Parental Communication With Paly Online Schools & Kids, posted by Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 7, 2007 at 9:14 am
Paly's online communication system "InClass" is only being used by two of my son's teachers. Seems to me that it is a huge advantage to both the student and his/her parents if the teacher does post grades, assignments and overall class performance on InClass. Is anyone else finding that most of their student's teachers are choosing not to use this online system?
Posted by pa mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2007 at 10:22 am
At JLS InClass use is very spotty as well. Last year my son had a 1st year teacher for science and English that used InClass, which was extremely helpful. I thought, this is a great tool. Well, now he's in 7th and so far this was his only teacher that used it. Many state they have their own websites where they post assignments, but I've found these are not kept up to date, and therefore are not helpful. I'm always surprised at how little consistency there is in this area throughout the school. This district is surprisingly still way behind in the use of technology to expedite communication.
Posted by JLS Parent, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Feb 7, 2007 at 5:35 pm
Just got email today stating that JLS has just got a new computer system to report on attendance issues. Hope that this means it will get rid of that infernal dialer which is always wrong!! However, if they can use technology for this, then perhaps they should also use the existing technology better. Found it very interesting that the PTAs got a check for $7,500 for technology in the schools from a local bank. I wonder how that will be spent!!
Posted by Wolf, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:33 pm
I always found it strange that when we introduce basic office automation technology to schools, teachers "retain the rights" not to use them. I wonder how accepting would we be of city hall or DMV clerks that would refuse to use e-mail or post *their* department files on the web "because they don't like it", if the city or DMV decided to move everyone online.
Posted by pa mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2007 at 9:56 pm
Everyone makes mistakes, but InClass is a great, efficient way to correct them. If an assignment isn't recorded, but the student handed in his/her work, it's easy to see this using InClass and then the student can simply ask the teacher about the missing assignment. Without InClass I've had a teacher forget to write down a grade and the result was a "C" for the semester. With the assignment corrected, he got a "B". Only it took a meeting with the teacher to find out what the issue was, and then several emails to fix the grade. It's so much more efficient with InClass. My feelings are it should be required across the board.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2007 at 1:50 pm
I am a teacher who has tried to use In Class. The grading component of InClass has flaws. There are security issues and it deletes grades of students that switch periods and those are just the beginning. The lack of usage should be a clue to its marginal effectiveness, as is the case with most computer applications.
Posted by pa mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2007 at 2:18 pm
Maybe some instruction on it's use for the teachers would help. Every system has it's flaws and start up time to learn, but all I can say it is a great resource for us parents who are trying to stay on top of what's going on. My son's science teacher used it with great success. It would be interesting to know how he got around some of the flaws in the system. Some teachers use their own websites as well, but this usually consists of what assignments are coming up, and not what the current pattern of grades or assignments is (tests, homework, etc). So it's helpful, but not nearly as complete.
For me, InClass was particularly helpful during the 6th grade transition, when you go from seeing you kid's teacher daily, to once/year, unless there is some problem.
I really like the fact that I can help my son stay on top of his assignments and not get behind - which is usually when stress really starts to build. This year only two of his teachers use websites, which are somewhat helpful, and one has a "website" that didn't change in the first 4 months of school - basically of very little use. Interestingly this was the teacher we had a problem with in terms of losing turned in assignments.
Mike - Security issues should be solvable and the grades issue seems strange. Is there no other source of grades when InClass is used? Is the documentation on how to use InClass good or marginal? From a teachers point of view, does InClass require a lot of extra time to use? I would imagine inputing the data takes time - but is this time offset by reducing the number of emails from parents, etc.? BTW, I appreciate hearing your input.
Posted by Not there yet, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2007 at 11:27 pm
My children are not old enough yet for me to have experienced this first hand, but I find the dialog here quite surprising in light of the fact that I was just talking with my sister who has children in a not-so-affluent school district in N.H. and she seems to have no trouble using a system such as this to keep up with her children's progress in high school. Are we really talking about Palo Alto, smack-dab in the middle of Silicon Valley?
I must say that I am quite disappointed with the lack of tech knowledge from some of the teachers in our district. I have seen several who are apparently unaware that word processing programs have tools such as grammar and spell-check.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 9, 2007 at 9:30 am
Not there yet
Welcome to the reality of schools in Palo Alto. The lack of the use of technology (and even teaching it) is very apparent as you go through middle and high schools. It always comes down to funding. The problem is that Palo Alto is perceived to be an affluent area and we are constantly being passed over by philanthropists and others assuming that we don't need financial help. Our teachers don't always get enough education for the technology they are supposed to be using, the equipment is old and even if it remains working, it is out of date. We still have physical roll sheets carried round our schools at every period. etc. etc. etc. Until such time as the right amount of money is invested in our schools on an ongoing basis for technology, I can't see how we can even begin to keep up with schools elsewhere.
