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Online system makes grade

Hedrick Middle School parents check their kids' homework, grades under a pilot program

Hangin' out with friends on the weekends gets tricky when your parents check out your grades over the Internet every Friday night.

Instead of getting grounded a couple of times a year for report cards, we can get grounded every week, said Hedrick Middle School student Jazmin Barker.

But Hedrick parents like Lynn Bergen have nothing but good things to say about the computer program that allows parents access to their children's homework assignments and test scores each week.

I don't have to constantly be on top of her because I know what's going on, Bergen said. I just think it's the best thing to come along. It's absolutely great.

Hedrick is the first and only school in Jackson County to post graded work online.

To use the system, parents and students log onto the site, ThinkWave.com, and enter a password. Information is updated every Friday.

Parents who don't have Internet access can use computers at Hedrick or request that their child take home a printout each week.

It gives parents a tool to help find out why their kids are struggling, added Julie Evans, a dean at Hedrick.

Even many Hedrick students find the program helpful ' despite the threat of being grounded.

You can go through and look at your assignments and see if you're behind. It's all right there, said eighth-grader Elise Boldt.

Parents can see what you're doing and help you with it, added eighth-grader Allyson Marrs.

Hedrick's setup is a pilot program that began when a handful of Hedrick teachers volunteered to use the ThinkWave software in 2001.

The number grew to more than 50 volunteers in 2002. This year, the entire staff began posting grades online, said Principal Marjorie Lininger.

I love it. It puts a whole lot more accountability on the students, said English and social studies teacher Lynn Bergen. The kids know what they need to do now.

Hedrick Middle School signed a three-year, &

36;1,746 contract with ThinkWave that ends in June 2004. The private vendor is based in Sebastopol, Calif., and specializes in educational software.

This makes teachers totally accountable, not only to families but to students, Lininger said. It's a huge commitment by the staff.

Despite the glowing reviews of parents and administrators, Medford Curriculum Director Phil Long said it's unlikely the program will be installed at other Medford schools.

The software has limits to what parents can view and doesn't integrate with the district's own electronic grading system, he said.

In addition, Long estimates ThinkWave will become too expensive in the future.

The district is currently eyeing programs that would allow parents online access to its own software, while keeping data safe, he added.

Medford School Board Chairman Mike Moran is a fan of ThinkWave, and often checks his own son's progress at Hedrick.

I think we have to start looking at a similar concept. It's not something we want to lose, Moran said. The sooner you can take care of a problem with a student, the better it is.

Hedrick Middle School eighth-graders Allyson Marrs, left, and Jazmin Barker have different views on the school's new program to post grades and assignments on a Web site parents can visit. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell