Valley Christian Junior High is a school with an exceptional academic record, including a National Blue Ribbon School award and honor as an Intel School of Distinction Star Innovator. However, a significant, and all too common, challenge it faced was struggling with an outdated student information system (SIS) that was failing in its basic functionality. Student data was unstable, teachers were challenged with a difficult grading program, and parents had limited access to their students’ work and were not engaged in their education.
The school, part of the larger Valley Christian Schools, switched to PowerSchool SIS—the leader in student data management that gives teachers an easy-to-use, robust gradebook, parents mobile and online access to real-time grades, assignments, and attendance, and administrators innovative tools to easily manage and use accurate, stable data.
“PowerSchool is much easier to use, and it gives us one place to house our student records. PowerSchool is saving us time and resources. It gives teachers the ability to simply do what they need to and that’s to teach students. And parents have more security knowing what happens with their student’s learning. PowerSchool helps enhance and inspire wonderful communication.”
– Lisa Arnett, Junior High Principal Valley Christian Schools
Located in San Jose, California, Valley Christian Schools is a private school system with an elementary school, junior high school, and high school. Valley Christian Junior High School (VCJH) was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2013 and offers sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students a nurturing and stimulating environment as they bridge the gap between the elementary years and high school. VCJH has also been honored as the Intel School of Distinction – Star Innovator 2011 and the Intel School of Distinction – Middle School Mathematics Excellence 2011.
“Our previous student information system was very difficult to use,” says Arnett, Junior High Principal, explaining the challenges her school faced. “Student data was not stable. It was not easy to access, input, and actually use data. But our biggest challenge was going online to access grading, and after that, it was a significant chore for teachers to simply submit their grades.”
Once the entire Valley Christian Schools system switched to PowerSchool, administrators, teachers, students, and parents all started seeing the benefits of a stable data management system that offers a leading online gradebook and enhances communication. “PowerSchool is much easier to use than our previous system and it gives us one, central location to house our student records,” Arnett says. “PowerSchool is saving us time and resources and it helps enhance and inspire wonderful communication. There are no longer gray areas or confusion between students, teachers, and parents. We’re not counting on word of mouth for communication. Everything is easily accessible, available instantly, and completely transparent.”
Before Arnett served as principal, she was a teacher who understood that administrative tasks could take up too much valuable teacher time. She says, “I would spend half of a class each month to meet with students to discuss their grades, assignments, and how they were doing overall. I would literally go in and print out the grade book for each student, then have them take it home for their parents to sign and bring back to make sure families were engaged in their students’ education. It was a very manual process.”
Now with PowerSchool, parents, and students have comprehensive access to student grades, scores, assignments, attendance and more through the online student and parent portals and the PowerSchool mobile app. Plus, teachers and administrators can see real-time metrics of parent engagement when they check how often and when parents and students access their accounts, or whether or not they have read emails sent from the school. “The good news is that yes, they are accessing PowerSchool regularly so I know they are engaging. PowerSchool also allows students to keep track of assignments so there is no longer the mystery of, ‘How am I doing and what are my grades?’ That helps students be accountable and stay on top of their own schoolwork and take responsibility for their learning.”
Valley Christian Junior High parents typically sign up to receive teacher emails on a weekly basis. Administration requires teachers to update their PowerTeacher gradebooks each Monday by 5 p.m. with the previous week’s assignments and has encouraged parents to only check their student’s PowerSchool account once a week. “That gives them a better overall analysis of their children’s progress, rather than a day-to-day update,” says Arnett. “PowerSchool really helps keep parents calm. They know what’s happening on a regular schedule and they are no longer dependent on the word of their child.”
Arnett says regular PowerSchool communication is particularly helpful when there are split households where both parents are not in the student’s primary home. With one communication, Valley Christian Junior High staff can easily engage everyone involved in that student’s life.
With PowerTeacher Pro, Valley Christian Junior High teachers have access to a simple-to-use, yet powerful, digital gradebook that empowers them to manage and analyze grading, assignments, and attendance. PowerTeacher Pro gives teachers the data to assess performance for the individual student, whole class, or
“PowerSchool gives the teachers the ability to simply do what they need to and that’s to teach students. They don’t have to stop class to handle administrative, time-consuming tasks. Instead of all of the housekeeping calls and duties that can eat into lesson time, now teachers
can spend their time teaching,” says Arnett.
What was once a challenging routine—entering and accessing grades—is now an easy process that is improving the time that Valley Christian Junior High School teachers have to teach. Data, previously unstable and inaccessible, is now accurate and available. And parents, who were left out of their children’s education, are now engaged and informed throughout the process.
“PowerSchool has made a major impact on Valley Christian Junior High School administrators, teachers, students, and parents,” Arnett says. “We are now communicating better, grading better, and teaching better. PowerSchool has been a ‘game changer’ for us.”
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