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The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Powerschool

By: Sophia Li

Powerschool took over for Buzz at Design Tech High School during the fall of 2017. Art made by Sophia Li

Starting the 2017-2018 school year, d.tech staff had cut ties with Buzz, the Student Information System (SIS). With Buzz, d.tech’s ex, isolated, Powerschool, another SIS, entered the equation. However, Powerschool’s product, Unified Classroom, contained many negative variables that weren’t factored in the envisioned program launch. Problems ranged from a complicated log in process to unavailable teacher gradebooks. But why was Buzz retired, and how do people feel about Powerschool?

One of the main reasons for the change was because Buzz was unreliable. On the technical side, staff and students reported crashing, lagging, and bugs. The latter included: inability to automatically share Google Docs through assignment submission option (“Attach from Google Drive”), grades not showing up, assignments not accessible, etc. Even parents suffered, as they were only able to log in using their student’s username and password which resulted in complications.

“There were enough people who were unhappy with Buzz, from a variety of different areas, that we wanted to look for a different system” Sarah Krummel, Director of Development and Special Education, explains.

To add to this, there were many aspects of Buzz’s Student Information System (SIS) and the Learning Management System (LMS) that did not align with d.tech’s unique educational model. Buzz did not allow for flexible schedule attendance tracking (for Lab Days), multiple assignment submissions, individual due dates, or a unique parent login system. So office staff had to keep track of all the data using programs outside of Buzz. “We were using a lot of different programs, and we wanted to be able to unify that into a single place” Krummel recounts.

In February 2017, d.tech staff and parents met as a committee six or seven times to look over and interview different SIS replacements. Participants included Sarah Krummel, Matthew Cooley, Nicole Cerra, and Julie Abraham.

Powerschool had what Buzz lacked, and contains features in which Buzz excelled: the ability to make custom notations on transcripts (for intersession tracking) and integration with Google classroom, SchoolMint (enrollment system), and Buzz.

Evaluation ended in May of 2017, and the contract with Powerschool was signed a month later. Unbeknownst to d.tech staff, Unified Classroom, the new Powerschool program, was launched in July 2017 in beta. This brand new product was a bunch of SIS’s that Powerschool had bought, such as HaikuLearning that were “slapped together” remarked Cooley, d.tech’s math teacher, who helped scout out new programs.

That’s why there were multiple login steps, teacher gradebooks missing from the site, assignments posted in multiple places, and incidents of information loss. Another issue that has been brought up by senior Rye Spooner is that “There is always one more click” to get to the places that she needs. Sophomore Jasper Bull also feels the same, stating that the layout is “confusing” and that “classes [should be] put on the front page”.

On Friday, September 22nd, 2017 d.tech officially switched from Powerschool’s Unified Classroom to Power Learning / Class Pages. Now, there is only one login page, gradebooks are up, and classes are all clearly displayed the moment you login. d.tech’s relationship with Powerschool may have gotten off to a rocky start, but now a compromise has been found.

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