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Teachers Should post grades and assignments online in a timely manner

Original post made by palo alto mom on Sep 21, 2012

Kids are more than data

Editor,

A hue and cry is being raised by some local parents to demand that our schoolteachers list all homework, complete or incomplete assignments, and up-to-the-minute student grades online. Similarly, a mother once came to me as her son's English teacher at Gunn, toward the end of one semester, to demand that I teach her all my course material one-on-one, so that she could remediate her failing boy and save his grade.

These two demands differ in degree of intrusiveness, but are on the same spectrum ' a spectrum of parental anxiety over teenagers' performance and a wish to enlist teachers in removing all flaws from that performance. Before long, there may also be requests to place course handouts online, as well as overheads and graphs shown in class, quizzes and tests, essay topics, vocabulary words, important dates in history, and conjugations of verbs. Down this spectrum lies madness.

Speaking recently to our school board, a parent said that in this day and age when he has instant electronic access to Google's market cap, his bank balance, property taxes and "continuous tire-pressure readouts," it's high time that "the critical data" of teenagers' school records should be instantly available. I shudder to think that we grown-ups may start conceiving of our kids' lives in the way we think of tire-pressure (and I don't think this dad really wants that, either).

But it may take some effort to remind ourselves that a high-schooler's performance is bound up in a four-year drama that has nothing to do with instantaneous "critical data."

Marc Vincenti

Comments (63)

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Mr. Vincenti - The demand that "schoolteachers list all homework, complete or incomplete assignments, and up-to-the-minute student grades online" is reasonable and there is truly no reason for teachers not to comply except for laziness. All the local private schools post on a regular basis including posting grades once a week. It does not take any more time to post homework for a class of 12 or 35. For you to compare that to a parent asking you to teach her the same info as her child is just silly.

There are a number of reasons to post info. If you are lucky to have a student who manages their time well, is organized, is never ill, does not miss a class for a sport, does not have a learning disability, never stops doing homework for a variety of reasons, then your child does not need the benefit of assignments posted and grades updated regularly.

If your child gets sick, has a hard time writing info down, has ADD, has a learning disability, plays a sport that causes them to miss class (you get the point) then they will benefit from having assignments posted online. The assignments I have seen on Schoology consist of a very short sentence such as "Read Chapter 3 and answer questions 2-7" not exactly an onerous, time consuming task for a teacher.

This has nothing to do with "four year drama" and everything to do with how the real world operates now. In the real world, employees are judged by quick data and easy to access performance info. Our kids should be able to track their performance and tasks to be done just like the "real world".


Posted by union issue, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 21, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Forcing tenured teachers to post online is, most likely, a negotiated contract item because it involves job duties.

No public school district I've ever seen has ever made such a demand as part of a teacher's expected job performance.

That said, if tenure didn't exist, I would wager that you'd see more teachers posting information online and communicating with parents in a timely manner.

And this isn't to get the conversation off of posting information online and the topic of tenure.

The best a school district can do is "recommend" that teachers post information online in a timely manner. It's then up to the principal to enforce it.

In the interest of sharing the other perspective why NOT to post information online: If teachers wanted the parents to be responsible for the students doing the work, they'd post online. At some point, cords need to be cut between a parent and the student. High schools are trying to prepare their students for college. Mommy isn't going to be around to go online and check the homework assignment. This responsibility needs to fall on the student and by making THEM responsible for the homework, you're doing just that.

I'm not saying I support that opinion, but it does make some sense and I've heard it at every school I've worked at, usually by the long since tenured teachers who haven't embraced technology. And yes, tenure does protect them.

My philosophy is that it's the role of the principal to strongly encourage all of their staff members to communicate frequently with parents and students, provide timely updates, and to provide these updates through the online student information system. Some of the best teachers I've met send out an email blast to their students' parents every Sunday night with the week's assignments ahead of time. The principal can make a huge difference with hard, difficult conversations with the teachers who aren't participating.

And there is a role of the parents here as well. If you see a single missing assignment, encourage your student to find out why it's there. They surely know, but they're telling you they don't. That's normal. What you shouldn't do is send a multi-paragraph, 2AM email to the teacher demanding that a missing assignment get resolved. If you get involved in such a manner, I'm going to be a lot less likely to post information in a timely fashion from that point forward. Let your student deal with it. Prove to the teacher that you support the idea of the student taking the responsibility.

So if you're upset with the policy of a teacher, make an appointment with the teacher to discuss their philosophy about posting information online for your student. Be gentle and supportive. If you don't get an answer you like, give it a week or two to see if there have been any improvements, and if not, make an appointment with the administrator to discuss. Again, be gentle and supportive. Don't make demands. Ask for their help. Explain the situation calmly. Put your trust in them.

And hopefully things will get better.

(and yes, as a teacher, I post everything online in a timely fashion for students and parents alike. Email updates go home every friday (Hope you did your homework, Johnny, or it might be a long weekend -- the best motivator!) and I send the "what's coming up this week" email and schedule every Sunday night. It takes me MINUTES, not hours, to cut and paste the schedule on the email and send it out to all of the email addresses. We're all in this together.)


