5-Star Students: Stepping-Up Student Engagement

Greg Hroch, Co-Founder and Brian Bourgeois, Co-Founder Numerous studies today reveal that students who are actively involved in school activities are more likely to score better grades, have high self-esteem, and even make more money in due course. The lack of participation or disengagement from school in many ways is an early warning indicator that a student is at risk of dropping out or exhibiting some form of disciplinary issue. As such, analyzing student participation at club meetings, school dances, and other extra-curricular activities is an effective intervention strategy that allows educators to encourage students who display a high level of engagement, while extending the support to non-involved groups. However, while it is challenging to track behavior beyond the classroom, let alone identify the doers from the non-doers, the lack of a data-driven technology can aggravate the situation a notch further. In such a scenario, 5-Star Students is setting a new paradigm in student engagement through a powerful cloud-based platform that helps teachers and administrators track, drive, and recognize student involvement. A one of a kind solution that goes beyond just attendance monitoring, 5-Star Students elevates student participation to the next level through activity monitoring, positive behavior tracking, custom surveys, and unique recognition options using web, mobile, and, barcode scanning technologies.

The story of 5-Star Students' genesis goes back to 2013 when Greg Hroch, an educator with over two decades of experience decided to take things into his own hands. As an activities director, Hroch was at a loss with homegrown systems that failed to provide a clear overview of student inclusion. In collaboration with Brian Bourgeois, an expert in data science, Hroch automated the entire student tracking process through a scalable and agile platform that requires no additional software installation, is easy to use, and supported by all major web browsers. “We wanted to empower schools of all sizes with best-in-class technology without them having to spend exorbitantly. For the number of features and services that we offer, we have kept our price points very reasonable,” remarks Greg Hroch, Co-founder, 5-Star Students. Owing to their state-of-the-art solutions, in a short time span 5-Star Students has been implemented across 350 schools in the U.S. and Canada.

A School’s Very Own Data Expert

The chief objective behind the 5-Star Students program is to reduce workload for teachers and staff while significantly saving time. Data from school-sponsored events, club rosters, and other school systems can be seamlessly imported into the 5-Star Students program to streamline manual tasks.

Not just event check-ins but almost all positive actions a student engages in outside the classroom can be managed and integrated under one solution

To get a complete picture of student contribution, the solution provides the ability to create custom online surveys for distribution to any cross-section of students. With valuable feedback and deep insights about attendees, these surveys enable educators to take steps to boost engagement based on individual student interests. The program also assists with tracking student behavior occurrences as part of positive behavioral intervention and support (PBIS) programs or similar initiatives.

One of the most distinctive features of the solution is a barcode scanning technology, used to scan the code present on school-issued ID cards through mobile devices. This allows staff members to capture check-ins and departure times through a management app featuring the advanced camera scan capability. For an absolute connected experience, the company also offers a separate mobile app through which students can access school news, activities, surveys, voting polls, and even check-in themselves to events based on their proximity to Bluetooth beacons. Each beacon, comprised of motion sensors and unique identifiers, can be assigned or reassigned to any school event to facilitate student attendance-taking. Keeping in mind that not every school employs the same methods to collect information, the program is flexible, and supplemental features can be added according to client needs. “Not just event check-ins but almost all positive actions a student engages in outside the classroom can be managed and integrated under one solution, without the complexity of third-party integrations,” says Brian Bourgeois, Co-founder, 5-Star Students.

A school can configure some or all student activities into the program and then utilize a point and incentive system to drive engagement. Typically, schools assign point values through the 5-Star Students' program and reward students based on hitting certain thresholds or point levels. Realistic point targets not only harness students’ competitive instincts in a healthy way but also allow at-risk students a chance to earn rewards. Moreover, to instill civic engagement habits, 5-Star Students includes a custom voting poll feature that can be used for any school voting scenario, from elections to yearbook superlatives. The solution is designed with scalability in mind to support the sudden spikes of data observed during events and student voting. “We have gone the extra mile to ensure our solution is sized correctly to meet growing demands as well as forge partnerships with reliable manufacturers that we feel confident about,” mentions Hroch.

Engage to Excel

Above all, the program's data analysis and custom reporting options allow educators and administrators to dive deep into details about specific demographics. “Our solution offers built-in metrics and dashboards that are available to quickly measure student involvement according to grade, gender, ethnicity or individual,” explains Bourgeois. The reporting capability also helps determine which students lack adequate involvement. According to the insights derived, leadership members can target specific groups through added measures.

In the wake of mandates around education policies passed by the U.S. government, it is now more critical than ever to have a thorough record of student data as well as what parents are doing to support students. The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) states that there will be accountability and action to affect positive change, especially in the case of students who are not making progress. In such a scenario, with 5-Star Students, schools can instantly procure reports for higher administrators and district authorities for budgetary purposes, comparisons, or school accreditation. Specifically, in the State of Illinois, there are examples where schools have adopted a collaborative approach and exchanged data in an attempt to improve engagement through innovative methods.

"We wanted to empower schools of all sizes with best-in-class technology without them having to spend exorbitantly"

To ensure that educational organizations use 5-Star Students to their maximum advantage, the company offers both online and onsite training. Through a web conference, the company creates an interactive environment for small groups of teaching staff to learn the program. For a more comprehensive approach to learning, they also organize onsite training through classroom-style instruction and meet with staff and students to help raise more awareness.

With an active footprint in the US West Coast, Illinois, and Colorado, the 5-Star Students is set to take its success to more regions in the days to come. Having established a strong presence in high schools and middle schools, the company is also expanding into the elementary school market. Since mobile learning is on an upward trajectory, the company is planning to launch additional mobile applications and features to not only enhance participation of students but also parents as well. 5-Star Students also has plans for intelligent solutions for schools that want to experiment with modern radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards. Moreover, to help students create a more impressive resume or college application, the company is looking to develop an option for schools to provide students with a curated list or official record of their involvement outside of the classroom. Last but not least, the company continues to work on strategies to help schools access funds from programs like Title 1, SafeSchools and PBIS. “We see ourselves as the 'go-to' program to manage and recognize student engagement outside of the classroom,” ends Bourgeois.