Slow software hampers teachers

The Oak Harbor School District installed a new software system that, among other things, allows parents to access their child’s grades online.

While officials said parents enjoy the quick way to see student performance, some teachers are having problems dealing with the new program known as Skyward.

Teachers are dealing with delays stemming from a variety of factors ranging from a lack of training to slow computer connections.

“Skyward continues to suffer from implementation issues,” said Peter Szalai, president of the Oak Harbor Education Association.

He said teachers have experienced extensive delays in accessing the Internet-based program.

“It can be very, very slow,” Szalai said. He said teachers waiting for connections lose many hours of time. He said teachers have to wait to connect or their computer can freeze and they have to reboot.

“If that thing is not accessible, than we’re dead in the water,” Szalai said.

School officials are busy working the bugs out of the fairly new information system.

Bruce Roberts, director of information services for the Oak Harbor School District, agrees there have been some connection issues surrounding Skyward. He said some recently-installed equipment should help speed connections.

Roberts said band width is always an issue with the Internet-based program. He added that other school districts in the state are having similar problems with the program and those issues have to be addressed at the state level. Oak Harbor School District subscribes to the Washington State Information Processing Cooperative which provides information services to the majority of the school districts in the state.

The cooperative provides districts with Skyward, which the school district started using 18 months ago. Student grades and attendance information is available to parents through a Web site.

Roberts said the new program puts a lot of the bookkeeping duties on the teachers. Skyward does offer an online grade book for teachers to use. He said it’s simpler than the software program teachers previously used.

Szalai said the school district should have offered more training, support and hardware to run the new program.

Roberts said officials from the cooperative provided a one day seminar for training. He added that there is a district coordinator for Skyward, but so far, no one has taken advantage of the coordinator.

Szalai said there have been improvements in connection speeds. He added that it’s a good idea to standardize the information between the parents, teachers and the state. He said its especially useful for parents who want to stay up-to-date with their child’s performance throughout the school year.

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