Posted by Rajiv Bhateja, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 22, 2012 at 10:01 am

@union issue:
You state:
"No public school district I've ever seen has ever made such a demand as part of a teacher's expected job performance."

Santa Clara Unified has required this. All assignments must be posted online. And for all graded items, grades must be posted by 4pm on Friday.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 22, 2012 at 10:18 am

My sister in Placerville has a son whose bus ride home is 45 minutes. She ALWAYS has that days test scores online before he gets home.

My sister in San Jose periodically sends me her sons weekly email that shows the work he did and grades for the week and all projects due in the coming weeks. This has been happening in his elementary school, middle school and now high school. 100% of his teachers participate. I can only guess because it is mandatory.

It can be done.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2012 at 10:41 am

To be clear - I would like teachers to post assignments and grades on-line for my child, not for me. It is very helpful to see, quickly, how missing assignments or a low (or high) test score has influenced your grade. It is wonderful to be able to go online and see, clearly, what is due over the next few days. As a parent, it is great to simply be able to say "go check Schoology" to my child for his assignments (and more than half of his teachers put the info up regularly).

I would think that in the long run, this would actually save teacher's time. Less questions from both parents and students.

I absolutely do not think parents should email teachers about a single assignment, that is something you should discuss with your child and they should discuss with the teacher. A trend of missing assignments is different.


Posted by Rajiv Bhateja, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

Dear Mr. Vincenti,

I am the parent who brought up the tire pressure analogy. Here is my response to your letter.

Over the last two decades, we have all come to rely on information being available readily online. Many secondary educational institutions have evolved to incorporate this into their policies. Many reputed colleges (Harvard, MIT, Stanford) are moving to deliver entire courses online. The trend is irreversible. We can only change our level of resistance to it but cannot put the genie back in the bottle.

Santa Clara Unified and Harker are two schools I know that post assignments and evaluations online. To my knowledge, neither has suffered the increased insanity that you seem to imply are inevitable under this process. (Indeed, one could argue that that this is more of a problem at Gunn.) I understand your concern about having less face-to-face feedback from your students if you post assignments online. However, nothing prevents the discussion of such assignments in class. We are simply asking that assignments ALSO be posted online. Have you contacted teachers at these schools to understand if your concern is genuine, or how they addressed it?

In the corporate world, there is a well-established tradition of weekly 1-on-1 meetings between employees and their managers to review priorities, understand where support is needed and to maintain accountability. This only works if the information (on which such meetings are based) is reliable. My ability to review priorities with my party-going teenager on Friday night is predicated on timely, current information. In fact, my experience suggests that when students know such information is readily accessible, such discussions are often not necessary.

Children mature at different rates. There are 6th graders who do not need much guidance. And there are college students who fail to hold themselves accountable. It's the parents' challenging job to judge, on a case by case basis, how much support each child needs. There is a reason why teenagers are not allowed to fly commercial aircraft or run for president. And that's why parents need to participate in their education. We are simply asking for information to participate meaningfully -- in what is considered a timely fashion in modern society.

Teenagers are also notoriously un-communicative. (Perhaps you have seen this article which discusses it well?
Web Link
;) Also, in today's world, the pressures of adolescence are magnified by social media, fast-paced lives, domestic transitions, and high expectations. Given this increasing pressure, it is helpful to students to have readily accessible, reliable information.

When society transitioned from live speech to the written word, intonation and gestures were lost. But the spoken word is often fraught with errors: digits are transposed, negatives are unintentionally added or dropped, memories may differ, voices may drop, etc. So having a well-documented, accessible record of information reduces stress and needless confusion.

Contrary to your suggestion, parents do not need "up to the minute" data -- we just need assignments posted on the day they are assigned and grades posted once available.

Regrettably, some of your statements characterize parents like myself in a pejorative manner ("hue and cry", "madness", etc.) I submit that such connotations are not constructive for a balanced, civil discourse.

Further, your statement that I somehow "conceive of my child's life" in the same way that I think of tire pressure is a ridiculous misconstruance of my position. Obviously data related to my child's life is FAR MORE important. But that is precisely the point! If I can see much less important information so readily, why are you so resistant to making the much more important data of my child's life accessible in a timely fashion? Imagine if your doctor did not have ready access to current test results. Would you say that in asking for it, he too was thinking of your health in the same way he regarded tire pressure? Or does he simply need current, reliable, information, free of verbal static, so he can make guided, informed decisions about your life?

I do agree with your published statement regarding keeping distracting electronic devices out of the classroom. I respect your opinion and perspective as a teacher with decades of experience.

As a parent, I ask that you extend the same courtesy to me (also with decades of experience -- in parenting) and other parents, free of mis-characterizations and ridicule.

It's not that hard to implement this. Let's get it done.

Respectfully,

Rajiv Bhateja


Posted by Rajiv Bhateja, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

BTW, here's quote from that same article ( Web Link )
from a teacher who states what he/she would like:

■ Add a technology that monitors students' total nightly homework (with a function that gives teachers feedback on how long their assignments are actually taking) to the technology that tracks attendance and grades;

Notice that this teacher is asking for DATA and FEEDBACK. I assume this data is only useful if it's available in a timely fashion (vs. once a semester).

