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Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Source?

I recently had to have a conference with one of my son's teachers about a couple of issues. One of the issues was missing homework. One problem was that there was a student teacher and there was confusion over what she said versus what the teacher said versus my son's version of the story. One problem for me is that this teacher creates too much homework and doesn't grade it in a timely fashion (one homework was assigned in October and she didn't get to it until January - as I said to her, how does this help you or my son if you don't see it until months later? but I digress). Then, she doesn't post grades in a timely manner on the Source and, as it turns out, she doesn't know how to use the Source to show her homework assignments for the week (which can be a boon to being able to keep an eye on what kids need to do throughout the week).

My understanding of what the teachers "have" to do related to the Source is they have to post grades twice a quarter and that's it. I have found that it's a good question to ask about on Open House night especially if it isn't covered in the teacher's welcome sheet that comes home during the first week of school.

So a couple of questions:

- how many people here use the Source and find it useful? Please note what grade level your child is because I wonder if it is less use to elementary parents and more to middle/high school where you have more teachers and more homework to track

-is there a case to be made for us, as parents, that if teachers are not using the Source on a more timely and consistent basis that it's not much use for tracking grades? (It is good for absences which can clue you into if your child skipped class or got dunned for skipping class and may have changed classes and it didn't get into the computer - these are both things I have experienced.)

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

As the parent of a high schooler, I check the Source to keep an eye on my child's progress between report cards. I have found that some teachers do not use the Source. Sometimes I can't get an answer from them as to why they don't! I would like to see that it is mandatory that all teachers use this great communication tool, especially in high school. I won't have to bother the teacher via email or a phone call, if I can see on the Source what assignments are missing or test results. The Source helps empower me, the parent, to help my child be successful in school.

Anonymous said...

As a parent, my experience using The Source has been a roller coaster. I think it is a great resource, and when the teachers use it properly, it is amazing. It's all up to the teacher though. We have one teacher that posts every assignment on The Source, as well as quizzes. She grades them promptly and even adds notes, like **** needs to pay attention and focus in class. If an assignment is missed we catch it right away, and ask our son about it. We have another teacher, who posts all of the homework and classroom assignments, but doesn't grade them until the end of the semester. Somehow the system thinks that the child has not done this work, and The Source shows a failing grade all semester long. It also does not help me, as a parent, stay informed as to my sons progress. Another teacher does not use The Source at all, except to post grades at the end of the semester.

If you are going to introduce this innovative technology, then teachers should be trained and required to utilize it to it's fullest. It allows parents to be actively involved in their childs schooling (difficult at the older grades), and it gives parents a heads up, so that they can help their children before it's to late (a poor grade on a report card). I love it, and wish more teachers would use it. It is truly a great resource for a parent, though I realize it is a burden for the teachers.

My son is going to Kellogg next year and they don't use The Source. They use a similar system via the students lap top. I will keep you all posted as to how their system compares.
Deidre

Anonymous said...

I've found that what happens is that teachers get behind and then do a big data dump. Frequently a question about whether a paper is missing or not doesn't get cleared up for ages. If I panicked every time I saw anything under a B on Source, I'd go nuts, but on the other hand, it's very easy for grades to slide a bunch before I know it's for real.

I really think that in its current incarnation, Source is almost worse than nothing. I think it *could* be very useful if it were easier for teachers to use it consistently. Given the illogical format and slowness of response on the parent end, I suspect the input pages aren't any pleasure to use either.

Anonymous said...

I love the Source and check it daily. My understanding is that teachers are "strongly encouraged" to keep it updated in a timely manner, but their participation is voluntary.

About half of the teachers my daughter has had in middle school are on it, always updating.(Although there has been less frequent info for this semester.) The other half don't post any information on it at all.

Michael Rice said...

Hello

I just want everyone to know that as a teacher, I update the Source with grades everyday. I update with assignments for the week on Tuesday. I take great pride on being organized and the Source lets me do that. Parents ALWAYS know where their child stands in my class and nothing irritates me more about my fellow teachers than their inability to do grades in a timely manner. It is not that hard to do and all it takes is a little effort and commitment on the teachers part to keep their grade book current. Teachers who are too lazy to do this makes all of us look bad and it does nothing to help the parents believe that their child are receiving an education. Parents are the teachers greatest ally in helping to educate their child, but if a teacher can't even keep grades current, how is a parents supposed to have any confidence that the teacher knows what they are doing?

Jet City mom said...

