Online master’s degrees in education programs are keeping pace with technology. As part of their coursework, many of these programs are introducing a new wave of teachers to parent portals. This technology helps parents become more involved in school, and it helps teachers connect with their communities.
Parent Portal? Is That a Game?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 protects the privacy of students across the nation. What this act also ensures, however, is that parents have access to their children’s educational records. When the act was first passed, this meant parents could access paper records in filing cabinets at school. Today, parent portals provide real-time access to children’s records. Users can log in online, check their children’s progress and often contact teachers or administrators directly. Early concerns about such portals focused on the potential for over-monitoring and micromanaging educators, but parent portals have proven themselves an effective means of getting parents more involved in school.
Benefits of Parent Portals
Many teachers, such as Heather Wolpert-Gawron, consider parent portals beneficial. For her, these portals preclude any miscommunication about students’ progress: “That’s really powerful stuff to be able to take Lack of Communication off the list of excuses as to why a parent has been inaccessible or not present for a student’s struggles.”
As assistant principal Barbara Starkie puts it, “Providing parents with … online portals helps to foster a sense of shared responsibility between the school and parents for promoting student learning.” She cautions, however, that the portals can only assist with getting parents involved in school. Throwing data at parents is insufficient; schools and teachers must also educate parents about how to interpret these data.
Here to Stay
Parent portals are becoming the norm at schools across the country. Joe Callahan, writer for the Ocala Star Banner reported that, within the first nine weeks of school, over 20 percent of parents had registered for parent portals during the program’s inaugural year. While the initial showing was promising, administrators hope to increase that number. Parent portals can be an effective way to get parents involved in school, but the real test is longevity and interest. It is up to teachers to find ways of sharing data with parents to get the most return on the investment.