Well, that's exactly what parents are asking for as well. And it also needs to be timely to be useful.

Thanks Teacher, whoever you are, for making essentially the same point.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Excellent points made in favor of adopting online communication of assignments and grades. I really don't accept the arguments put forth by the teacher. Frankly, it just sounds like so much sloth and FUD.


Posted by Balanced, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I'd give some deference to Mr. Vincenti's views, since he is an experienced teacher in our community who genuinely cares about kids. We had the unique experience of getting an unsolicited call from him after school ended for the year, telling us how much he had enjoyed having our kid in class and some things about his performance. I presume that wasn't the only call he made, so it was truly above and beyond what we expect.

While I can see some use for real-time data, the concern Mr. Vincenti expresses is around how the data is used. Just as we don't necessarily want our bosses looking over our shoulders at work every minute/hour or even day, it is hard for an adolescent to mature with a parent watching their academic dashboard every day. We know a family with an "under achieving" child (in their view) who the mom in particularly "managed aggressively" through the whole high school process to get her daughter into the desired college (the mom's alma mater). One semester into college, the student dropped out and came back home - she hadn't learned how to handle school/life on their own.

Maybe that's up to the parents to decide - but I don't really think so. The school's job is to figure out how to best educate kids, and the parents have to accept the product they offer or find another school they like better. If PAUSD/Gunn doesn't think it is in the best interest of kids to provide real-time/daily online data (or something like that), even if some parents think they want/need it, then I support them in that decision.

The dispute seems mostly about frequency of monitoring and feedback. We now get some parently feedback on a semester basis, with students getting feedback more often. Mr. Vincenti's concern seems mostly about real-time or daily data - the tire-monitoring example - as well as complete reproduction of the classroom experience for at-home duplication. There's probably a happy medium.

It seems like a legitimate debate and I don't mind a little "hue and cry" thrown in - especially given how a number of posters started saying teachers are just lazy for now doing what they want.




Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm

No matter what, there will be parents that over-manage their kids and want every detail of their child's life under their control. Most parents just want to keep up with their child's work and encourage them before a problem gets too big. Having the online info has allowed me to be less involved in managing my student, not more.

Teacher's should not have to put all their work online (although there is a lot of valuable online coursework available and that will only grow...) Updating graded work once a week and posting a short description of homework assignments is a reasonable request.


Posted by teach every child, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 23, 2012 at 11:28 am

The Paly teachers love Schoology and have universal adoption. What is the big deal? By the way, Paly teachers told me there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the union contract that has anything whatsoever to do with this. Staff love to blame everything on the union but is not about the union. This is about the school board not making a decision to require Schoology. No TA, no Schoology, too bad parents you moved to the Gunn district. Go Paly! Great football and great teachers.


Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Hi Mr. Vincente: I think you are mistaken about who is trying to get this. The change is not being sought by micromanaging helicopter parents at all. It's the opposite. Working parents and those who are trying to get their kids to self-advocate want schoolology. The current system works only for those few helicopter parents who spend all their time at the school and can check in with teachers or go have a look at the whiteboard. Regular parents want their teens to be able to look up their own work. Parents of teens with ADD or other challenges need to check for the kids sometimes too and there's nothing wrong with that . But the current system is working only for the specific parents you are criticizing -- the over involved. The rest of us just want the homework to be posted online where our kids can see it.


Posted by teach every child, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

@Balanced -- I agree that this is a legitimate issue. You lose me when you say that parents should just see what Gunn is doing and if they don't like it, "the parents have to accept the product they offer or find another school they like better." Gunn is a public school and that is not how public schools work. Granted if the parents wanted the school to do something harmful (like play football against Paly lol) the school should refuse but parents just want to see the homework and grades, and there is no reason they just have to keep paying taxes but "find another school they like better."


Posted by Why Not, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 25, 2012 at 7:00 am

My daughter's private school has a system where all homework is posted online. In fact, the homework is posted online up to a week in advance. I have found that this has really helped my daughter, balance her extra-curriculars with her academics. She can look ahead on the weekend, figure out which days are going to be time critical, and do advance homework that will reduce congestion on those days. She used to miss homework assignments when she was in PAUSD. She has not missed one in over a year now.

I think these systems reduce academic stress by giving harried teenagers a clear view of their deliverables and upcoming tests.

Can't say enough good things about this solution.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 25, 2012 at 8:18 am

Why not - the only reason not to post assignments and grades is teachers that either don't want to spend the time or don't want to learn the technology.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:06 am

The program for grade postings is called Infinite Campus. I love it, but I look at my child's grades and don't hound my children, whereas, I can see how the program can bring about more stress for students if the parents freak out at every poor grade. My 3.6 GPA child said, "Please don't say anything about my grades. I see them and am working as hard as I can. Your mentioning a low grade just stresses me out more." A friend of mine no longer views Infinite Campus because it stressed her and her child too much. She realized her child was already conscientious about schoolwork and her nagging her child was not helping because it was not going to make her work any harder.

