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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Online report cards

Question: I saw in the Leader-Herald today that Mayfield posts its report cards for Jr./Sr. high school students on its parent and student portals online. Wouldn't this be a way for the district to save money on postage as well as paper? I'm sure that the non-tampering paper that we use for report cards is not cheap. Not to mention saving the time of the office staff who have to stuff the envelopes and run the postage. With the post office rates increasing, it seems like this should be looked into. Parents who do not have computer access could "opt out" and still have their children's report cards mailed. Having report cards posted to both parent and student would also cut down on tampering by the students. I'm sure that someone in our district's information technology department should be able to find a way to do this.

Answer: This is a good idea in principle, and on the surface there may be cost savings, but not necessarily as much as you might think. The upside to this system is, as you said, it would drastically reduce our use of paper in disseminating report cards and would be convenient for people who have access to and are comfortable with technology.

However, I also see some downsides to an electronic report card system. First, the school would need to develop and implement a system and provide training to our users. Also, many of our residents don't visit our district website or subscribe to our digital forms of communication, which makes me wonder if we would end up mailing out half of the report cards anyway. And, if we do send out half of our report cards on paper, then the change may not be worth the effort: Our staff would now have the added task of determining which type of report card to deliver to which student every marking period, generating the correct kind of card and distributing it accordingly. Plus, teachers and administrators often make comments on report cards -- in order to continue that practice, they might have to use more than one interface (electronic and paper).

My comments might sound negative, but keep in mind that it is my personal preference to do more things electronically. Clearly this is something our district should think about, but there are a lot of questions that would have to be answered before we could adopt this kind of system.
- answered by Ed Szumowski, Board of Education President

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