Edline Web Site Struggles

Parents say more participation is needed; some teachers claim
it’s too complicated
Gilroy – It’s a student’s enemy, a parent’s savior and to some teachers, just one more task to tack onto an already jam-packed schedule.

“I’m going to retire before I’ve ever figured it out,” said English teacher Jane Singleton about Edline, a Chicago-based computer program that hosts Web sites and allows teachers to post homework assignments and progress reports.

Parents who sign up for the program can log on and check their child’s progress in classes.

The software costs the district $3.000 annually. There are also additional costs associated with staff training and outreach.

Singleton, a Gilroy High School teacher, attended one class to learn about Edline at the beginning of the school year, but the five-hour lesson wasn’t nearly enough for the longtime educator.

“With time constraints I haven’t been able to dedicate the time to learning the system,” she said.

For Singleton, who has worked at various California school districts during her 28-year tenure, grading stacks of essays and sending out grades every six weeks is quite enough, thank you.

“Younger people have grown up with technology and for me everything’s new,” she said. “I have to learn slowly. It can be the most simple thing that everyone in my class knows and I have to ask: ‘Why isn’t my cursor showing?'”

Joel Goldsmith signed up for Edline last school year when his daughter was a freshman at GHS. Goldsmith immediately took to the system, which allows him to check his daughter’s progress on school projects, grades and homework.

The local businessman said his daughter is more responsible with her school work this year and he thinks Edline may be a factor.

“She knows we can see what she’s doing,” he said.

Still, the system is far from perfect. Only two of Goldsmith’s daughter’s teachers use the program, so he can only spy on her progress in chemistry and PE classes.

That’s one of the turn-offs of Edline, said Goldsmith. Once a parent is able to tap into two of their teens’ classes, they want to know what’s going on in all of them, he said.

“My only complaint is that they’re pushing the parents to sign up for it and then when we do we find out that not all the teachers are on it,” he said.

Teachers aren’t required to use Edline and it’s unlikely that the high school will mandate its usage.

“If we wanted to, it could result in having to go through a negotiation process (with the Gilroy Teacher’s Association),” said Greg Camacho-Light, GHS vice principal.

But even talk of a requirement may not be necessary since the number of participants is slowly rising.

More than 40 percent, or 44 of GHS’ 102 teachers are participating in Edline and 21 percent of the school’s parents have signed up. Two weeks ago, there were only 28 teachers participating.

Camacho-Light said he’s received positive feedback from parents about Edline. The only complaint he’s heard is that too few teachers are using it.

But the GHS official isn’t worried. The high school is still staging training sessions every Thursday to help teachers already logged onto Edline work out all the kinks.

“I expect every week for it to be climbing,” he said. “So my goal is by mid-year we have the substantial amount of teachers on.”

Ethan Stocks is one of the teachers embracing Edline.

When the GHS English and drama teacher signed on for the program last year – he wasn’t impressed.

Stocks thought it was “cumbersome and difficult to use.” But this year it’s different.

“I think there’s really been an emphasis on it by the administration, namely Greg Camacho-Light,” Stocks said.

This year there are more resources for teachers learning the ins and outs of Edline, he said. Now Stocks, a new teacher, appreciates the program.

“I think it really does open the lines of communication and makes my job easier in terms of keeping people informed,” he said.

With Edline, parents can see what assignments their child has turned in and where they slacked off.

“So it really is like looking in my grade-book,” Stocks said.

The Gilroy Unified School District is using GHS to test Edline for a couple years. If the program is effective, the district will look into implementing it at other school sites, said Jackie Horejs, GUSD assistant superintendent of educational services.

Local junior high and middle school math teachers use a system to post homework called think.com.

GUSD Trustee Tom Bundros said the board hasn’t discussed Edline’s progress although he knows that not all of GHS’ teachers are using it.

During back-to-school night Bundros said he asked teachers about Edline. Some educators said Edline is too complicated and others said they would rather use something else, he said.

The board member said he will suggest during Thursday’s meeting placing the item on a future agenda for discussion.

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