Teachers who do not use Infinite Campus have their reasons and it's not laziness. It can be due to parent backlash or to have a grey zone, such as giving a child who works hard a higher grade than a "D" so they don't adversely affect the child's GPA. Because face it, these kids are under a lot of stress for college applications and the textbooks are college level. If a student wants to know their grade, they can ask the teacher.

Schoology is for the homework assignments, not the grades. This is more important for teachers to use and they should be required to post assignments. Although some teachers abuse it and post something after school, assuming their students all read it (ie: quiz tomorrow).

These teachers should be respected. I have witnessed disrespectful parents berating teachers/administrators and it's just not right. You aren't going to get what you want if you can't respect the person you need on your side.


Posted by Gunn Grad '94, a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:45 am

Yes, I graduated almost 20 years ago, but from what I remember, parents then had no idea what their students grades or assignments were until the official reporting period, a few times a year.

So my question is, why do parents think they need to know all of this information now? And yes, I went to a good 4-year college (UC Berkeley), on my own, without my parents knowing each of my assignments.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 25, 2012 at 10:40 am

My greatest concern with these kinds of demands is that students are not learning to take notes, not encouraged to exercise their memories, and not developing essential organizational skills -- why attend to what a teacher says, announcements, upcoming deadlines, if it will all be on the net or mom or dad will always be the re-minders? Brain functions like memory require ongoing effort to work most effectively. Additionally, it sometimes feels like one more way students have of making someone else responsibile for gathering the info and resources they need to complete projects or prepare for exams. Am not sure that's best for their development.


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

not posting grades and assignments fits the darwinian philosophy we adopt in pausd, one that i disagree with


Posted by Gunn Grad '94, a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

@Parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood

I would argue that posting every assignment and grade online for parents to review fits the helicoptor parenting philosophy we adopt in pausd, one that I disagree with.


Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:17 am

What is schoology? I don't think we have this at Terman. I asked around and no one seems to know about it? It sounds good is it something you can pay extra for? I'd like to buy it for my child so he can learn to monitor his own work. Where can I sign up? Do I call the district? Thanks for any info I have never heard of this before.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Schoolology. I just looked it up. Another e-leash. I bet Pearson will buy it in six months.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Here's what Schoology is about: Web Link

Jordan started using it last year and Paly started using it this year. It's a Facebook format so kids can post questions (but they are not always answered). It won't get your kid organized - it's just a way for them to look up homework assignments. It's a good back-up for students but not an end-all. In fact, many students rarely use it. My kids only go to it a few times per week. The district was using In-Class but it was not user-friendly for teachers so Schoology was purchased.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm

My kid finds Schoology useful. Teachers post some of the study materials and useful educational links on the web site, and some teachers also post upcoming projects and project due dates which make it easy to balance the weekly work.


Posted by Resident Ramona Street, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm

This is a *huge* problem and no one should say that this is an unreasonable requirement. It cannot be that much more work. My son is in special Ed. and often forgets to turn in homework. His grades are terrible mainly because some teachers will not post grades/missing assignments online. If they did, we as parents could have made sure my child did/turned in his homework. This is inexcusable!


Posted by Moira , a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Our older son graduated from Gunn last year and just started college. We never looked at his grades or assignments, waited for the report cards. Our younger son, a Gunn Jr, has ADD and doesn't keep track of grades or assignments well. We have consistently asked for grade/assignment updates from teachers over the last years, the majority have NOT posted online or responded to our email requests. What happens is we then get a Grade Warning notice at the end of the quarter, when we could've tried to get our son on track before it was too late for a terrible grade. We are NOT obsessed helicopter parents, we'te trying to make an already stressful Gunn High experience at least tolerable. Think about it.


Posted by susie, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm

what a load of rubbish.
Teachers are people, very busy ones. Maybe sometimes they need an extra week to post grades.

Students can live without it for a week or two! The obsession with grades and testing has gone too far.

They will do it when they do it. As long as its fair and there by the end of the year.

Kids should be getting feedback in real time not just through tests.


Posted by Susie, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm

And, full disclosure, I teach university.

I think that if we obsess about online grades, online tests, then there is no time for the real teaching. The face to face, eyeball to eyeball, wandering, wondering, curiosity enhancing learning.

SAT scores are going down. Kids are learning less as their minds reach for technology. Every years intake at Stanford is a shock as bright students know less and less.

I am with you Mr Vincenti.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Re Neighbor's posting: "My greatest concern with these kinds of demands is that students are not learning to take notes, not encouraged to exercise their memories, and not developing essential organizational skills." How is this relevant? Students have to take notes in class, memorize for tests, and develop organizational skills to be successful students. What are you talking about? This thread is about grades and homework being posted, not robots doing work for our students.

Re Moira's posting: Those who have children with ADD have to be more involved with their children's schoolwork instead of blaming the teachers. Warning notices were recently mailed, only a month into the year, not at the end of the quarter.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2012 at 8:09 am

Mom - You are right that ADD parents have to be more involved - and Paly mailed notices, doesn't mean that Gunn did (since our schools have "site based" decision making).

