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Accountability In Schools Takes Hold With Web-based Communication

Palm Beach Co., Fla.

200 schools

More accountability in the classroom is helping students in the Palm Beach County School District (PBCSD) achieve success in their schoolwork. And it’s Edline—the world’s leading web-based solution for K-12 schools—that’s holding administrators, teachers, parents and students responsible through an improved line of communication.

“Edline has become part of our family life,” said Cindy Wilcox, parent of two and computer technology assistant at Allamanda Elementary in PBCSD. Using Edline for the past five years, Wilcox says she and her children, who attend Bak Middle School of the Arts (MSOA), log onto Edline daily to check various information—from school schedules and homework assignments to announcements and student club details.

On a weekly basis, grades are posted and Wilcox receives emails from her children’s teachers alerting her of new grades posted on the site. “My kids will even go online to check their own grades,” Wilcox added. “Edline has helped them take more responsibility for their school work and schedules.” The technology also has Wilcox feeling more connected to her children’s teachers with Edline’s e-mail feature. “Within a day or two a question is answered or problem resolved.” There’s no playing phone tag or driving to the school for a meeting; and that means at-risk students can be identified and addressed earlier rather than later in the school year.

Teachers are encouraged that the extra time they put into communicating via Edline has gotten parents more involved in the educational process. “Parents have a greater understanding of the upcoming assignments and current grades,” said Lisa Hanser, a 7th grade gifted social studies teacher at Bak MSOA who uses Edline weekly. Hanser also goes to Edline to post her PowerPoint lesson plans and attach Internet links helpful to her students. “I’ve seen the quality of students’ work improve, especially in students who have lost or forgotten their school assignments,” Hanser added. Students have no excuse now; they can access all of this information online from home, a library, or their parent’s workplace—wherever there’s an Internet connection.

Hanser also has found Edline useful in reaching out to parents with requests for project supplies or volunteer speaking opportunities. It does require additional time for teachers to input all of this information, but they find it well worth it.

School administrators have found advantages when it comes to time management. “Time is saved in the reduced number of phone calls and teacher-parent conferences that are necessary,” noted Elizabeth Kennedy, principal at Bak MSOA. “Edline provides a good back-up for important information and assists when paper handouts are misplaced.”

Teachers and administrators continue to find creative ways to keep families engaged with Edline. Teacher Web pages now include audio and visual content, such as photo slide shows of field trips and student created presentations. A few schools are translating their Edline sites into Spanish and Haitian/Creole. As for the IT professionals, they are working to put textbooks online.

No more book bags? “The hope is to have half of student textbooks available via the Web by year’s end,” said Kim Cavanaugh, Manager of Technology in the Palm Beach County School District. There will be no excuses for not being able to do homework because a book was left in a locker. And students won’t have to overload their backpacks with books. All of their reading needs will soon be accessible at home online.

An estimated 500,000 students and adults throughout the district use Edline. “Kids are rabid about it,” Cavanaugh noted, and they are driving the demand for teachers to update their content. Features like combined calendars and all-school events power student use too.

With all of this dissemination of information, Cavanaugh said, Edline is “rock solid in integrating and handling it,” making communicating a lot easier. The result is a more confident kid in the classroom knowing they have an online tool to be successful in school.

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Clarion A.S.D. Benefits From Edline’s GradeQuick Solution

Clarion, Penn

2 schools

If you’re making the long trip across Pennsylvania via I-80, just off Exit 62 you’ll find the Clarion Area School District in Clarion, a town of about 10,000. Despite its rural environs, this is a university town with many professionals.

The district opted for the full suite of Edline solutions in the summer of 2009 but for many years has been an active user of GradeQuick, the powerful, teacher-friendly online gradebook solution to manage every critical classroom activity — assessments, attendance, lesson plans, standards, reporting and online parent communication. Rich in features yet entirely intuitive in terms of design and usability, GradeQuick is available in web, network and handheld platforms.

“We chose Edline and GradeQuick as a way to save time and prevent headaches. Plus it was fully compatible with existing administrative software. Edline provides a good, solid product with a simple gradebook interface,” says Jim Smyton, Clarion’s I.T. coordinator.

Smyton admits that when GradeQuick was introduced there was some resistance among teachers. “As with any change, we had some convincing to do early on but, when they realized how much time GradeQuick would save over the long term, they embraced it happily.”

That’s true. Whether among teachers or administrators and staff, Edline’s exclusive GradeQuick solution is saving countless work hours and making life easier at Clarion.

