Technology is quickly making its way into New Haven Public Schools.
In addition to web-based tools such as Google accounts and the college match system Naviance, NHPS has launched a web-based database called PowerSchool to make it easier for parents to check in on their children’s academic progress. PowerSchool is an online student information system where teachers post students’ assignments, grades, comments and attendance records in an online system that is accessible to students and their parents. NHPS first started introducing the program in high schools three years ago and has since implemented the program in middle schools. Currently, NHPS is working to expand the program to grades K-three while also offering training sessions to teach parents and teachers how to use the system effectively.
The goal of the database, according to NHPS Parent Advocate Daniel Diaz, is to increase parent engagement.
“We as a district want as much [parent] engagement as possible,” Diaz said. “Parent engagement comes at many levels: some parents attend meetings, some write emails, some help their students at home. What we’re doing is giving parents another tool to become engaged in their children’s educations.”
Delthine Ko, whose son is in eighth grade at Worthington Hooker School, said she has been happy with the system. Before PowerSchool was in place, she noted, teachers used different sites to connect with students and parents, making it difficult to keep up with students’ progress.
It was these types of complaints from parents that led NHPS to adopt PowerSchool, said NHPS Assistant to the Director of Communications Latrice Hampton. Hampton said that PowerSchool has effectively addressed many of the complaints from parents, although she added that the district cannot accurately measure the effectiveness of the program until they have completed the training sessions, where teachers and parents are taught how to use the program.
“Improving communication is part of our overall scheme, and this gives parents a way to keep up even though they’re busy” Hampton said.
Ko noted that PowerSchool makes it easier for parents and students to catch clerical errors in grade entry.
Still, Ko said that the outreach to parents regarding how to use the system could be improved.
“I know about it because my son loves it, but I don’t know how much I would know about PowerSchool if my son wasn’t interested in it, and I don’t think there was much communication from the schools to the parents,” Ko said.
She added that not all teachers use PowerSchool to its full capacity, as they use it only to enter grades and not to enter comments about a student’s performance.
Annie Harper, another parent at Worthington Hooker School, added that since teachers do not use the system consistently, it can be difficult to gauge the accuracy of the information on the site. She also said that the constant access to grades made her children more anxious about grades.
Hampton noted that some parents of children in younger grade levels criticize the rollout of PowerSchool because it is not yet used in every classroom, particularly in early childhood education. PowerSchool is an optional tool for teachers, and early childhood education does have as much use for the program since homework assignments are not always graded.
The tool is only accessible to those who have internet at home, and certain parents and students could feel excluded if they do not have internet at home, Harper pointed out.
PowerSchool was developed by Pearson’s K-12 Technology Group in 1999.