Moira - see if you can include having your son receive his assignments in writing as part of his IEP or 504.

Susie - we're not talking about online tests, etc. Just taking a minute or two to put "Read Chapter 5, answer questions 1-10) and when things are graded, post that info online (which can probably be delegated to a TA since they grade many things).


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2012 at 8:31 am

Does anyone know - is Gunn actually scheduled to begin using Schoology next school year (2013-2014)? Is Schoology what this teacher (Mr. Vincenti) is complaining about?

My ADHD child's middle school uses Schoology and it is a great system. Yes, the goal is to get to the point that kids are good about writing down their assignments and managing their time with long-term assignments. However, not all kids are equally capable in this area.

Many special ed students do have IEPs and 504s that require teachers to give lists of upcoming assignments in advance and to keep parents informed of progress. But why should this be available ONLY to special ed students? Having Schoology in place at Gunn High School will help many students (not just those with ADHD).

I've never understood why some secondary school teachers have such a problem with the idea of making the assignment schedule more transparent. Is it because they are spontaneous and making up their schedule as they go along?

One of my favorite things about study at the university level was that we were issued syllabi on the first day of class that laid out the entire semester's schedule of reading assignments, quiz and test dates, and any other assignments or projects. We students could then use those syllabi to manage our time and be prepared for every class.


Posted by teach every child, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

@parent - yes Schoology is the program that the teacher does not like. No there is no plan to implement this at Gunn because the district is not mandating any school or teacher to do it. It's up to each site and each teacher to decide whether they will use it or not. There is no issue of the union contract -- this is not a subject of bargaining. This is about "site based" control. So students at Paly have it, students at Gunn don't. Students at JLS and Jordan have it and the district has not even tried to implement it at Terman -- there is no implementation at Terman. It is hard to see why students on one side of town should have better tools and resources than students on the other side, but that's what happens when "site based control" is a value held above all other values no matter what.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 26, 2012 at 9:40 am

Perhaps it is time to talk about this policy of site based control.

Ken Dauber is doing a lot of talking about this subject and it may well be time to look into this policy again. Is this something that can be amended? I agree that we do not want our schools to be mirror images of each other, but when it comes to some of the big issues, shouldn't similar policies exist at the same level schools?

Since we have very little say in which schools our kids attend, unless we go for some of the choice programs which are usually done on a lottery basis, and since kindergardeners and new families are often overflowed to non neighborhood schools, we should at least expect the same type of things at all schools. PAUSD have mandated the use of Infinite Campus and InClass in the past, so why not Schoology?

Isn't it time for some of the decisions to be back with the school board and ultimately the voters? Shouldn't we be asking these questions of candidates?

Speaking of candidates, I hope that all the candidates start weighing in on some of these topics because I can't imagine that in one evening we will get all the candidates' views on all the topics and most of us do not have the time to go to all the meetings, all the coffees, etc. From my perusal, most of the candidates' websites are quite vanilla when it comes to specific views on these hot topics.

Or is this discussion something that PA Weekly will deem too sensitive in this election season and close down?


Posted by teach every child, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 26, 2012 at 9:46 am

Ken Dauber does support Schoology and revisiting the question of site based control on his website -- I don't know about the others. I agree that generally these candidates are too vanilla and too afraid to take positions or say what they think. Can anyone tell me what Heidi Emberling thinks about anything? Dauber at least does have a long (too long!) discussion of the need for innovation and best practices and schoology is the main example he gives, at Web Link

"A commitment to best practices is a key to successfully innovating and to keeping up with competitors. Our schools have struggled to find a balance between local autonomy -- what is often called in PAUSD "site-based control" -- and making sure that all students benefit from good ideas.

A good example is Schoology, a web-based tool that allows students and parents to see assignments and grades. The district has purchased licenses for all of our students to have access to Schoology. Schoology is a great idea: research shows that close coordination between parents and school lifts achievement and supports kid. Yet we are relying on individual school sites and teachers to decide to adopt Schoology. Having decided that Schoology is the best solution to the communication problem, the district should take the next step and ensure that all sites and teachers use it. (For one thing, halfway adoption wastes money, as we are paying for software licenses for all students even if teachers aren't using the system). As a school board member, I will press for adoption of best practices across the district to benefit all kids."


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2012 at 10:23 am

One of the reasons Barb Klausner is not running for re-election is because she was trying to cut back on site-based decision making and move towards best practices instead. She was unable to make much progress.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2012 at 11:18 am

I think what is lost in this debate is that no one is asking for immediate data entry, just minutes after the test has been completed.

If a teacher maintains a "grade book" or spreadsheet, then it does not seem unreasonable to transfer that activity (data entry) to an online system - which then allows the students to access their scores and adjust their studies as they see fit.


Posted by Retired Educator, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Three cheers for Mr. Vincenti!

