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NCSS electronic tracking system keeps parents informed

COVINGTON - Newton County parents now are able to see their students' school information with a simple click of a computer mouse and a few strokes on a keyboard.

The newly launched program is known as StudentTrack. According to a statement released by the school system Friday, the system is designed "to promote both parent involvement and awareness."

The program allows secondary school parents to view their students' grades, discipline history and attendance records. Elementary school parents can only access attendance and discipline at this time.

"(It) also allows parents the opportunity to view student class schedules ... and shows the most recent contact information the school has on file," the school system statement reads.

Newton County Board of Education member Cathy Dobbs said the program, which she pushed for two years, also allows parents to e-mail teachers.

"Before, I used to have to e-mail every teacher. Now, I don't have to do that," said Dobbs, who checks her son's account weekly. "I think it's a great tool. A good amount of parents want to know this information."

She said the program is well worth what the school system paid for it - less than $15,000, as well as a yearly renewal fee that's less than $2,500 per year, NCSS Director of Public Relations Sherri Viniard said.

Dobbs said this information could help parents find out early in the school year if their student is struggling "instead of waiting until the end" of the semester or on report cards or teacher conferences.

"You can look at each teacher and can see (students') grades and even individual assignments," she said. "For parents who take the time to care, you can head off bad grades, and you can make the child accountable."

Dobbs said the program is "really easy" to use and that students, too, can log in to see their information.

Sandie Albritton, an eighth-grade math teacher at Clements Middle School, likes this feature.

"I utilize StudentTrack as a way for students to keep up with their own progress," she said in an e-mail. "It lets the students become more aware of their 'paycheck' or the grades they earn on their jobs."

The program is updated every night from information teachers store in their electronic grade books, so

Albritton said she tries to put in grades "as quickly as possible.

"From the perspective of a parent, I check my own child's grades weekly to see what I can do to support her learning," she said.

Hubert Bennett, technology specialist for the NCSS Student Services Department, said parents don't need to purchase any special software to use the program, as it is available through any Internet browser by logging into it through the NCSS Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org, or individual schools' Web sites.

"We have had log-ins from far and wide," he said in the NCSS statement. "Many visitors are logging on from work, business trips, vacations and even deployment to foreign countries."

To log in, parents or students need the student's Social Security number or three pieces of information: the child's student identification number, date of birth and grade level.

As of Friday morning, the school system reported more than 170,000 log-ins,

Bennett said.

"The log-in numbers include duplicate hits, and that indicates that parents and students are logging in on a regular basis," Viniard said.

On Aug. 8, when the school system was still training many teachers on the program, the program had a reported 485 log-ins; and on Sept. 6, it reported more than 40,000 hits.

"As of Nov. 1, a total of 127,965 log-ins for StudentTrack had been made, with 59,439 log-ins outside of school network contacts. Inside the school network, there were 67,356," according to a November Curriculum/Instruction/Technology Report at the Newton County BOE meeting.

In the future, the school system hopes to improve the program.

"(StudentTrack) is capable of adding additional features," Viniard said. "We would be interested in hearing feedback from parents concerning what additional types of information they would like to have access to."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.