School-to-Home Collaboration Tool Makes Education a Team Effort for Wisconsin District

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We live in a connected world. With tools like e-mail, instant messaging and cell phones, we are more connected now than ever before. In education, however, we have not made the most of the communication tools available to us, especially when it comes to connecting with parents. In the School District of Kettle Moraine in Wales, Wis., we did not experience an overwhelming demand from parents for more access to information about their children. Yet, we felt that school-to-home communication was a priority we needed to proactively address, since parents play a vital role in the educational process.

Our suburban school district has 4,355 students enrolled in four elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and one alternative school. Back in 2001, the district determined it needed to move to a new student administrative system. We had previously implemented school and financial management software from Pearson Digital Learning. As we considered our options, we decided to continue our relationship with Pearson because they offered a suite of tools that could work together seamlessly with the software we already had in place. So, we implemented the SASIxp student information system, InteGrade Pro online gradebook software and the ParentCONNECTxp school-to-home collaboration tool.

We chose to implement the ParentCONNECTxp software in three stages at our middle and high schools. During the first stage of our implementation, parents could visit the password-protected Web site to view their child's schedules, report cards, daily and period attendance, course history (high school only), as well as demographic and health/immunization data. The Web site gives parents the most up-to-date information available on their child without creating extra work for teachers, administrators or staff. The system simply draws information from the student administrative system, thereby eliminating the need for duplicate data entry.

In the second stage, during the 2002-2003 school year, we incorporated assignments from the online teacher gradebooks into the ParentCONNECTxp system at the middle school level only. Then, the following school year, we incorporated assignments from the gradebooks at the high school level during the third stage of the implementation. We waited to add assignments to the data available for parents on the Web site because we wanted to get the software up and running, as well as make sure data was flowing into the system properly from our student administrative system. We also wanted to give teachers ample time to become comfortable with and make full use of their electronic gradebooks before information started flowing from the gradebooks directly into ParentCONNECTxp.

Having completed stage three of the implementation, our current goals are to continue expanding our user base and to help parents more effectively use the information that is available to them. ParentCONNECTxp has additional features and tools that will also be considered in the future, including automated e-mail notices regarding attendance and grades.

With ParentCONNECTxp, we have moved into a new era of electronic communication and collaboration between teachers and parents. By carefully planning our implementation in three stages, we eliminated teachers' and administrators' anxieties about providing parents with instant access to more information than they previously had. And by providing parents with access to detailed information about their children's academic progress, we raised the level of discourse between teachers and parents to improve student learning. The power of ParentCONNECTxp as a school-to-home collaboration tool has brought parents, students, teachers and administrators together, and reinforced the conviction that education is really a team effort.

— Nick White

Contact Information
Pearson Digital Learning
(877) EdTech1
www.pearsondigital.com

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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