TAMPA – Today marks the first day Hillsborough County parents are able to log in to Edsby, a cloud-based gradebook that was designed to serve as a communication tool for parents, students and teachers.
Last spring, proposals were submitted to the school district and Edsby, built by Canadian software company CoreFour, beat the district's former program Edline, among others. It was selected by a committee of Hillsborough administrators, community members, teachers and parents.
Teachers and students began using Edsby in August. Some teachers were trained over the summer and they in turn went back to their schools to train their colleagues.
There have been kinks to work out — in some schools, Edsby has crashed individual computers and it was unavailable a day or two this year — so district officials and Edsby representatives are working with teachers to make sure their concerns are addressed, said Jason Pepe, the district's communications manager.
When teachers began exploring the site, they noticed they could not post assignments across class periods. Instead of posting an assignment once, they had to post one for each individual class. The problem has been fixed, Pepe said.
Additionally, when progress reports went home with students on Thursday, teachers had to enter all the grades by hand and print them. Soon, they will be able to use Edsby to do this, Pepe said.
“We did this type of rollout purposefully so we could make sure the feedback we were receiving from teachers was helping us make the program even stronger,” Pepe said. “They made some great suggestions, which we turned into program enhancements.”
The district will spend $180,000 on Edsby in each year of a three-year contract, Pepe said. Edline costs twice as much, he said.
About 25 school districts and private schools use Edsby, but Hillsborough — the eighth largest district in the country — is the company's biggest user, said Edsby co-founder Scott Welch. It is more than just a gradebook, Welch said. It takes social elements of sites like Twitter and Facebook and presents them to students and parents in a secure environment.
It is designed to give parents a way to stay in tune with what is going on in their children's classes.
”Kids do better when everybody is engaged,” Welch said. “With Edsby, parents see what kind of homework kids have coming up, when it's due, what messages teachers have posted in the classes and the results the kids have gotten.”
Teachers say the new program came with a challenging learning curve.
“There's a lot of frustration when there's change,” said Carol Wittel, teacher and head of the career and technical education department at Sickles High School. “It just takes some time to get past it. Edsby is a good social learning platform, but the gradebook has some limitations. However, the Edsby team has worked hard to fix those problems.”
Parents will receive letters from the district today with sign-up information.
To register your child, visit sdhc.edsby.com. You will be prompted to provide the school name, student number, last four digits of the student's social security number and the eight-digit birth code for each child.
Parents who do not have all four pieces of information are asked to visit their child's school.