DOWNEY - Ever wondered how your son or daughter did on that last test or project, but you didn't know how to check?This year, the Downey Unified School District is making it a little easier. Hoping to increase parent participation and boost student achievement, the Downey Unified School District has introduced a new online student data system this year that allows parents to monitor everything from grades and attendance to assignments and curriculum. After a trial run at a few select schools last year, the online data system, Zangle's Parent Connection, is now in its first full year of operation district-wide. DUSD technology teacher Ron Legaspi believes as more parents begin utilizing the system, ultimately the students will benefit. "Studies show that parent involvement attests to higher grades and with this tool in parents' hands, it'll bring about just that," said Legaspi. "But it's more than grades. Parents can check assignments, attendance... if the students is absent or tardy ‚àí they'll be able to see that." Legaspi said the district is pushing the program at campus events, such as Back to School night, as well as offering parents the option when they enroll a new student in a Downey school. Parents of students currently enrolled can download a Parent Connection request form from the district's website and turn in the application to their child's school. "It's time consuming, but hopefully they'll be willing to take the time," Legaspi said. "Once you're in the system all of your children will be linked to one account. It's in real time and parents love it. "It's a great way to keep track of how your son or daughter is doing in school without having to pick up the phone and call the teacher. You don't have to wait until grades come out, you can check now," Legaspi said. Kathy Pecka, administrative secretary for the DUSD assistant superintendent, frequently checks the system for her own son who's finishing up his last year at Warren High School. Pecka said the grades are updated regularly, giving her the ability to track her son's progress. "Keeping track as kids get into high school is difficult. Communication is wonderful at elementary school, hit and miss during middle school," said Pecka with a laugh. "Ultimately, it's their effort, but you can say 'hey, I see you have a big report coming up. Have you studied?' It's just another tool of communication." In addition to checking grades for tests and projects, parents using Parent Connection can also access school news, homework assignments, progress reports and a classroom calendar, which outlines the topics and discussions going on in classroom each week. Superintendent Wendy Doty hopes that parents will recognize the benefits of the system and the impact it could potentially have on student achievement. "It is now a Board (of Education) goal that our schools work hard to push Parent Connection," she said. "Parent involvement is such a strong piece of the puzzle. Sometimes that extra push is all it takes to help a marginal student." According to Doty, one-third of DUSD parents have signed up to use the system. Doty anticipates the figure will rise once more parents become aware of the resource. "In a perfect world, 100 percent of our parents would be using Zangle...we want to make sure our students are doing well," she said. "It's a key tool to help students succeed, it has everything a parent needs...we expect parents to help their children do better." Despite the enthusiasm of parents, teachers and administrators alike, Legaspi said many students are not quite as enamored with the new student data system. "They're not too thrilled about it," chuckled Legaspi. "They complain, but they don't see the big picture that it's helpful. But it works both ways. When a student does good on an assignment, they'll say 'hey mom, go check, I just got an A.'"
********** Published: March 10, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 47