Today's families are juggling numerous schedules for every member of the household, and running to and from work, school and children's extracurricular activities has become the norm. But parents and guardians in Trumbull County public schools can keep track of their child's academic progress at school on the go - electronically.
The Parent Assist Module allows access to student information through online access through a computer, iPad or smartphone with the use of a unique username and password provided by their school. The module is offered in three languages: English, French and Spanish.
P.A.M. gives information on student attendance, tardiness, assignments due, credits earned and standardized test scores. Some models offer a "Miscellaneous" tab providing their child's lunch menu, non-school days and student schedule.
Tribune Chronicle / Nancilynn Gatta
Brian “Bo” Marchionte of Niles and his son, Vincent Marchionte, use the Parent Assist Module to look at grades from last school year to see what Vincent, who is entering the seventh grade, needs to improve for the upcoming school year and what to continue doing.
Instruction on how to use the module are either mailed to the parent or guardian with their username and password or given to them in person as some schools, such as Mineral Ridge or Mathews school districts require. There is a training session available on YouTube and some schools such as LaBrae and Liberty, have online training manuals.
According to Dori Macmillan, school psychologist at Niles City School District and parent of recent Niles High School graduates, the password does not change from year to year. Niles City School District has used P.A.M. for four years for high school parents and one year for middle school parents.
"The most common complaint, a parent will have when they come to parent / teacher conference is I didn't know that Little Johnny had this assignment or that assignment," said Lew Lowery, superintendent of Matthews Local School District. "P.A.M. takes it out of the equation. Parents can always keep updated on their student's assignments and how they're doing in their class."
This the first year Mathews Local School District is using P.A.M. Lowery has previous knowledge of the module from working at Mineral Ridge School District.
Macmillan noted that a huge advantage to the use of P.A.M. is the timeliness.
"The Internet tool allows parents immediate access," she said. "Parents do not have to wait four to nine weeks to find out their child is struggling or failing."
As parents of two Howland Middle School students, Katrina and Steve Brill see another advantage to using the model.
"It reduces surprises in semester grades and gives parents and students the ability to address issues and improve study habits mid-grading period," said Steve Brill.
Macmillan agreed. She said that teens are often reticent to discuss their academics with their parents. This is a way for parents to monitor their child's work without pestering them for answers.
Students also have access to the system and can keep track of their academic progress and grade point average in a class, but they are unable to view the entire module that their parents see.
"They can keep track in how they're doing in school," Lowery said. "This goes back to my teaching days. Kids didn't do a real good job of keeping track of their own progress. It wasn't until the end of a nine-week grade period and a kid comes up and asks, 'How am I doing?' You point out, 'Well, you're not doing too well.' 'What can I do?' they ask. That excuse isn't there anymore."
P.A.M. allows parents to check on their student's progress at their own convenience.
"Say mom leaves for work at 6:30 a.m. and her son is a junior or senior in high school and he drives himself to school," Lowery said. "Mom gets to work, and at 8 o'clock she can go on and see if Junior is sitting in his class right now. If they're not, she will see in purple that they're absent and not supposed to be."
For teachers, P.A.M. allows them to enter attendance, assignments and grades during planning periods or at home. It also helps with communication between parents and teacher. They can leave messages for each other that appear on the opening screen when either logs in.
Though administrators, teachers and parents cited mostly advantages to the module, there can be negative issues.
Macmillan noted that sometimes teachers don't post grades as quickly as assignments are done.
From the school systems' perspective, there is only one detrimental aspect to the module.
"The only negative thing is if people don't use it,"?Lowery said. "Then, it becomes a wasted tool."