Posted by Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 9, 2007 at 9:44 am
I think the real issue is the uneven playing field it creates for the students. Like it or not, grades are extremely important to the students by sophomore year. College admission decisions will be made based on these grades and the student's choice of schools are determined by the student's GPA. There are exceptions, of course, but most look to the GPA initially before anything else is considered. Consequently, anything that we and the district can do to remove some of the excessive stress the majority of students experience during this time in their lives is important and should be done. InClass is just one of the tools available to the district to reduce the stress placed on these kids. Those with teachers who participate in InClass and post current grades and assignments allows the student to bring a mistake by the teacher to their attention in a timely fashion, i.e., no surprise warning notices with the accompanying lack of options to correct the mistake(s)late in the semester when the student will be told that it's too late in the semester to correct a mistake. (Yes, teachers are human and do make mistakes.) Just as important, a student can modify his/her own behavior early in the semester so as to provide the student with the tools he/she needs to improve their performance in the class and thereby ultimately improve their grade. No need for parental involvement here. It's a win/win situation. The kids learn how to be successful in the class and teachers are alerted to any mistakes quickly while memories are clear and accurate.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2007 at 10:38 am
I have a child at Jordan and have found about 1/2 the teachers use InClass. Both parents and the students find it helpful, still many teachers just refuse to use it, either finding it too difficult to use. I don't understand why teachers can't be required to use it by the administration. Unions???
Posted by Software User, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 10, 2007 at 2:10 pm
InClass was developed by Blackbaud. I have used other Blackbaud products that could not possibly have been thoroughly tested by those that understand the business needs. Though I totally agree that InClass universal use would be a tremendous benefit to parents and kids, I can also understand that software with bugs can be very frustrating. I would be interested to know if there is better software in use in other communities - software that teachers actually can and want to use.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2007 at 4:58 pm
I found that InClass was a bit labor intensive at the beginning. Quality grading programs are difficult to find and the one that is used with InClass has numerous drawbacks. I wish it was a better program with a quality, secure gradebook, but from my own trials and the anecdotal evidence from other teachers I have spoken to, this is not the case.
Posted by David Cohen, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 11, 2007 at 7:36 pm
As a Paly teacher using In Class, I'd like to offer a couple thoughts. First of all, the Gradebook program on In Class is not ready for prime time. It does not offer the flexibility that I need in order to make my assignments count for the values that I want realtive to each other. (I'll spare you the technical details on that, but trust me, I know how the darn thing works).
If you'd like to see more teachers use In Class, the keys would be to increase training and make sure every teacher has a laptop computer with wireless connectivity. Our hardware availability is improving, slowly but surely. But currently, we have almost no time available for that training to occur. Yes, I know we have professional development days that make parents wonder, "what are they doing and why do I have to figure out child care on these random days?" But most of that time is already spoken for with other needs. We also have optional In Class trainings during the school year, but the timing isn't great, and missing class is not an option some teachers want to use. The best time for training like this is before the school year starts, a time period that is much too hectic at this point because we only get two days to prepare for the school year. Give us a full week for meetings, trainings, and set up before school starts, and I guarantee you'd see a surge in the use of In Class.
Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2007 at 12:08 am
Ah yes, lack of equity, unlevel playing field ... finding those should be the official sport of Palo Alto. Yes, some kids have an unfair advantage with teachers who use the internet more. And don't forget, some have boring teachers and some have exciting ones. Some have attractive teachers and some have ugly ones. Some have veterans and some have rookies. Some want to enroll in classes that are full, and some want to enroll in classes that can't be run for lack of enrollment. Some rooms have superior ventilation. I'd like to see some kind of environmental evaluation performed on those portables!!! Some have to cross the whole campus constantly to attend classes, and some have all their classes close together. Paly has total inequities in that regard. It's a widely known problem.
And some kids taking biology have parents who are biologists. They should have take harder biology tests and should have to do their AP Bio homework with a neutral observer. And some kids have an unfair advantage because they have stay at home parents to monitor their homework. Every stay at home parent should volunteer to monitor someone else's kid too, if we want things to be fair. But then again, some of those working parents are actually teachers. How can THAT be fair??? Having a teacher in your own home when you're a student!
Some of them made the cut for varsity sports. Don't those students enjoy more attention and get more of a support system? Coaches should take special care to check up on the studies of random students they don't know, if we're going to be fair. And the drama kids have to rehearse beyond scheduled hours sometimes, which is totally unfair. What about those journalism students who put in long hours for production? Don't tell me their other classes don't suffer. How can Paly claim to value equity and yet students have to do unequal work for classes that have the same purpose for colleges and the same value in their GPA??? I'm livid about this, people!
And some kids live closer to school. The time they save commuting adds up to the equivalent of days per year. For shame! Palo Alto, where is the outrage?!
And some of you reading this went to Stanford, or Yale, or [Ivy League U.], and your children are certainly going to mention that on their applications to those schools. And as a result some of them are going to get in with lower academic qualifications than their peers. That's fair.
Los Gatos, San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Jose school districts have all implemented mandatory use of online-accessible grading systems. Most of these schools require all available grades to be posted online by 4pm every Friday.
If you would like InClass to be used in all classes and updated weekly, send an email to: kskelly-at-pausd.org .
Also copy the school board: mcaswell-at-pausd.org bklausner-at-pausd.org email@example.com bmitchell-at-pausd.org ctownsend-at-pausd.org
If they hear from enough people they can be motivated to make this a reality at PAUSD.