Raleigh, N.C. — The state Department of Public Instruction has flipped the switch on a new technology support system for students, teachers and parents.
The $26 million Home Base system replaces the SPAN program used by Wake County schools and the NCWise system used by about 30 other districts across the state to communicate with parents and students. DPI officials said they wanted a common system that all districts could use statewide.
"We have never undertaken a technology project of this scope and ambition before," State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said Tuesday.
Home Base allows parents to check their children's attendance, classwork and grades from any computer, tablet or smartphone. They can even sync assignments with their personal calendars to keep up with deadlines.
If students are struggling in a subject, parents can communicate privately with teachers, reach out to other parents for insight and search for resources to help, officials said.
Students can also check their assignments and have online chats with teachers and classmates.
In addition to tracking student attendance and grades, Home Base allows teachers to see how their students compare with others in a particular school or across a district. Teachers also can use the system to plan lessons and design tests. It even offers professional development tools and evaluation feedback.
Schools will roll out Home Base individually in the coming weeks – elementary schools won't implement it until the 2014-15 school year – and will notify parents how to access it.
"The system is new, so there is a learning curve for our school personnel," Atkinson said.
WRAL News received complaints Monday from parents in Johnston and Cumberland counties about class scheduling mix-ups that they attributed to the Home Base system.
"That situation has been unique by different schools. (It's) not a widespread problem with North Carolina," Atkinson said.
A federal Race to the Top grant picked up most of the tab for the Home Base system, with the state kicking in about $2.5 million.
The system will cost about $21.4 million a year to operate, and officials said school districts will have to start chipping in $4 per student next year if they want to use optional components, such as teacher development tools and student performance comparisons. The state will continue to provide the parent portal and other required portions to districts free of charge.