The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 23, 2013

ECPS prepares to roll out parent portal

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The Daily Southerner

TARBORO — Edgecombe County Public Schools (ECPS) is making plans to unleash the Parent Portal aspect of the new student information system.

The new system, HomeBase, is a project brought about by the Department of Public Instruction. Housed under the umbrella of HomeBase are four different aspects: PowerSchool, SchoolNet Instructional Improvement System, SchoolNet Assessments, and the Employee Evaluation System. PowerSchool, a global project developed by education technology provider Pearson, is the system that houses student information and is where the Parent Portal will be set up.

Patricia Benbow, PowerSchool Manager for ECPS, explained that the former student information system (NCWISE), came to the end of its life on June 30. “In this world of technology, we have to move forward and Homebase will get us there,” Benbow said. “The database has a lot of capabilities that will enhance our technology capabilities as it grows and as we grow.”

Beginning Nov. 1, the Parent Portal will be rolled out to middle school parents. Upcoming Parent Portal meetings will be held at South Edgecombe Middle on Thursday, and Phillips Middle and Martin Middle on Oct. 29.

The Parent Portal will allow parents to view grades and attendance for their children. Currently, teachers, counselors, principals, can pull up student information and records like absences, grades, and demographic information at a glance. With the Parent Portal, parents will be able to do the same. In this way, parents can keep track of their students to help with their educational plans.

“I suggest that people go out there to see all the aspects that HomeBase offers at  HYPERLINK "http://www.nc-sis.org" www.nc-sis.org and  HYPERLINK "http://www.ncpublicschools.org/homebase" www.ncpublicschools.org/homebase,” Benbow added. “There’s no password required to look into what the system offers.”

However, to gain direct access into the Parent Portal system, passwords are needed. State employees require a unique identifier and parents will be able to set up their own passwords and user rights after they have received a secure student ID and URL to access the Parent Portal.

“This is a big transition for the entire state,” stated director of accountability Janet Morris. “My first thought was that to completely switch to a new statewide student information system was ambitious. While we are all experiencing the growing pains locally and statewide, once the system is up and running, we will like PowerSchool and all of its features.”

There are some features in the PowerSchool system that have not yet been rolled out for North Carolina. The state has just released report cards, discipline entry, and transcripts.

“We’ve not had access to a system that allowed parents to monitor attendance and grades on a consistent basis,” Morris explained. “To have this tool to assist with involvement and collaboration can only enhance what we’re trying to do in Edgecombe County.”

The Parent Portal Rollout involves three steps. First, the school will send out welcome letters to parents with an application and user agreement for parents to enroll and register for Parent Portal.

The second step is for the schools to validate the parent’s request with proof of photo ID, after which parents should attend the parent night scheduled for their school to gain access to the system. Parents will receive access notification and a demonstration of the Parent Portal itself.  Schools will have computers available and will offer assistance to parents during parent night.

The final step is for middle school parents to have access to the portal on Nov. 1. Elementary and high school parents will have access to Parent Portal on Jan. 28, 2014.

Parents with children in more than one school will have the option to establish a single sign-on to connect to all of their children’s grades and attendance. Parents will have to do the linking, but they will receive assistance from the schools. Schools will also offer computer access to parents without computers or Internet.

“If I can ask parents for one thing in the release of the portal and the PowerSchool progression, it would be for parents to be patient with our staff and provide us with constructive feedback as we move forward with this new system,” Morris said.