Michelle. “We’d have kids upload their final IB assessments to ManageBac, but usually they wouldn’t have any interaction with it until senior year.”
For everything else, Lincoln School had been using a different and “rather cumbersome” platform designed to accommodate a traditional hundred-point grading system. But, as they made plans to implement the IB Middle Years Programme, the benefits of using a different system became more and more apparent. “We’re an international school, so we had teachers coming and going who’d had experience with ManageBac, and they would say ‘it’s a lot easier with ManageBac’,” Michelle recalls.
Introducing a new academic programme, together with new assessment and reporting practices, highlighted the need to make a change. “We started talking a lot about things that would be easier with ManageBac”, explains Michelle. “We were really nervous that the programme we were using prior to ManageBac would not be able to do what we wanted it to do, so it just made sense to use a system that was designed for the IB.”
For example, instead of painstakingly re-creating IB-aligned Report Cards, the school could quickly and easily generate them in bulk: “We had a beautiful Report Card that was completely modelled off the ManageBac sample Report Card, and we realised, this can be done with the click of a button – I think it used to take our tech guy about four days to publish report cards on the old system.”
Implementing ManageBac – “a lifestyle change”
As the Secondary Technology Coach, Chris Cummings also played a pivotal role in ManageBac’s implementation, ensuring that new processes, roles and responsibilities were clarified and communicated. “When a school implements ManageBac, it’s really a lifestyle change, a personal journey” says Chris. “You are shifting a bunch of protocols and processes and assignments, and you kind of have to wipe the slate clean. Some things will carry over – but how and where they’re managed will change.”
The school’s previous platform had been managed by their technology department, but it was clear that ManageBac would require a different, more holistic approach: “The thing about ManageBac that’s very different from other platforms is that in order to understand how to set it up behind the scenes, you really have to understand the academic part, the IB programme,” says Michelle. “The tech bit is actually pretty easy,” she continues. “It’s not the technology – it’s all the other stuff behind it. Knowing what to tag the subjects, understanding the subjects, the grade boundaries – you really have to understand the IB to do any of that.”
“You really need an administrator, a tech person, a curriculum coordinator and a teacher,” adds Chris. “Those four together can guide the implementation, but you can’t leave out any one of these mindsets as they all have valuable input.”
Getting the Whole Community on Board
To help engage the whole school community with the new platform, Michelle and Chris spent time helping everyone learn how to use it. “We did a lot of training sessions with teachers, and Michelle and I made a lot of tutorial videos, as faculty prefer to receive instruction from their colleagues,” says Chris. “We also made tutorial videos for parents and students, to try to get them invested and build that buy-in.”
Support from ManageBac was also helpful in combating any “growing pains”. “ManageBac’s resources are deep, and your staff are spectacular,” Chris enthuses. “I always have really good experiences digging through your back catalogue of resources and working with your experts.” It also helped having someone at the end of the phone who could quickly undo any accidental errors. “Luckily ManageBac is flexible enough that your mistakes are almost never permanent,” he adds.
“The One-Stop Shop”
Having navigated their way through the implementation process, Lincoln School now uses ManageBac for as much as possible. “We’re trying to make it the one-stop shop,” explains Michelle. “We started using attendance, and all our curriculum is housed on ManageBac, as is grading and behaviour.”
Consolidating all key activities and processes into one system has proven invaluable: “It’s the only way people can find the information they want,” says Michelle. “The Report Cards feature is huge; the only place they can find them is on ManageBac. Turnitin integration, too – the fact they don’t have to go anywhere else to check those reports. Everyone – parents, kids, admins, teachers – has the same calendar view, so if the teacher puts the homework on the calendar they don’t have to put it in three separate places. The more features we find, the more we’re like, ‘that’s handy’.”
Chris agrees: “If you philosophically align yourself with a criteria-based grading system, ManageBac makes that job so easy – the way those rubrics are built in. That’s something I would hear from our Middle School teachers super often – that grading is a breeze, it’s so easy to manage.”
Looking to the future, there’s scope to continue building on the school’s successes to date, while also launching the IB Primary Years Programme. “I feel that ManageBac is really responsive to feature requests,” concludes Michelle. “I love the constant improvements and upgrades.”