Thousands in Eastern Iowa log into Power School, Pearson’s online school information system, every day.
Teachers enter grades. Office staff track school absences. Parents check on homework assignments.
Grant Wood Area Education Agency introduced the system to Eastern Iowa schools in 2007. Today, the program is used by nearly 40 school districts in the area, serving roughly 90,000 people. On an international scale, PowerSchool supports nearly 10 million students in all 50 states and 65 countries.
What many don’t know, though, is that PowerSchool is enhanced regularly by Grant Wood AEA computer technicians who add programs by request from teachers, principals and AEA staff.
Some of the programs are visible to parents. eRegistration is one example.“eRegiatration was an awesome additional to PowerSchool,” said David Canaday, director of technology for the Marion school district. “With the adding of the registration process, parents could go online and update their information. It really streamlined the process. Parents didn’t have to go to multiple schools.”
Canaday said about 75 percent of Marion’s registrations for the 2011-12 school year were eRegistrations. Patrons without access to a home computer had the option of using school computers.
Deb Broghammer, an administrative student record consultant with Grant Wood AEA, said districts can customize the program to include permission forms – internet use policy, media release forms, etc. – as well, eliminating paper and saving time. Everything a staff member needs to know about a student is available with the click of a button.
It works the same for internal programs available only to schools and their staff
“It keeps things integrated,” said Gary Warner, director of technology for the Linn-Mar school district. “All the information you need for a student is on one site.”
“The more we’re able to document and keep these records accurate, the better the experience for students and parents,” Canaday added.
This includes behavior records, also a Grant Wood add-on. Technicians added the behavioral management system to PowerSchool during the 2009-10 school year. This program tracks student behavior instances and teacher referrals, and also cross references with other students involved in incidents, if applicable. This helps school personnel identify areas of concern.
The program was designed by request from educators throughout the area.
“We try to listen to what the districts are looking for and how we can better put information together,” Broghammer said.
All PowerSchool apply to Grant Wood AEA districts only. Grant Wood also handles all PowerSchool technical support and training for its AEA districts.
“Our goal is to serve schools and to serve students in those schools, and the parents,” said Bob Neilly, administrative student record consultant with Grant Wood AEA.
Grant Wood recently piloted online report cards at City High School and West High School in Iowa City. This program gives parents the option of downloading their child’s report card from their PowerSchool account.
Neilly called the pilot a success, adding that the program will soon be available to more schools.
“We’re looking to expand it, eventually including student transcripts,” he said.
A new intervention database program would give all parties working with a student requiring these services, from the classroom teacher and school principal to social worker and resource teacher, access to the same information. This would allow everyone to track a student’s progress and weigh in on what’s working and what isn’t.
Neilly said the program will be turned on in select Cedar Rapids schools. The program will be reviewed before it is offered to more schools.