One question summed up the Abington School Board’s orientation last night of the school district’s new student data management system: “Why does it say ‘absent’ in that box?”
The “box” signified a day of the week for one particular student as shown on a calendar. He or she (the student’s personal information was redacted) missed class last week—and the system knew ... and now, his or her parents likely know.
The system is called Skyward. It’s new to the district this year, though a committee spent about two years researching it (as well as six other similar programs).
Skyward, which is based in Stevens Point, WI., manages a student’s schedule, grades, attendance record, and lists a student’s teachers, GPA, homework, tests, quizzes and assignments … the list goes on.
It’s accessible through the school district’s website by clicking the Skyward logo on the bottom right hand portion of the screen. It’s listed under “resources.” Students, teachers and parents need a user ID and a password to get into the system.
Skyward shows specific information for each student—even if a parent has more than one student in the district. Parents may see a virtual report card; (The report cards are archived.) set up email notifications for things such as daily, weekly or monthly progress reports; see attendance records; and even send transcripts to colleges through the system.
The school district entered into a five-year, $430,000 contract with Skyward in December. The school board approved a motion last night increasing the total cost by $3,345 for modifications to the program dealing with special education students. However, Abington Superintendent Amy Sichel said the district can use most of Skyward’s features right out-of-the-box. She added that Skyward consolidates data that were previously stored in other locations.
“The goal was to buy [a student data management system] that was user friendly and comprehensive—so that we wouldn’t have information in ProgressBook, in ClearTrack and in different spreadsheets,” Sichel said. “We selected Skyward because it was one of the most comprehensive systems, and when we did references, people were extremely pleased with it.”
Skyward is already being used by students, parents and teachers in the junior high and senior high schools; the program will be available to elementary school students, and their parents and teachers, in January.
During the presentation, the “mystery student” even had grades entered for gym class—and classes only started last week.
But for the system to run efficiently, teachers need to stay on top of the data that are entered.
Abington resident Joe Rooney questioned whether the having teachers enter data each day was worth a teacher’s time—or even feasible. He called the program a “gimmick,” but then backpedaled.
Sichel and school board president Raymond McGarry said teachers must input grades and lesson plans already—Skyward just consolidates them. And Sichel added that all teachers will be using Skyward to enter lesson plans this year.
Skyward took up much of the closing comments of the school board members.
“This is a game-changer,” school board member Adam Share said. “If everyone uses it who’s supposed to—if that happens, kids will hate it, but it’s a significant step further in knowing what’s going on every day, without having to ask the kids.”
School board member Jeffrey Bates called Skyward an “absolutely necessary tool” from a parent’s standpoint.
There are no solid numbers as to how many parents are using the Skyward system currently. But school district spokesman Byron Goldstein said after the meeting that he expects the system to be in full swing within a couple of weeks.
Superintendent Sichel said the school district would make special arrangements in the rare event that a student or a student’s parents do not have access to the internet.