School divisions are putting more emphasis on ensuring that no parent is left behind.
As a sign of the fast-paced information age, the academic field has made it easier for parents to track their child's progress in the classroom. This year, public school divisions in Shenandoah and Clarke counties will be joining those in Winchester and Frederick and Warren counties -- and many others nationwide -- in offering a program that provides parents online access to student grades, attendance, assignments and more.
"It's certainly a data system that contains a tremendous amount of information on each student," Warren County Superintendent Pam McInnis said of PowerSchool. "The parent part of it, parents don't have to count on their children to give them information in a timely manner."
Winchester Public Schools employs the same program.
"Our job is to communicate," Superintendent Ricky Leonard said. "It's another form of communication instead of parent conferences, report cards and mid-terms."
Shenandoah County Public Schools started using PowerSchool last year, but wanted to wait a year to get used to it before adding the parent feature, said Debora Swecker, who coordinates testing and student information services for the school system. Parents can track pupils who are in third grade through high school, and one "nifty" feature is that those with children in different schools can view information on each child in the same account, she said.
In the next month, Clarke County Public Schools will offer information to just those parents with high school students, Superintendent Mike Murphy said.
"It's an electronic link between home and school," he said.
Frederick County Public Schools, meanwhile, uses a similar program called Edline, and launched it for parents with children in first through 12th grades, a 2008 news release states. Spokesman Steve Edwards said in an e-mail that it helps promote parental involvement in the educational process, which is a key to student success.
In making information more readily available, school systems put a little more demand on teachers and may lead some parents to get too involved. Swecker said Shenandoah County's teachers have been instructed to update grade books weekly, and cautions parents to have reasonable expectations.
"Parents are going to have to be understanding about assignments that take a long time to grade," she said. "We think it will help parents stay better informed about student progress in school and absences. It will help teachers keep better records. ... We're looking for it to be very successful."
Murphy said there will always be parents that get overly involved, and PowerSchool is just another means to do so.
"It doesn't really matter if they use technology, telephone or come in person," he said. "[We] will find a happy medium."
As for Shenandoah and Clarke county officials needing to brace for complaints from educators, Virginia Education Association President Kitty Boitnott said she has never heard any teachers have issues with the existence of web-based programs like PowerSchool.
"It's intended to help parents monitor student progress, which is a good thing," she said.
Without that tracking, McInnis said, education outside of the classroom would be damaged.
"Teaching has certainly become a profession where there's a lot of accountability," she said. "It's our responsibility to let parents know what their children are doing on a frequent basis. If they don't know what's going on on a regular basis, how can they help us?"