Gradebook Software Keeps Students and Parents Informed

Finding a grade management solution to satisfy the varied needs of the five K-12 school districts in Newaygo County, Michigan was not a simple task: Administrators, parents, teachers and students all had to fit into the equation. Furthermore, the districts shared use of an IBM AS/400 for their student information system, but the rest of their hardware and computer equipment was not uniform; the same was true for expertise levels. Like most districts, it ran the gamut from very sophisticated to quite simple.

Ranking eight different computerized gradebooks on 12 criteria such as security, reports, attendance, flexibility, graphs, comments and ease of use, the districts in Newaygo County selected Grade Quick! from Jackson Software (Glenc'e, Ill.) to serve their needs. "Not only d'es it integrate well with our administrative package to transfer grades, attendance and personal student data, it offers flexible grading options and impressive reporting capabilities," explains Steve Swett, Technology Director of Grant Public Schools and provider of computer services for the other four districts in Newaygo County.

As the level of computer experience varies dramatically in the teaching population, it was important to find a grading package that all teachers could learn quickly. "Years ago, the district had licensed another gradebook that teachers did not use because of its difficulty. When the district purchased Grade Quick!, we immediately switched because the teachers were able to jump right in," says Andrea Atwood of White Cloud High School. Its attractiveness as a gradebook is further enhanced by other functions such as attendance and seating charts. Also popular is its cross-platform capability (teachers can use the same data disk on Windows, Mac & DOS computers). "I enjoy being able to use both Mac and Windows," adds Marie Bischoff, another teacher.

Interfacing with Administrative Software

Grade Quick's ability to interface with many administrative systems has proven a benefit to Newaygo County. Packages and vendors with which the software can interface include NCS' CIMS, Columbia, Osiris, POISE, Pentamation, Wiscipsi, WinSchool, MacSchool and Administrator's Plus from Rediker Software, among others.

According to Swett, "Our school offices appreciate the Grade Quick!-NCS CIMS interface because it saves them time with a faster [grade] collection process. It also enables us to download additional student demographics, enabling teachers to look up this information right in their own gradebook, thereby reducing calls to the office." Swett also points out that schools save thousands of dollars each year by exporting their grades or daily period attendance, thus eliminating scanning costs that include the cost of the machinery, scan sheets and human resources.

Intuitive Reports

While teachers obviously benefit from time-saving features and the school benefits from reduced costs in information transfer, the real winners may be the parents and students. Grade Quick! reports run the gamut from class summaries to individual assignment reports to report cards that combine many files or many teachers' grades.

The real winners may be the parents and students.
Grade Quick! reports run the gamut.

Because teachers can easily generate customized student progress reports, choosing exactly what information to include and how it will look, student information gets to the home more frequently. Andrea Atwood, who uses Grade Quick! to send home progress reports every few weeks, says parents have actually sent written notes of appreciation for reports that are easy to read and understand.

According to Amy VandenBerg, another teacher at White Cloud, the clearly organized reports also appeal to students. "It was easier for them to understand why they were getting the grade they were receiving... they can better see where they need to work on improvement." VandenBerg also appreciates the wide range of statistical information available in Grade Quick! When she posts the students' results on particular tests she includes some of the statistics such as the class average because she says it helps them better understand the meaning of their own scores.

Looking Ahead

Optional companion modules to Grade Quick!, such as the new SchoolCom system, will allow Newaygo County schools to enhance their use of gradebook software as the districts' technological infrastructure grows. Currently, the schools have Web access through their intermediate unit and most schools are working on their own home pages. As use of the Web becomes more widespread in Newaygo County, parents will be able to use the Internet and the SchoolCom system to see how their children are doing in school. They will also be able to obtain this information using a telephone.

Other SchoolCom modules enhance connectivity within a school. They connect the gradebooks to the administrative software so, for example, the gradebook can be immediately updated when a child drops a class or his phone number changes. Period attendance can be sent directly to the school office. Administrators have greater access to daily information on how students are performing, as well as the capability of running highly specific criteria searches.

Finally, an open architecture client-server module provides schools with access to their students' grade and attendance data through either Jackson Software or third-party packages, thus providing total flexibility.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.