Since Andie was in 6th grade – she’ll be entering 8th grade Sept. 1 – the Smith family has used Infinite Campus, an electronic data system that gives parents access to information about how students are doing in school. It often provides more information than the typical middle school student brings home and it helps parents know from week-to-week what’s going on in the classroom. Madison, like most other Dane County school districts, has been using some form of electronic communication system for the last several years.
“I don’t have to ask to look at her planner anymore,” says Smith. “And, her group of teachers at Toki wrote a weekly newsletter last year that I could read online. When your kids get into middle school, they’ve got more classes, and parents generally have fewer connections with the teachers so I really appreciate the way it works.”
For the first time this year, Smith, like the rest of the parents and guardians of the approximately 24,000 students in the Madison Metropolitan School District, is using the online system to enroll her children in class. She also has a son, Sam, who will be a 5th grader at Chavez Elementary this fall. District officials hope that giving parents a password and user ID at the enrollment stage will expand the number of parents using Infinite Campus. A primary goal is to help increase communication ties between home and school, which is a proven way to engage kids and boost academic achievement.
But whether all parents will take to the system remains to be seen. Despite the boom in electronic communication, there are plenty of homes without computers, especially in urban school districts like Madison where poverty levels are rising. The extent to which teachers will buy in is also unclear. Teachers are required to post report cards and attendance online, but things like test scores, assignments and quizzes will be discretionary.