Teachers are already asked to do too much as it is. Recently we were asked by the State of CA to insert medicine up your kid's butt. We are asked to report suspected child abuse. At Gunn we are asked to do FREE tutoring on Tuesdays. Most tutors in this area get 70-100 bucks per hour for their services. Most teachers have 150 kids to teach, to grade work, & to mentor them. Lately we find ourselves having to be shrinks, wet nurse,s suicide prevention experts, and "parents.' Your kids are growing neurotic, lonely, self-medicating entitled brats. By high school they should be able to manage their own school work. Get out of your helicopter and come down to earth. We are all only human and trying to do the best that we can.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by teach every child, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm

For a profound example of why the question of what practices should be adopted across schools should not be solely left to the discretion of individual teachers, please see the comment posted above from "Retired Educator."


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Retired educator - while I totally agree that teachers work hard, based on your comments, I hope you truly are retired.

Teachers have to post their grades to Infinite Campus any way in order for report cards to get printed. Why can't the post the grades for assignments as they are actually graded instead doing a batch before the end of the grading period? As for using Schoology to post assignments, the typical post I have seen is just a couple words and would take less than a minute.

Ideally, kids should be able to manage their own school work. But they develop at different rates and some kids need more structure than others. For kids such as mine, who has ADD, suddenly not turning in homework is usually a sign his meds need to be adjusted -something we would like to know quickly, not at the end of the semester.


Posted by Participant, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

As the parent of two Gunn students, I just want to say that almost every teacher our students have studied with has been outstanding. We are very fortunate to have these incredibly capable and energetic people spending time with our kids. I taught my kids to take responsibility for getting the assignments, keeping track of them, deciding what grades they wanted to earn, and following up with the teacher if there's a problem. Only once did I have to step in, when a teacher became ill and the sub never taught anything or gave them any work to do. If we demand this of these teachers, some will have no problem posting grades and assignments, and some will find it a distraction from the amazing things they would be planning instead - a loss for students. Our teachers are already pestered and bombarded by over involved parents and pressured students - no, you probably don't know who you are. How about we get out of their way and let them teach?


Posted by Palo Alto Citizen, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Mr Vicenti -

You BET teachers should post handouts. And class powerpoints. And assignments. And grades.

What the heck -- several teachers I met at Gunn with a kid who got sick and was out for several weeks made clear that they resented my emailing to ask what was due so we could get my kid caught up at home, and resented the "extra" work of giving us the class handouts the kid was not there to get, but also mightily resisted putting online the very information that would have obviated the request. In fact, two teachers made it clear that they resented the inconvenience of my child's being sick. Many teachers I've met hate and do not abide by the 504 plans and IEPs for kids who have trouble processing instructions. Compounding the problem is the lack of timely feedback about assignments that would enable parents to assess problems and work with their kids. If you already have this information for the kids who need to be able to access it, how much more work could it possibly be to put it online? Seriously?

Teachers DO need to use technology and it will save them time in the long run and remove a huge source of tension about "helicopter parents." On the other hand, if this material is on the website, teachers should have a cut and paste response to the parents: "It's on my website." and this will cut down on the time they spend emailing with parents.

Parents, on the other hand, need to get the idea through their heads that teachers do not give grades, they simply record the grades the child has earned. It is NOT the teachers' responsibility to ensure that your child excels.

And a little courtesy would be nice from all concerned. No need to act entitled just because you have some executive position somewhere. No need to act entitled and put-upon because you are asked to do your job.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 27, 2012 at 1:20 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Teachers and law enforcement encounter so much criticism when their jobs are unwanted by most people. Both entered the profession so they could help people, yet they encounter cowards behind computer aliases who criticize and really should look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are loved by all and perfect. We really should love our teachers and police officers for taking jobs we can't handle. I respect them and in return, they are helpful to me. They are people, not servants.


Posted by pausd parent & teacher, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 27, 2012 at 7:16 am

Just to clarify the misinformed hypothesis of a previous post, the Palo Alto Educators Association has nothing to do with adoption or implementation of software programs like Schoology or InClass.

The union is currently busy trying to help the District convince voters to vote Yes on Prop. 30, lest we all face an additional $5,000,000+ shortfall in the PAUSD budget.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

> Forcing tenured teachers to post online is, most likely,
> a negotiated contract item because it involves job duties.

It is this mindset, whether the underlying fact is true, or not, that exemplifies why labor unions are detrimental to our kids educations, and ultimately any enterprise that finds itself having to deal with these unions.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm

It would not be hard for software to monitor the teacher's performance by determining the time it takes for him/her to complete the on-line updating of test scores, reviewed papers, etc. These reports would be available to both the public, and school administration.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm

[quote]
A good example is Schoology, a web-based tool that allows students and parents to see assignments and grades. The district has purchased licenses for all of our students to have access to Schoology. Schoology is a great idea: research shows that close coordination between parents and school lifts achievement and supports kid. Yet we are relying on individual school sites and teachers to decide to adopt Schoology. Having decided that Schoology is the best solution to the communication problem, the district should take the next step and ensure that all sites and teachers use it. (For one thing, halfway adoption wastes money, as we are paying for software licenses for all students even if teachers aren't using the system). As a school board member, I will press for adoption of best practices across the district to benefit all kids."
[/quote]

Ken Dauber has my vote based on this alone.

Who do I need to contact at 25 Churchill or at Gunn High School to make it known that I, as a parent, would like Gunn to implement Schoology?