I don't use the Source much- partially because things are not inputted on a timely basis, and I don't know what is accurate- if my daughter actually turned the work in and it hasn't been added yet or if she didn't turn it in.

This is the third program her schools have used. Previous programs were paid for by PTA & I liked them better.
Not that the teachers were more consistent about the use- but I preferred the format.

It is helpful to see attendance
I also like that some teachers use it to post notes, but the other programs had that capability as well.

Some teachers use it quite a bit- others not at all.

I dont' think that teachers should be forced to use it- but there should be consistent way to contact teachers- especially for struggling students.
Voice mail- Source or email.
Not that difficult- and improving communication with parents- is probably the main factor in student success that we can change.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that teachers need more planning/development time, when this kind of information would get organized & posted.

To the teacher who posted -- when do you find the time to update the central databank?

I've noticed a tendency of folks to assume that teacher are only teaching when they're in front of a classroom, but lots of other stuff needs to get done.

n-ssp (not a seattle school parent), but, also not a teacher.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Kathleen saidit best, "The Source helps empower me, the parent, to help my child be successful in school."

The District wants parents to be a partner with teachers in a student's success. The District has this wonderful tool that allows parents to check on homework assignments and attendance. Parents who have access to the Internet are willing to use it. So what is the problem with teachers not using it? (I'm even willing to forgo weekly grade updates - how about once a month?)

And thank you to teacher Michael Rice who wrote in AND bravely signed his name.

Anonymous said...

I do think the source is great, and I do use it daily. I worked in technology for 5 yrs before doing this teaching thing, and, while a LOT of me agrees with many points presented, there are a few points where I differ.

In the years getting paid to make software work, and even at a place like microsoft, LOTS of employees are seriously clueless about much outside their own tunnel, including evolving technologies... down the hallway or across the street. Teachers aren't any different.

While part of me thinks that using the source regularily out to be mandatory, another part of me wants ALL mandates costed out in time, AND then when that is done figure out which ones are going to be the priority.

After 45? 55? hours EVERYONE's productivity starts to decline / tank, so there needs to be a reasonable limit on mandates to make sure that what is most important is mandated.

Many of the arguements presented here in favor of the source are accurate. Many of the arguements in favor of many great ideas are accurate.

IF the only way to achieve all the great ideas is to work 80+ hrs a week and end up with a heart attack ... ummm ... nevermind.

anonymous for now.

Anonymous said...

"So what is the problem with teachers not using it? (I'm even willing to forgo weekly grade updates - how about once a month?)"

SPS can't mandate its use until they get SEA buy in. Take it up with the union.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yeah, I knew that was part of the union contract and forgot to mention it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

our child is in one of the city's top elementary schools and we have never had any of his teachers use "The Source." Here's hoping things change for middle school next year!

Anonymous said...

At what grade does the Source start being used? I had heard of it, but thought it was just for high school until reading some posts here.

Beth Bakeman said...

The information I found on the district site about The Source says that this year is the pilot year for the Source in elementary schools, and that in the pilot elementary schools teachers do not publish grades, attendance or assignments.

Anonymous said...

"and that in the pilot elementary schools teachers do not publish grades, attendance or assignments."

... then what do they publish? That's all the Source really is!! Is the pilot just for the teachers then - they input but it's not published? I'm confused.

By the way, my son is at Madison Middle School and I have found his teachers are pretty consistent with updating the info, grades moreso than upcoming assignments. It has been a helpful tool for us and for my son -he checks it regularly himself to make sure "missing" assignments are really missing or perhaps misplaced. I use it when I am out of town on business to stay connected, so I really appreciate the teachers keeping it relatively up to date.

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 7:16pm wrote something interesting:

"SPS can't mandate its use until they get SEA buy in. Take it up with the union."

How, if at all, can any of us take anything up with the Union? 'Coz that's a FREAKING BRILLIANT IDEA!

Let's face it, a significant number of important issues require union buy-in, whether from the SEA, Local 609, or PASS. That's only right; the staff are stakeholders in these decisions.

The community and student families are also stakeholders. As far as I know, each of us talks to the District independently. This puts the District in a position to play us off one against the other. They tell us things like "we'd love to do that, but the union won't agree to it" but we don't really know what issues they have raised in negotiations with the unions. And we don't really know what they are telling the unions about us. Student families should be talking to the unions directly.

Is there a structure for this? Can some recognized representatives of the community or student families, perhaps the PTA, perhaps CPPS, meet regularly with union representatives to discuss proposed changes? How would that work? How could we get that started?