Parents Will Soon Be Able to Track Their Kids’ School Performance Online

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MANHATTAN — Parents will soon be able to track their kids’ grades, attendance, state test scores and other information through an online report card that can be accessed from their mobile phones, tablets and desktops, Department of Education officials announced Wednesday.

Starting June 8, families can sign up for an NYC Schools account, which the DOE pledges will be “easy-to-use” and will provide information in 10 languages. Parents must register for an account at their child’s school to verify their identities, DOE officials said.
The new tool, which was designed in-house for less than $2 million and will cost another $4 million in maintenance over the next four years, replaces the controversial ARIS system built by consultants for $95 million. That system saw only 3 percent of parents log in to use it in the 2012-2013 school year.  

 This is what the interface of the city’s new virtual report card will look like. This is what the interface of the city’s new virtual report card will look like. View Full Caption Collage from Department of Education images

MANHATTAN — Parents will soon be able to track their kids’ grades, attendance, state test scores and other information through an online report card that can be accessed from their mobile phones, tablets and desktops, Department of Education officials announced Wednesday.
Starting June 8, families can sign up for an NYC Schools account, which the DOE pledges will be “easy-to-use” and will provide information in 10 languages. Parents must register for an account at their child’s school to verify their identities, DOE officials said.
The new tool, which was designed in-house for less than $2 million and will cost another $4 million in maintenance over the next four years, replaces the controversial ARIS system built by consultants for $95 million. That system saw only 3 percent of parents log in to use it in the 2012-2013 school year.  

Amy Zimmer · DNAinfo Reporter

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“By launching NYC Schools accounts, we are encouraging parents to become more involved in their children’s education and hold themselves and their students accountable for progress,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement.
Final report card grades, for instance, will go online when they’re issued at the end of the school year, and state test scores for math, English Language Arts, and Regents exams will be available after they are released by the State. Previous years’ grades and scores will be added later in 2015, DOE officials said.
The department will provide guidance to school leaders on communicating with parents on how to register and is scheduling parent workshops for the summer.
“Anything will be better than ARIS,” said Mona Davids, a Bronx public school parent and president of the grassroots New York City Parents Union.
“People still need training,” she said. “What one person thinks is easy and intuitive might not be to someone else.”
To ensure sure parents will use it, she urged the DOE to have parent coordinators hold info sessions at each school in September rather than summer workshops at various schools.
“In the summer it’s just a waste of time,” she said, adding that some parents “don’t feel comfortable going to other schools” to sit in for a training session.
She also would like to see the schools offer parents time to use the classroom computers since many families don’t have Internet access at home and might not have smartphones.
She estimated that about a third of parents might end up using the system.
“You have parents who are very involved and you have parents who are not so involved,” Davids said. “The parents who are involved — the ones who turn the TV off — will look at it. The ones who don’t turn the TV off aren’t going to look at it.”
Liz Rosenberg, a Park Slope public school parent with the grassroots group NYCPublic.org, was concerned of having an app that focused a lot on test scores.
“It makes grades that much more important,” she said. But she hoped that the program could be used as a way to create “real dialogue about progress reports that really do help break down what [schools] are trying to teach my kid and what they are learning.”
She hoped it could be used to have a more robust conversation about the meaning of scores and where and how there’s room for improvement, with evidence, for instance, of why a kid might be struggling in math but excelling in writing.
David Bloomfield, education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, said the new site could create an additional avenue for parents to have a dialogue with their children about their work and will also allow them to walk into parent-teacher conferences “prepared, if they want to be.”
But he hoped the DOE was taking care to guard student privacy.
To further ensure the safeguarding of information, all student data in the NYC Schools accounts will be encrypted, and no outside entities or vendors will have access to the database, DOE officials said.
Karen Sprowal, a parent of a fifth grader at an Upper West Side school, preferred an in-house program to an outside vendor like inBloom — the Bill Gates Foundation-funded massive data collection and cloud storing initiative that failed in New York.
But the “potential for on-line student profiling still remains a huge concern,” especially for her, she said, since her son has special needs.
“I do understand parents and DOE have to move along with the digital world, but security always seems to lag way behind technology,” she said. “Considering the unquantifiable risk of misuse and privacy breaches, parents will always prefer talking to schools face-to-face, traditional notes and paper report cards reporting on their child.”

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