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New On-Line Program Keeps Parents, Students and Teachers Connected (August, 2006)

eSchool Home Access

Beginning in mid-September Frisco Independent School District will implement eSchool+, a student communication system that includes a home access center that is a secured, web-based tool.

The new system will allow parents of high school and middle school students to see posted grades and daily attendance in classes. Students may use the program to monitor their grades and check assignments. Unlike the previous on-line program, this one will be easier to use for teachers, parents and students.

“Our number one complaint with the program we used in the past was that teachers had to personally update the site by moving data between multiple systems for the parents to see student data,” said Terry Cornelius, Executive Director of Technology for the district. “This took time away for the teacher's already busy schedule and parents became frustrated that the information was not always up to date. The eSchool+ system keeps all the information in one location which will save teachers time and the parents will always have the latest information available.”

With the new program a parent can log in with their password and check their child’s attendance for that very day. As soon as a teacher records a grade, it is in the system. Teachers can put their entire syllabus on-line if they choose. There is also a way for parents to e-mail teachers from the site.

Melissa Fouche, Coordinator of Secondary Instructional Technology, is overseeing the program. She says a key component of the program is that it is streamlined. “Teachers have everything all in one place. It is saving teachers time and connecting parents and students to the teachers,” she said. Sitting at a district computer, she called up one teacher’s site for a broadcasting class and noted that the teacher has already put in the various news programs with the times and channels that is required for students to watch.

Use of this new software should not replace the old-fashioned form of communication – parents and students talking about school work and grades, Cornelius stressed. “Parents need to be sure they have talked to their student before contacting the teacher about a bad grade or missed homework. If parents go straight to teachers to deal with a student’s issue, they are not allowing their student to develop a sense of responsibility. Part of the education process is letting middle school and high school students learn from their mistakes and develop responsibility. Talk to your child first. Use this system to monitor progress and develop strategies for improvement with your child.”

Fouche and Cornelius say a district committee of 10 people researched systems for two years before deciding this system was best for FISD. With this system there will be no lag time – as there was in the last few years. “A teacher can type in grades at 10 p.m. and at 10:01 p.m. a parent can go on line and that grade will be there,” Cornelius said.

Fouche estimated that dealing with the old program took about 10 minutes out of a teacher’s class time. This should allow teachers to easily record their attendance and grades and save everyone from being frustrated by the slowness and inconvenience of dealing with multiple systems.

But Cornelius stressed that as with all technology, “A system is only as good as you use it.” Early feedback from teachers is that the system is very simple to use and that parents should like it, as well.