Parents, Students Excited By New Grade System

October 5, 2009

The days when students dreaded the time of year that report cards went home may be going the way of the dinosaur.

A new computer system that went live last week may make the paper report card obsolete. Students and parents at Lamar High School, Pershing Middle School and West U Elementary have been registering for Parent Student Connect, an online system that reports students’ grades in real time. Since the Houston Independent School District launched the system on Sept. 28, district-wide registrations include 6,522 students and 5,336 parents.

The system, run by software called GradeSpeed, can show students’ class assignments, daily grades, class attendance, report cards and more. It also allows parents to communicate easily with their child’s teacher if they have questions.

“We all know that when parents and the school can communicate, it’s much better for the kids,” said Lamar High School Principal James McSwain, whose school test drove the software before the districtwide launch. “Kids in sitations like that always perform better.”

In the past, by the time parents received report cards that showed their children performed poorly, there wasn’t much time left in the semester to correct the problem. Now parents can do that on a day-to-day basis. The system allows parents to set up email or text alerts to notify them if their child’s grade average falls below a certain limit.

“I would have loved to have this, because it gives the parent a chance to get involved and intervene while there’s still time to do something about it,” McSwain said.

Laura Dietert, an algebra teacher at Lamar High School, learned to use GradeSpeed this summer and said it has changed the way she keeps track of grades. Previously she waited until the end of a term to enter grades into the old system, but now she does data entry every day.

“You have to do it on a continuous basis,” Dietert said. “But it’s a very simple system, and it doesn’t take longer than it did before.”

Dietert is also the mother of two Lamar students: Her daughter is a senior, and her son is a sophomore. She said she likes Parent Student Connect even more in this role, because she plans to check her children’s grades to make sure they’re understanding the material. If she notices poor performance, she said she may consider hiring tutors.

“It’s just been very helpful,” Dietert said.

Her 12th-grade daughter Allison Dietert agrees. She and her friends talked about the new system in an English class late last week.

“We pulled out our iPhones so we could make accounts,” she said. Most students are excited about the possibility of checking their own grades, especially in classes where teachers don’t hand back assignments on a regular basis. Allison Dietert said the system will help her know whether she’s putting in the right amount of work, or if she needs to study harder.

But there are some students who aren’t looking forward to the Big-Brother-ish aspects of the system, like allowing their parents to see every grade and whether they skipped class.

“If their parents know about it, there’s no way around it,” Allison Dietert said.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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