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District technology plans for parent involvement

January 31, 2012

So I just posted a three-part series on ways to make better use of eSchoolPLUS to support parent involvement and student success. One of my points was that the Home Access Center (HAC) is an underused parent involvement tool that needs to be dusted off, supercharged, and showcased by DDOE and the districts. From Part 2:

Who is using HAC?
Unfortunately, we don’t know, because we are not running the reports that would tell us. It would be valuable to have statistical information on usage rate (how many parents are logging in each day). This is a common standard feature for major web-based information systems.

It turns out that the districts were thinking about HAC usage too, as shown in their District Success Plans, which each district is required to file as part of RTTT. I’ve been taking a look at those success plans to see their ideas for increasing parent involvement, especially through the use of technology. There’s a lot there to write about, but this post today will just focus on district plans to increase parent use of HAC.

Nearly all the districts cite HAC in their response to the required section Objective 2: Improve access to and use of data systems. Thirteen out of nineteen districts plan to increase HAC usage to a specific percentage of all families, ranging from 50% to 100%. The table below shows the district plans for HAC usage.

The problem is, nobody is currently collecting HAC usage data, as the district plans note. […] eSchoolPLUS does not provide a built-in usage report, nor are the Delaware administrators using the standard reporting tools to create a custom usage report. Ideally we would prevail on the vendor to add this very reasonable feature to the product. But that does not seem to be happening.

So it appears the Districts must fend for themselves to get the data, which means each district will have to develop its own custom report for HAC usage. But developing multiple district-level reports will inevitably result in low-quality data, with districts using conflicting reporting metrics, which will not allow comparisons across districts or for the whole state.

This usage report is the responsibility of the Department of Education, which is hosting and administering eSchoolPLUS. This report should be designed, developed, and published as part of the State’s eSchoolPLUS services to the districts. The data is already sitting right there; it is low-hanging fruit. Let’s go get it. It is not a technically onerous task, although it will require some thought and planning.

Whether HAC is used or not at home is inextricably linked to the digital divide – the fact that many families don’t have Internet access, or don’t have computer skills. Once we have this usage report in hand on a regular basis (along with other data), then the full education community and private-sector partners can begin to address the problem. As a member of a district-level parent group (RCPAC), I am looking forward to the opportunity to begin meaningful outreach to put this family engagement tool in the hands of more families.

As an aside, I noted that most of the districts plan some good strategies to increase HAC access, including parent education and outreach, access to in-school computer labs, and more. But none of them mentioned the one thing that would have the most effect: Increase the value of the information in HAC, by posting assignments and documents in advance.

Here’s the table of district plans for HAC usage:

District Success Plan 2014 HAC usage goal
Appoquinimink 85.00%
Brandywine N/A
Caesar Rodney Baseline + 25%
Cape Henlopen N/A
Capital Baseline + 0
Christina 90.00%
Colonial 51.00%
Delmar 100.00%
Indian River 53.00%
Lake Forest N/A
Laurel N/A
Milford 80.00%
NCCVT 90.00%
Polytech 80.00%
Red Clay Baseline + 10%
Seaford N/A
Smyrna 50.00%
Sussex Tech 70.00%
Woodbridge N/A
  1. ktweetybug
    February 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Another problem with HAC is that all teachers use it differently. All teachers should be required to use it the same. For example, 1 teacher does not put assignments in unless she has graded the papers (which could be a week or two) too late at this point to followup with student to see what happened. They will have forgotten about it.. Another teacher puts every assignment in then when she grades she enters the grade, if the student did not do the assignment she leaves it blank (which tells me the assignment has not been graded). There are others. I have 3 kids in 3 different schools and HAC is used differently by many teachers. I can’t keep up with each way. Frustrating

  2. February 3, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t know about other districts but in Red Clay, there is a rule that teachers have five days to enter the grade in HAC, ten days for longer assignments. But the rule is little known and loosely observed.

    I am not so concerned about teachers entering grades late, as long as they put in the assignment before the due date so we know it exists. If we know about it, we can at least ask our kids or the teacher about it.

    The worst case for parent involvement is if the assignment is not entered at all until after it is due.

  1. July 5, 2012 at 10:46 am
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