Someone please post the name of the right person to call or write to. Then we parents who care about this issue can begin a campaign to ensure that Schoology IS implemented at Gunn.

Why should students and parents at some schools (Terman and Gunn) not have access to the same tools that students and parents at other schools (JLS, Jordan & Paly) have?

This is a ridiculous situation.

To paraphrase Dickens, if this is what site control gets us, then site control is an a**.


Posted by Kathy Sharp, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Dear Parent,

You should contact each member of the PAUSD Board, Dr.Skelly, and Katya Villalobos,the pricipal at Gunn to lend your support to full adoption of Schoology in this school year. At tonight's candidate forum at Terman, only Ken Dauber voiced a position in support of full adoption. Ms. Baten-Caswell, Ms. Townsend and Ms. Emberling all favor site based control and wish to defer adoption until sites have demonstrated "sufficient buy-in."

Please keep in mind that the district has already purchased a site license which covers full deployment at each of the middle and high schools. Less than full deployment is a waste of district resources and does not maximize the full potential of the tool to be able to coordinate test and projects between classes and departments.

Dr. Skelly, in a letter to the Board, also sited the poor implementation experience that the district had with grade loss associated with a failed back up of the legacy Blackboard system. Dr. Skelly noted that teachers "don't want to be on the bleeding edge" and have had the experience of a "faulty system." Schoology's cloud computing service delivery model takes the responsibility off of the district for hosting, back ups and upgrades. In addition, the district contract includes free "lunch and learns" to support teachers in adoption, although Schoology's intuitive interface makes the application easy to learn without extensive inservice.

Parent, I appreciate your support for our students at Gunn to access homework assignments on the web in each of their classes. My son would appreciate knowing that there is one place to check on his assingments in the rush between school and sports.

There is an upcoming candidate's forum sponsored by the League of Women Voter's Oct 3rd at 8pm at the District office (25 Churchill. Please come and ask the candidates about this important issue.



Posted by Why, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 28, 2012 at 12:09 am

"Why should students and parents at some schools (Terman and Gunn) not have access to the same tools that students and parents at other schools (JLS, Jordan & Paly) have?"

Because the school districts is not run by the parents, it is run by the professional educators, and professional educators need time to evaluate and develop views on tools for doing their jobs. If that takes a year or two to work out, that's fine with me - if the system is so useful and beneficial for teachers, students, and parents, I imagine its adoption will happen quickly.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 28, 2012 at 9:18 am

Kathy

Thank you for your comments regarding the meeting last night. Are there any other comments you would like to make regarding the other topics discussed and the candidates views. Thank you.


Posted by teach every child, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 28, 2012 at 9:22 am

The issue isn't whether time is needed to "evaluate and develop views on tools for doing their jobs." That has already been decided. The district already decided to purchase and implement Schoology as a solution. The issue is that all adoption is voluntary by the school and by the teacher. That means that if you have a good principal who is committed to stress reduction, communication, and home-school connectedness like Phil Winston (Paly) or Sharon Ofek (JLS) your child will have these tools because these principals informed their staffs that they expect them to use this program.

If your child attends Gunn or Terman, then it is up to the teacher and if a teacher (i.e., see above for comments of "Retired Teacher" and for Marc Vincente's original letter that started this thread) who is a Luddite or who just doesn't want to do it for whatever reason, then your child will not have access to a tool or opportunity that your tax dollars have funded and more importantly that would markedly improve life for your child.

Our kid checks Schoology in order to plan his life, see upcoming assignments, know whether he can go on this or that event or outing with our Church youth group, make decisions about when to go to the movies -- and can communicate with classmates to schedule group work etc. This reduces his stress as well as family stress over scheduling.

I am interested to know more about Kathy Sharp's report on the candidate forum. Why would school board members oppose just getting the benefit for the tax dollars? All this "site based" control is fine but if it interferes with kids having the same good quality resources then it should be curtailed.

Anyway, my kid has it so he's happy. Sorry for Gunn and Terman kids though.


Posted by Paly soph parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2012 at 9:40 am

@Why

Your post is exactly why the school board should get involved in this. If you're a "professional educator" in the district office as I suspect, the fact that you equate implementing Schoology "quickly" with "a year or two" is part of the problem. The "professional educators" already evaluated this, that's why we bought it in the first place!

But events may be overtaking you. I was at the Paly PTA meeting last night where Phil Winston (also a "professional educator") promised 100% implementation at Paly this year, and said that anybody who said that it would take years to do was basically just lazy. So I think this is a leadership question, or a lack of leadership coming from the school board and the district. But I'm happy because at least my son already has it for all of his classes because he's not at Gunn or Terman.


Posted by parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:36 am

I am very surprised to hear that Gunn HS does not use Schoology while JLS uses it. If a middle school that feeds into Gunn is using it and is finding it useful, then why the next path (the HS) does not use it? My kid at JLS uses it almost every day. Why should kids loose this benefit when they graduate from middle school? It is one thing that makes life easy for them.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm

@parent,a member of the JLS Middle School community

You can help to make a difference by contacting the school board members (and candidates) to express your concern over the lack of Schoology implementation at Gunn.

