Vol. 15 : No. 12< >
Editor's Note: This article provides a technology supported Distance Learning solution for face-to-face classroom communication problems. The problem is lack of time for frequent interface between teacher and parent. The solution rests with Web-based reporting from teacher to parent. The research and documentation presented are most persuasive.
Just-In-Time Report Cards?
The Parent Teacher Conference has long been an anticipated and sometimes dreaded communication between parents and teachers. This communication technique involving parents, teachers, and sometimes students, was designed to communicate the child's learning abilities. But, most will agree, it falls short in timeliness, substance, and recommendations on how students, teachers, and parents can work together to help the learning process.
In this day of high tech, doesn't it seem that the time to communicate important information to parents about their own children should be high tech as well? If we use the criteria that most teachers and parents want and need, we would have report card systems that are "just-in-time."
The principle of just-in-time production is borrowed from manufacturing and continuous process improvement gurus. It is characterized by systems that have been designed to gather resources when there is a demand from the customer for a product or a service.
Most parents have no idea of the amount of work and effort that goes into producing a report card, which is the summary of curriculum design, instructional teaching methodologies, tests and assessments, and any number of processes to ensure that students learn what they are supposed to be learning in a certain subject in a certain grade level. Even with a plethora of tools designed to take the subjectivity out of assessment, the philosophical debate continues on how to accurately assess performance.
School administrators and teachers prepare computer forms and data galore, just-in-time for the information systems people to swing into action and print the long awaited final product, the report card. The parents receive the report card, if the student hasn't intercepted it, and review the information, still perplexed with the thought that parents have had for decades "I wish I really knew what my children are learning!"
A survey released by the U.S. Department of Education shows that while schools are working hard to involve parents in their children's education, most parents would like even more information and help on how to support their children-both at school and at home. The report found that while 91 percent of parents reported at least two different opportunities to be involved in their child's school, most wanted more opportunities to be involved. Yes, you read "two different opportunities." This is two opportunities per school year. Why isn't it at least twice a week?
State Accountability Standards and Benchmarks were the direct result of the Goals 2000 Educate America conference. There are eight National Education Goals:
1. All children will start school ready to learn.
2. The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90%.
3. All students will become competent in challenging subject matter.
4. Teachers will have the knowledge and skills they need.
5. U.S. students will be first in the world in math and science achievement.
6. Every adult American will be literate.
7. Schools will be safe, disciplined, and free of drugs, guns and alcohol.
8. Schools will promote parental involvement and participation.
The annual Goals report is available at www.negp.gov.
Now, let's envision an information system that would provide parents, teachers, and student with timely, personalized, and complete information they need and desire. This process should be uncomplicated and as simple as using a push button phone, accessing ATM's for money, or buying merchandise with a credit card.
It is past time to rethink the whole process of report cards. Many schools and school districts have begun using the power of technology to improve communications, through school and district web sites, e-mail, and voice mail. It is time to apply one of the must fundamental types of school-to-home communication: the report card.
School systems nationwide are uploading student information, from grades and test scores to class schedules, homework assignments and attendance records - to the Internet. Using assigned passwords, parents can access the information anytime, anywhere. Schools that use web-based report cards are reaping an additional benefit, they have found that posting grades for parents has raised expectations for student, who now knows that more eyes are on them.
Such systems have revolutionized both parent and teacher attitudes about student records, since teachers also can log on and easily check their students' grades and attendance in other classes. Web based report cards are natural extensions of computerized grade books, which have been common for a decade. Web report card systems are as secure as systems that allow investors to track stock portfolios.
During my research on the Internet, this author realized that although web-based reporting is a very hot topic, there is very little information available for K-12 School System decision makers. One example is a software application designed by Fastek International Limited specifically for State Accountability Standards and Benchmarks.1 STARS™ (Successful Teaching Assessing and Reporting System) is a web-based program that reports on the student's successful achievement of performance standards. Having made over 2000 contacts recently with K-12 Curriculum Directors, Technology and Assessment Coordinators, and school administrators across the United States, it is evident that there is extremely high interest in going to web-based reporting, coupled with nervousness over a new technology and a cultural change in how we as parents and teachers evaluate performance.
Systems thinking requires that all stakeholders, government, education, business, and parents, must work together to enhance the educational process for student in K-12 education. Web-based reporting closes the gap among all interest groups.
About the Author:
Carla Knutson is currently the President of the Iowa Distance Learning Association. She is the Manager of Human Resources for a high-tech software development Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Fastek International Limited. She has served on many local and State K-12 organizations including: the Iowa Business Council/ACT WorkKeys for Success initiative; Career 101; Area X Executive Board, Iowa Math and Science Coalition; recipient of the Rockwell Chairman's Team Award for K-12 Partnerships; Area Ten Tech Prep; Cedar Rapids School District Board. She has given many keynote addresses at various K-12 conferences.
Ms. Knutson has a Master's Degree in Human Resource Management and is a Certified Criterion Referenced Instructor for the Robert Mager Institute.