Student information software to bring 'several different functions under one umbrella'

New Washington County public school system to include grades, absences and general information

February 02, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE |

Starting next fall, parents of Washington County Public Schools students will be able to get timely e-alerts with information about their child’s grades and notifying them if their child didn’t show up for school, according to the school system’s director of information management and instructional technology.

Parents can access their children’s past report cards and school system benchmark assessment results online through a laptop or desktop computer now, Arnold Hammann said.

Once the new, almost $1.2 million student information software is installed, parents can choose to be alerted instantly about grades — as soon as a teacher enters them in an electronic gradebook — and school absences with attendance information entered electronically, he said. The information site, known as ParentVue, also can be accessed in more ways, including mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones and Android phones, he said.

The Board of Education voted unanimously in December to approve the new student information system package. The school system is buying Synergy Student Information Software from Edupoint Educational Systems, based in Mesa, Ariz., according to a presentation document. The deal includes several components, such as ParentVue, and maintenance and support for years two through five.

Hammann said the various components of the student information system will be rolled out starting in August and probably will be fully implemented by the end of November. The order in which the features will become available has not been determined.

The new system will replace CIMS software that dates back to the late 1970s, but has been updated periodically.

The older system could not be updated to meet the needs of federal Race to the Top education reform requirements, Hammann said.

In addition to meeting those requirements, the new system also meets some requirements Superintendent Clayton Wilcox wanted, features like the alerts for parents to conveniently learn how their students are doing, Hammann said. An app can be downloaded for parents to use smartphones to access their children’s information.

Students will be able to log in and see information their teachers have posted online regarding the day’s lessons and calendars outlining what’s coming up, Hammann said.

Many teachers now have Web pages that students can access for such information, but the new software will bring several different functions under one umbrella, he said.

Teachers have been using various electronic gradebooks, but will now use the one through the new software, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said.

The software also will help teachers determine daily instruction as it will specifically identify what part of the previous lesson students didn’t grasp so that portion, rather than the entire lesson, can be reviewed again, Hammann said.

By deciding to go with Edupoint Educational Systems’ Synergy Student Information Software, Washington County Public Schools is expected to be the first school system in Maryland to use the software, Michael told board members.

The $1,166,740 total cost consists of $498,302 for the software, implementation, and training for year one; $500,004 for software maintenance and support services for years two through five; $104,302 for servers; and $64,132 for miscellaneous expenses, according to a presentation document and Purchasing Supervisor Lisa Freeman.

Hammann said $284,000 of the school system’s Race to the Top grant was used toward paying for the package of software and services.

Six companies submitted proposals, with a committee reviewing four proposals in-depth, including demonstrations, school system officials said.

Edupoint’s proposal is probably close to being the second lowest cost among the four proposals, Freeman said. The systems’ differences made it difficult to compare costs, she said.

The evaluation committee ranked Edupoint’s system highest in terms of software demonstration and overall review of the technical submission, Freeman said.

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