Aspire provides a blueprint for forward-thinking schools across the country

October 5th, 2016   /     /   smarter identity, product and technology

Aspire is one of the oldest public charter school systems in the country, with 2,400 employees, serving over 16,000 students from low-income neighborhoods. As a K-12 school system, Aspire focuses on giving students a rigorous and personalized education, while preparing them for college. For the past eight years, each graduating class has achieved a 100% admission rate to a four-year college or university.

This success story has another success story inside. A few years ago, the folks at Aspire decided to focus on ways to create efficiencies in their IT infrastructure so that their students and staff could focus on core competencies. The mission was to create an IT platform that stimulates increased productivity for both students and staff, while simultaneously having the intrinsic ability to scale. As a charter school, quickly growing from one school to 40, scalability was required for new users as well as new apps and productivity tools.

David Roth is Aspire’s Senior Director of Data and Systems. “We spend a lot of time thinking about how can we simplify teachers’ lives so they can spend more time with students,” he says. Roth attributes a huge boost in efficiencies to OneLogin, using single sign-on (SSO) and identity access management (IAM) for the school’s cloud-based applications. “We’ve reached a size where we just can’t do things manually anymore. We need automation.”

“I’ve taken pictures of teachers where they literally have a sheet of paper with usernames and passwords written down for 10 different systems,” Roth says. “We hear from a lot of teachers who are just really happy that they have fewer passwords to manage.” This is probably one of the more apparent changes the school has noticed since implementing OneLogin, because the end user can appreciate this on a daily basis. The school manages powerful applications, on both Windows environments and Chromebooks. Office 365, Google Drive, UltiPro, and Zendesk are a few of the productivity tools Aspire is currently migrating. That makes for a lot of passwords!

But pain points reach far beyond multiple passwords, and infect the less visible aspects of running a school, like security. Roth mentions the obvious security implications of banking applications, but details further, “Everything from student achievement, grades, attendance, employees’ social security numbers … HR, budget, all of our accounting data. As you can imagine, security of that data is extremely important.”

OneLogin allows the creation of groups, which are used to delegate administration of users. “We definitely have a lot of group sprawl,” Roth says. “OneLogin helps us by allowing us to attach to existing security groups rather than having to create a new security group every time that we want to grant access to a new service.”

Real time is better than waiting

The staff at Aspire now have the satisfaction of working in real time when people join or leave the team, and when they gain or lose responsibilities. The single sign-on integration deploys within minutes. Roth explains, “The ability to sync Active Directory data into OneLogin in real time has been extremely valuable for us when we want to disable or enable user access, or when we want to change the type of access that they have.”

Onboarding now takes minutes, not hours. “The ability of OneLogin to sync directly with our Active Directory server, and to immediately enable and disable accounts as teachers come on board and go off has really been useful, particularly for us because our hiring season is very concentrated,” Roth says.

Continuing Success

Beyond the financial challenges that some charter schools serving low-income families face, school districts are generally notorious for being slow to adopt new technologies. Fortunately, Aspire was able to break the mold. OneLogin has been instrumental in Aspire’s improvements, advancements and productivity, not just in one location, but syncing to 40 different school locations across the states of California and Tennessee.

In addition to creating personal success stories for each student, Aspire is providing a blueprint for driving efficiency to forward-thinking schools and IT departments across the country.

About the Author

Thomas Bayens is senior customer marketing manager, helping customers share their story of innovation and success using OneLogin, as well as enabling connections for executives, customers and future customers via peer reference calls, conference presentations and more. Previously, Tom held marketing, communications and customer advocacy roles in business analytics, storage, and computing companies. He is fluent in Chinese, German and Kentuckian.

View all posts by Thomas Bayens