No Manatee students' grades online until January

ataylor@bradenton.comSeptember 29, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Student progress reports are late and parents shouldn’t expect to see any grades online until January.

A new computer software system and teachers’ struggles to learn it are to blame, school officials said.

Teachers began using the new $814,500 system called FOCUS, a web-based, student information system, at the beginning of this school year in August.

But teachers didn’t receive specific training and are struggling to learn the system, said Superintendent Tim McGonegal.

Teachers have worked extra hours, and endured computer crashes that caused them to redo student grades and progress reports, school officials said.

School board members in 2010 voted to replace the district’s outdated software system called TERMs, which was purchased in 2002. The new system merges student record keeping, grades, scheduling, attendance and other student-data functions.

“Teachers are saying it’s not working the way it’s supposed to be working,” said teachers union President Pat Barber said. “Some teachers have been preparing progress reports in handwritten form.”

The Manatee Education Association requested a week extension for teachers to complete progress reports.

“It’s been really frustrating for our teachers,” Barber said.

McGonegal said there wasn’t enough money to provide full training on the new software. Now, without training, teachers are going through the struggles of learning something new, he added.

“It’s really a pain for everyone to go through this implementation,” McGonegal said.

In the end, however, he says it will be worth it because more data is required from the state’s Department of Education and the new system is the best way to record that information.

“The promise of what FOCUS will eventually bring helps to get some (teachers) over the hump,” said Scott Martin, assistant superintendent.

Originally, teachers were asked to complete student progress reports on Sept. 22. With the extension, teachers have until today to finish them.

“They’re not sure if it can do everything we need it to do at the same time,” Barber said.

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