One quarter into the school year, the updated ProgressBook pleases some users but clashes with the high school’s new no-zero policy.
Shaker students, teachers, and parents were frustrated when school began because ProgressBook, a source many rely on heavily, was closed due to an update to the website. Finally, new access codes were sent out, the resource was once again accessible, and a new format for the long-used website was revealed. However, the reactions to this updated format have varied by user.
“I like the new ProgressBook,” sophomore Sarah Tibbitts said. “The format is much more detailed.”
Used by more than 750 school districts across the country, ProgressBook is operated by Software Answers, an educational technology company based in Brecksville. Information about the new version of ProgressBook was mailed to parents Sept. 7, along with individual key codes and instructions for setting up parent and student accounts.The new format includes an opening screen where grades, upcoming homework, recently turned in assignments, and daily attendance can all be seen at once. The old version only provided links to these features.
The change was welcome to Tibbitts’ mother, Kittie Warshawsky. “I’ve been very pleased with it,” Warshawsky said. “I like that you can switch back and forth between kids.”
Students have grown to rely heavily on the online system. “I’m addicted to ProgressBook. I use it constantly,” Tibbitts said. “I check it probably three to four times a day. . . I like how [the new version] has more in-depth features.”
However, Tibbitts concedes that the new design is not faultless. “Some of my teachers have had difficulties figuring out how to put homework in so the due dates all line up accurately,” Tibbitts said. “As well, the new ProgressBook seems to be down more than the old version.” Accessing ProgressBook has been limited at times because shaker.org’s host has been inconsistent since school began.
Teachers have also been frustrated bythe system update. “The old ProgressBook allowed me to post something, and it would remain there from the moment I posted it until it was no longer relevant. Now it only appears around the due date,” English teacher Elizabeth Colquitt said. “It seems to be a step backward as far as quality is concerned.”
“I like the overall appearance of it, but I don’t find it user-friendly,” Colquitt said. “Not that the old one was user-friendly either.”
With the ProgressBook refurbishments, a new policy has also been adopted. In a letter dated Aug. 15, Principal Michael Griffith announced that teachers will no longer be allowed to give students zeros on late assignments until the end of the grading period.
However, the updated ProgressBook seems to contradict this policy. When grades are entered as “missing,” the system automatically marks the assignment with a zero grade and a small “M” beside it, indicating that the assignment has not yet been submitted, much to the vexation of English teacher Emily Shrestha.
“In 10 years of teaching I have never had a student ask ‘Why did I get a zero on that assignment?’ They always ask if they can still complete the assignment,” Shresta said. “Now, I have students asking, ‘Why did I get a zero on that assignment?’, when in fact the assignment is missing.”
“When I approach students about missing work, they respond, ‘I thought I couldn’t do it because it was a zero in ProgressBook,’” Shresta said. She believes the feature that parents can have a single login account for multiple students in the district is beneficial, but says, “it does not outweigh the issue that the new version completely undermines the ‘no zero’ policy and philosophy behind it that we are supposed to be starting this year.”
The new format also presented another problem; access of the website. Administrative Assistant Myriam Neil says there are still kids coming to her “everyday” who need assistance accessing their accounts “Most of the issues are either data mistakes or mistakes from students,” Neil said. “There were only a couple of students we had to email the site for”.
One parent who wished to remain anonymous for privacy reasons said the new update yielded the same frustration as always. “On parent-teacher night, you go to some teachers and they tell you everything will be on ProgressBook and then the other half of teachers aren’t on it a lot, if at all,” she said. “It’s only helpful if teachers use it.”
“I don’t think it’s as big an improvement as everyone makes it out to be,” sophomore Sophia Ciccarelli said. “Some teachers still aren’t posting enough homework and information.”
“I think ProgressBook is meant to be more than checking grades, but that’s all it is at the moment,” Ciccarelli said.