Since it was designed with their needs and experience in mind, teachers like GradeQuick because it’s easy to use in terms of posting grades with a simple click in a familiar interface that actually looks like a gradebook. Plus, Edline offers a cross-platform solution. Whether Windows or Mac, teachers can use the personal computer or operating system they prefer.

More than anything, though, GradeQuick is a timesaver for teachers. At Clarion Elementary they’ve recently moved from a handwritten to an electronic system that is fully integratable with the existing district-wide system. And inputting grades now takes a mere fraction of the time. “What used to take teachers two full days of work over a weekend — calculating grades and averages, filling out report card content, transferring grades to report cards by hand — now is completed much, much faster, with just a few keystrokes,” says Smyton.

The same is true for quarterly grade distribution reports. Instead of lengthy calculations by hand, teachers have all the information they need instantly available through existing software that interfaces seamlessly with GradeQuick.

For administrators and staff, GradeQuick offers a level of speed and quality retrieving essential data that wasn’t available before, which is particularly useful for school transfers, state reporting, and other administrative needs.

“We’re able to get statistical data reports that used to be unavailable or difficult to obtain. Like grade distributions by school, class or subject — a treasure trove of information — all in one place,” says Smyton. “It’s pretty outstanding stuff. I wonder how we lived without it before.”

Ultimately, however, the true beneficiaries of Clarion’s use of Edline and GradeQuick are students and their parents. Studies show that when parents are more involved, student performance increases.

“Our parents want to be very engaged. With Edline they can interact with the school much more and see the progress of their children in content areas. If they see a problem they can be proactive rather than waiting for results and the end of each quarter,” adds Smyton. “This is where Edline really makes a difference for us. It helps us give parents a window into education of their children.”

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Edline Provides Just What The Teachers Of South Park School District Need

South Park Township, Penn.

3 schools + 1 parochial school

In just four short years, Edline’s cutting-edge communications and technology solutions have become an integral and appreciated part of the instructional routine at South Park School District in southwestern Pennsylvania. The suburban district may be relatively small, with just 2200 students spread across an elementary, middle and high school, but it benefits from an administration that understands the importance and power of online technology used to its full advantage. And with an increase in teacher turnover during recent years, the staff is getting younger and more enthusiastic about using technology to improve student performance and increase parental involvement.

Today, South Park’s teachers of core subjects are required to use Edline, but most other teachers use it regularly as well. Each Friday the district calls for teachers to post such information as grades and assignments for the week ahead. This helps students keep up with coursework and plan accordingly — and provides parents with better insight into their child’s education.

“In the rare cases when a teacher is absent and does not post this weekly information to his or her class page, we know right away because parents call wondering where to find the latest information” says Steve Boisvert, director of technology at South Park. “So we know the system is working.”

Even so, since Edline was implemented, teachers in South Park report a dramatic reduction in time spent on the phone with parents — sharing and repeating information — because nearly everything parents need is now readily available online.

South Park teachers also like Edline because of its familiar, intuitive interface, ease of use, and speed, all of which allow them to do most things themselves quickly and easily.

“I mean it as a compliment when I say that Edline is not overly sophisticated. What it does it does well, plus the learning curve for users is quite flat,” adds Boisvert. “And frankly, teachers don’t really want or need all the bells and whistles. They need the ability to do some basic customization and post content quickly. Edline gives them that.”

Boisvert says that South Park coordinated intensive training when it first implemented Edline but all that is needed now is a few hours of training each fall for new teachers, who are then assigned a mentor to guide them through using Edline during their early days with the district.

One teacher group in particular appreciates what Edline has to offer. Thanks to the “Link a Student” feature, Edline has become a particularly powerful tool and timesaver for Special Education teachers, who may not see specific students as regularly as homeroom or other teachers.

“It saves those teachers in particular a ton of time on information gathering. The old way was to walk the halls to collect grades and track progress of Special Education students. Now that information is accessible online with just a few mouse clicks,” says Boisvert.

He adds: “Teachers of all kinds are overworked as it is, with little extra time for planning outside the classroom. When you have a system in place like Edline and, rather than grumbling, you actually get thanks — well then you know you’re doing something right.”

Boisvert has empowered users among the ranks of teachers, administrators and support staff to add and edit content. “That means I don’t have to be the webmaster for everything, which I like,” he says.

In doing so Edline has become a powerful tool for sharing vital and timely information both within groups among the district and with parents and the South Park community.

“Edline does what it needs to do for us very well,” Boisvert says. “I can tell you, we’ve had zero complaints. And that’s remarkable.”

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