Peering through the Parent Portal
Yikes! It is six weeks until the last day of school for Saint Paul public schools. Is there enough time to get in late assignments and make up missing tests? To help parents keep up with students, the St. Paul School District has developed Parent Portal where parents can check on their progress so that the year's final grade will be an acceptable one. So take a deep breath. You still have time to check on your student's progress on the school district's Web site. Once you have registered you can see where your student's grades are and what is missing.
Accessing the Parent Portal
What do you need to access this educational tool? To create an account, you need:
1) to be the parent of a student and authorized to receive information about them and
2) to have access to a computer.
More than 40,000 students attend St. Paul public schools. Teachers input grades and assignments directly into the computer to show how each student is doing and what needs to be done to have a successful outcome for the academic year. (There may be a lag in data input as teachers are busy people, too.) The Parent Portal also gives direct e-mail addresses for each teacher.
Parents can also check on their student's attendance. Each student is allowed seven excused absences before falling into the Truancy Intervention Project (TIP) a program developed by the Ramsey County Attorney's Office. After seven excused absences have been reached a student's illness will have to be verified by a doctor's note or by a visit to the school nurse. A close monitoring of excused absences is a word to the wise as students can use up seven without really knowing it.
St. Paul began Parent Portal in 2003 for middle school and high school students. Approximately 8000 parents are now registered on the system. Many use it frequently and enthusiastically.
For some parents, access is a challenge. In Saint Paul, 43 percent of students have a home language other than English. Parent Portal is currently only available in English and in Spanish, though district families speak an estimated one hundred languages.
Almost 70 percent of St. Paul students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, which is the usual poverty indicator. Many of these families live on the other side of the digital divide, without home computer access. Computers are available at some nonprofit agencies and at libraries throughout the city.
Minneapolis Public Schools is rolling out a similar system and hopes to be on line for grades six through twelve by the end of this academic year. They initiated their pilot program last May and so far they have had 3700 parents registered.