How Xello Helps Rhode Island’s Second Largest School District Meet and Report on State Mandates 

When ​their existing platform wasn’t getting the job done, CPS searched high and low for a solution that would meet their needs.

The Challenge: Naviance Wasn’t Getting the Job Done

As the second largest district in Rhode Island, Cranston Public School District serves a diverse population. Spread across 14 elementary schools, four middle schools, and three high schools, it’s home to nearly 11,000 students. The district also runs specialized programs for students with social-emotional needs in two locations. 

Years ago, the district introduced Naviance to help them meet Rhode Island’s state mandate of having an individual learning plan (ILP) for every student in Grades 6-12. Unfortunately, it didn’t meet their expectations.

“We tried to build it out each year and learn more about the program so we could meet the state requirements, and also to get kids to look at college and career programming. But it never got the traction we needed. It was a hard-to-understand platform and wasn’t user friendly. The students struggled with it as well,” said Roxanne Gustafson, executive director of curriculum assessments and grants at Cranston. 

The stopgap solution was to “outsource” a lot of the components that the software was intended to perform. Lisa Spirito, Cranston’s district program supervisor for school counselors and a school counselor at Cranston High School West, said it required further effort for counselors, educators, and students. 

“We used additional websites to do college and career interest inventories, readiness, and other activities. It was just an easier, more accessible, and clearer way of doing it than using the software the district bought,” she said of their previous program.

Another barrier was the additional expense associated with adding features to the software. “We never got a good handle on what the program could offer because we never maximized the potential of it due to the complexity and the cost,” said Gustafson.

Cranston Public School District

11,000 Students Pre-K to 12

Rhode Island

A previous college and career software program was underperforming, expensive, and making it difficult to meet state ILP mandates

Xello has allowed Cranston to report on state mandates, expand college and career exploration, and significantly increase student engagement.

The Solution: Xello

By 2022, the district was ready to make a change. 

“We had heard about Xello from other districts, especially about how user-friendly it was. That was a big concern for us. We didn’t want to start from scratch, especially with the seniors,” said Gustafson.

When they reviewed Xello’s features, they were able to assess them all at a glance. “They were all right there for us. We didn’t have to go hunting and pecking for resources. It felt like it would offer one-stop-shopping and give us additional buy-in for staff and students to use with families in the future,” she said. 

It was ultimately decided that Cranston would integrate Xello just in time for the 2022/23 school year. 

When school ended in 2022, district staff worked with Xello team members to help develop the scope and sequence for implementing the program at Cranston. “We worked backwards to figure out what data we would need for the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) reporting. The Xello team helped us sort out where it would live in Xello and put everything in place,” said Gustafson.

“Our goal for 2022 was to get the ILP process up and running. The issue we had before Xello was the state reporting piece. With our previous vendor, we would have to pay them to do the state reporting for us. It was great to have this built right into Xello so we could hit those reporting timelines and not incur extra costs.”

By August, it was time to roll it out to counselors and educators. “Xello is very intuitive, so we knew the lift wasn’t going to be difficult for staff,” said Gustafson.

A few days before school started, they ran a professional development day for educators and trained counselors within that same time period. As the school year progressed, Spirito sent counselors links to short Xello YouTube videos to share new features they could use, as well as blog posts that explain how other districts are using them.

“Our main focus at the outset was focusing on Xello’s core lessons for each grade in middle and high school so we could meet the ILP mandate,” said Spirito. 

At most of Cranston’s middle and high schools, students work on Xello Lessons during advisory periods. Gustafson’s team gives teachers the lessons their students need to complete each month, so they stay on track. 

“At the moment, our main focus is on cleaning up the ILP reporting process and making sure students are hitting the targets and we’re delivering the core lessons, and some additional lessons, in Xello,” said Gustafson. 


Stats at a Glance
With Xello, average number of ILP platform accesses increased from 5.9 to 11.9 per student in the first year.
Number of students with ILP data who accessed the platform at least once in the first year with Xello.
We can see that there’s much more interest in wanting to learn more and do more because it’s more user-friendly than what we had before.
Lisa Spirito, District Program Supervisor for School Counselors, Cranston Public School District, Rhode Island

The Results: Benefits and Growth

Staff and students are already seeing the benefits of Xello in classrooms and offices across the district. The program has even inspired new methodologies for improving their State Mandate collection and reporting process for the ILP.

“At my school, we formed an advisory ILP committee where we work with students to talk about Xello and get feedback. The general thought [about college and career readiness] has always been that it’s something that’s required that they have to get through, but now that kids are taking the time to do the assigned lessons, they realize how beneficial it can be. It’s not just busywork,” said Spirito. 

“Some of the questions they ask are so interesting and there are a lot of careers listed that kids were not even thinking about. It’s been eye-opening for many of them.” 

She says some students are using Xello’s Resume Builder to help them create one for part-time jobs. “It’s been a great conversation starter to show them that they can include experiences from our career and technical pathway programs on their resumes. Students have been finding the resume feature very helpful.”

Significantly Higher Engagement for Students and Educators 

Enthusiasm is evident on the administrative side, too. Gustafson says logins have increased and there’s considerably more traffic from students, counselors, and educators alike. 

“We can see that there’s much more interest in wanting to learn more and do more because it’s more user-friendly than what we had before,” she said. 

Spirito says teachers are reaching out to her because they’ve completed the required lessons and want to explore more with their students. 

As the ILP reporting process is refined and enthusiasm continues to grow across the district, the executive team plans to layer in other Xello features, including Course Planner, College Planning, and access for families. 

“There’s nothing worse than buying a program and using only one part of it. We’d like to have a different focus every year to build out the program. It’s just such a great communication tool for all levels, not just administrators, teachers, and students, but families too. We’re strategically thinking about how to build it out,” said Gustafson.

They also work closely with their Xello Success Manager to plan out feature implementations each year, such as configuring their Xello Lesson sequence, setting up Family Portal, implementing Course Planner or College Planning Tools, and making plans for a successful implementation.

When it comes to advising other districts considering implementing Xello, she’s clear: “Talk to other districts that use it and see how they do it and what features they use. Then, take it slow, start small, and build up.”

About the District

Cranston Public School District is located in Cranston, Rhode Island. Its vision is to build and support an educational community that reflects the diversity of students, families, and educators and allows students to direct their own learning, monitor progress, and set goals. The district implements high-quality, evidence-based curricula that meets the needs of all learners through personalization.

About the Educators

Roxanne Gustafson, Executive Director of Curriculum Assessments and Grants, Cranston Public Schools, Rhode Island
Lisa Spirito, District Program Supervisor/School Counselor, Cranston High School West, Rhode Island