Monday, October 26, 2009

Is it Me or Does it Echo In Here?

For the past two years, The District has utilized an on-line gradebook system called PowerSchool. I love it. I can update grades at home, run reports on missing work, progress reports, and probably reports I haven't thought of yet. Parents can check grades any time of the night or day, see that work is missing, and can even get grade updates emailed to them. Students hate it because parents can keep a really close eye on what they are, or more precisely, what they are not doing.

District surveys show that about 89% of our parents have access to email and a computer. I send out a weekly email to about 85% of my parents, so despite being one of the poorer buildings in the district, our numbers aren't too bad. Last year to save paper, they put the Code of Conduct and Student Handbook on line and parents had to sign a form saying that yes, they reviewed it with their kid or no, they needed a hard copy. This year I had one kid in my homeroom request a hard copy. So everything sounds hunky dory and all our parents are utilizing PowerSchool.

Except they aren't. I can go on-line and see the last time a parent or a student accessed PowerSchool and you would be amazed how many of them either haven't ever logged in, or how many logged in in August and never came back. Getting a password is not a challenge - they've been sent home at least twice, there is a table staffed by guidance at nearly every school event (except sporting events) where people can get their passwords. And I'm not the only teacher who sends out a weekly email that mentions checking grades in PowerSchool and to "contact Guidance Goddess at blah blah blah to get your password if you need it." Every single parent meeting we have we mention PowerSchool and if we get that blank look, we walk the parent down to Guidance, get their user name and password, and hopefully they can figure it out from there. All it takes is a little effort.

Last year The District decided that enough parents were on PowerSchool and that we would cease sending home paper Progress Reports. The Principal nixed that idea and said we'd keep sending them on paper because "it's the right thing to do", and since we had a feeling based on our numbers that PowerSchool wasn't being utilized like it should be. Considering the number of parents that went "What's PowerSchool?" when asked, we figured that we'd better do the paper thing.

This year we find out, courtesy of a front page story in the newspaper, that The District is moving to online report cards and will not be sending home paper report cards for the first grading period. Wonderful idea about moving to the 21st century, saving paper, going green, blah, blah, blah, blah...and parents that don't have access can request a paper report card, blah, blah, blah...

The Principal, again, said we'd send home a paper report card because "it's the right thing to do."

On Friday, there is an update to the news story - apparently the District folks did a survey of PowerSchool usage (probably prompted by the deluge of phone calls they received from people that wanted their passwords) and discovered that only 20% of the families in the District have ever logged on to PowerSchool.

Let me repeat that...20%. That's it. 89% supposedly have access to a computer but only 20% have made the effort to check their child's grades.

That silence you hear is the sound of parent involvement, or, more precisely, the lack thereof.

My team sent home 97 report cards. I had 47 students fail science for this nine weeks. To date, I have not heard a peep. No email, no call requesting a conference, nothing.

It's like they don't even care.

And we wonder why the kids don't care either.

13 comments:

vrgnamgnta said...

Yeah. I hear that silence here too. And we're about to go online too (although paperless appears to still be a ways out).

ChiTown Girl said...

"And we wonder why the kids don't care either."

Amen!!!!!

Rachel said...

sigh. It's a tragedy I just don't understand. How can teachers do their jobs when parents aren't doing theirs? But we'll get blamed. I'm having a similar issue - grades online but never getting checked. I can't see when parents/students log in but I don't think I want to...

Dragonrider said...

Ditto here. Even the paper report cards don't make it home, kids get home before parents and get the mail.

Angela said...

WOW. Just, wow.

And of course your school's level of parent involvement isn't factored into the formulas that determine whether you're making AYP. Although if it were, you'd be held accountable for that, too.

So again, just WOW.

Mister Teacher said...

Do you know how accurate the 89% of access is? Because if that is in fact accurate, then what you say is in fact pathetic...

I would guess that at my school, less than 25% of the families have regular access to the interwebs, so the online thing would never fly. We do use an online gradebook now, but we still send home paper every 6 weeks... (Actually, every 3, if you count the progress reports).

The Bus Driver said...

School is becoming a daycare center. A place to send your kids to get them out of your hair for a few hours a day! Throw in free or reduced breakfast/lunch and you never have to think about buying more than what you need for dinner at night and meals on the weekends.

We'll even take your kids on useless field trips because we have nothing better to do with our time!

yanno... since noone cares.

Joan said...

I think it is the same all over. We have very little participation in our online grade book and parents accessing our teacher websites. We are encourages to update our sites and use it as a communication tool. But when I have just one parent subscribing, it is hardly worth the time it takes to update it.

Tracey said...

AND SOMEHOW IT'S ALL ON TEACHER'S BACKS AS TO WHETHER WE MEET AYP! UGGHHH!

THE PARENTS NEED TO START BEING PARENTS!

Darren said...

We use an integrated grading/attendance/scheduling/discipline program called Zangle, and despite the name, it's awesome. Parents can check online with it, too. I check my own kid's grades weekly.

Each email or phone call home I suggest parents get their PIN/password. Eventually the word will get out....

Ms M. said...

It's like you work at my school (except our online system is called something different). We have parents REQUEST a password and then never log in!!!! Drives me insane, and then they compain that we don't let them know how their kids are doing, but they have constant access and choose not to use it.

My students however are constantly asking for updates and they can have their own accounts, so at least that's a plus.

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Magical Mystical Teacher said...

Yup, caring--or not--starts at home.