The days of handwritten report cards and backpack mail have just about gone away. Long registration lines are sure to get shorter. Unexpected failing grades will soon become obsolete. Today, schools are deploying web technologies to manage student records, and often they find unexpected benefits and challenges. Online portals create brand new interactions between parents, students and the school. Schools that prepare for change have the potential of unlocking new paths of learning.
Web-based systems have introduced parent portals or parent logins that allow parents to interact with school information from home. “Line breaker” features like online enrollment and updating personal information online help parents respond quicker to registration deadlines. Viewing student grades online allows parents to monitor their child’s academic progress while there is an opportunity to correct study habits before the end of the marking period. Progress reports, report cards, behavior records, billing statements, calendars, and announcements are examples of the information that parents will find online. Well-informed parents are empowered to make decisions that can support learning in the classroom.
Unfortunately, some parents may not embrace web applications right away. Schools can prepare parents by developing a plan that includes specialized training to help them log in and navigate the portal. At the same time, schools need to update school policies to encourage teachers and staff to keep information current. It is important to communicate these policies with parents so that they will have realistic expectations. Parents that cannot find the information they expect to see will be discouraged from logging on. As staff members answer parent calls, they should let parents know the information they are looking for is available online. The use of public access terminals in common areas can encourage parents to login rather than waiting in line.
The all time favorite web feature for parents will likely be the Online Homework List. It has always been a good idea to know the answer of the question before you ask it. Parents will finally have the ultimate leverage over the afternoon study routine when they ask, “Got homework?”. Initial student concerns about overly informed parents should quickly shift to a new generation of hi-tech homework excuse.
It is important for the organizations to become comfortable with the new technologies, but before education can improve we have to change the way we think about information. Web-based technologies can deliver more information to the people that need it, faster and more reliably than ever before. To leverage this new technology, school administrators, staff and teachers must be willing to commit to changes in the way data is maintained. Some changes like accessing data from home will be easy and can save a lot of time. Other changes like entering grades and updating homework assignments regularly will require special attention. The key to change may be more about what can be done when the right information is available at the right time.