If we parents band together and make our feelings about Schoology known to those with the power to ensure Schoology's full implementation, then it will be more likely to happen.

Here's who you can contact (quote from Kathy Sharp above):
[quote]
You should contact each member of the PAUSD Board, Dr.Skelly, and Katya Villalobos,the pricipal at Gunn to lend your support to full adoption of Schoology in this school year.

snip

There is an upcoming candidate's forum sponsored by the League of Women Voter's Oct 3rd at 8pm at the District office (25 Churchill. Please come and ask the candidates about this important issue.
[/quote]


Posted by Dabid Peppersine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 6:46 am

@Retired Educator:

As Mr. Bhateja stated, does your doctor feel the same way about your medical data. Or does he see your family as a helicopter family when they want to support your health with access to data?

Good to hear you're retired.


Posted by Rajiv Bhateja, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 8:50 am

All,

With a quick search, I was able to find hundreds of examples of school districts that have embraced online access and parent connectedness to their children's learning and classrooms.

Partial List of School Districts Using PowerSchool:

www.spartanburg6.k12.sc.us/parentsandstudents/powerschoollogin.aspxWeb Link
www6.indep.k12.mo.us/parents/powerschool/
www.district70.org/apps/pages/?uREC_ID=109409&type=d
www.loma.k12.ca.us/cte/pdf_documents/CTE%20Handbook%2012-13.pdf (search for Powerschool)
www.d91.k12.id.us/
www.gwaea.org/psusers/
www.ghsd.k12.ca.us/District/Documents/2011_12/Powerschool_Parent_Access.pdf
www.nclusd.k12.ca.us/nclusd/default.aspx
www.district6.org/do/
www.k12northstar.org/
powerschool.patterson.k12.ca.us/public/
www.westside.k12.ca.us/parents/parent_resources.htm
www.pcschools.us/index.php?page=119
www.district158.org/powerschool/
...

There are hundreds of districts and thousands of schools that have adopted this.

I lost count.

I really liked the themes that school districts mentioned in connection with this: collaboration, connectedness, accessibility, convenience...

Sample quotes:

"PowerSchool, the web-based student information system used by the Park City School District, provides you with a convenient means of being involved in your student's school day."

"Power School is new to District Six and we are excited to offer this excellent tool designed to increase communication between you and your child's teacher. Soon, all parents with a child in our school system will be given a login and password to keep track of your child's grades, classroom assignments and more."

How refreshing!

Case studies and success stories by Pearson School Systems (maker of PowerSchool):

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

www.powerschool.com/company/press/casestudies/
www.pearsonschoolsystems.com/blog/?p=226

Here are videos on YouTube from school districts that have adopted it:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link
...
(again, I stopped adding at some point).

I'm not necessarily advocating PowerSchool but the concept of online access by students and parents to attendance info, classroom activities, assignments and grades is apparently widely regarded as a positive component in education today.

Are these simply, insane, tire pressure-obsessed, teachers, districts and parents, who think of their kids as mere data?

Or are they teams of parents, teachers and educators who value collaboration and connectedness, wanting to support their students with timely access to critical information in our modern information-centric age?

Obviously, there are hundreds of school districts who do NOT share the view that this is for helicopter-parents, or that this is rubbish, or that we should be stuck in the dark ages when schools did not use modern resources at their disposal to achieve the best outcomes for their students.

Rajiv Bhateja


Posted by Done Deal, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:08 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by why, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:23 am

@Paly soph parent - actually I'm a Gunn soph parent (as well as having a Gunn grad). That's great that Mr. Winston is implementing Schoology at Paly - site-based decision making at its finest! He and his faculty felt ready, and there they go.

If you are saying that Mr. Winston suggested that Ms. Villalobos and the Gunn faculty were lazy - I doubt it. He is too classy and intelligent for that (not so sure about you, however).

If Schoology is great, then it will be rolled out soon enough. I have found that technology innovation in education is over-hyped, and I don't feel like anyone needs to be in hurry about it (and guess what - I work in the technology industry).


Posted by Why Not, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:02 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Next Generation, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Wow, I've had posts removed on some threads because I was stating who I was going to vote for in the upcoming School Board election, and it was not Ken Dauber. Now, on this thread, I see some posts by people advertising Ken Dauber for School Board, and their posts stand. Why this difference in treatment by the editors?


Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

Midtowner,

Two posts in this long thread referenced Dauber's views on the issue being discussed, the adoption of Schoology by schools in PAUSD. This is exactly the manner in which Town Square should be used during election campaigns--to discuss the issues. You have repeatedly attempted to disrespect some of the candidates rather than talk about real issues, which is why some of your prior posts in other threads were removed or edited. It appears you would prefer to be dismissive of the candidates you do not support rather than actually engage in a discussion of the issues. As long as you do that, you will continue to be frustrated by our editing. If you wish to attribute our editing to bias, that is your perogative, but anyone following these threads carefully will see that we apply these editing principles to all as consistently as is humanly possible.


Posted by parent of a Vicenti student, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:55 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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