App puts parents in the know instantly

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That ringing iPhone can now notify Kentucky parents of a changing grade in science class or an absence excuse note that never made it into the teacher’s hands.

Detailed information about public school kids’ grades, attendance and homework assignments is now available instantly from any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with a free app provided by the state Department of Education.

The information that’s available isn’t new – it’s just taking a new form.

Parents and students have had access to student data for several years by visiting the Infinite Campus Parent Portal from their laptop or desktop computers, but educators say the new Mobile Portal app will provide instant information and alerts through handheld devices.

“One of the things I’ve noticed using it as a parent is that it pushes notifications to me when a grade changes in a class, and it gives me instant data access to what’s going on in their classes,” said Tim Smith, chief information officer for Frankfort Independent Schools and father of 14- and 17-year-old girls.

“It’s amazing what we have now after growing up in a time when this amount of information wasn’t available – it’s totally different.”

The Mobile Portal app lets students and parents keep track of upcoming assignments and class schedules. There is both summary and detailed information about absences and tardies, and grades – even down to individual assignments.

Users can also set up notifications when assignments, grades or attendance information changes.

The portal is encrypted to keep student information safe, Smith says. Parents must enter a unique code – found alongside an icon at the bottom of the online Parent Portal – to set up the mobile app.

Smith says he doesn’t know how many students and parents are using it, but the number of phone calls and emails with technical questions jumped after the district announced its launch.

Some kids and parents may have an iPhone or iPod Touch, but not a computer with Internet access at home, Smith said. The app gives them the same information as their peers, he said.

Smith says Frankfort students use the service to stay on top of their grades, and parents check in when problems arise.

Deborah Wigginton, director of pupil personnel for Franklin County Public Schools, says the app will give parents easy access to their children’s grades and attendance as well as information about upcoming assignments if their teachers enter them.

“In this age of technology, we want instant and we want information now,” she said.

“I think it’s another tool that helps the school and the parent connect about the student – any resource we have is going to be helpful to the district and to our families.”

Wigginton doesn’t know how many people use the portal online or through mobile devices, but she says its popular with both parents and kids, especially at the middle and high school level.

“The parents that I talk to like it because it gives them instant access to information about their kids,” she said. “Kids are not always forthcoming about grades and attendance, and those things are important.”

The app came to Kentucky at no additional cost as part of the state’s existing contract with Infinite Campus Inc.

The company manages the student information system for the state’s 174 public school districts. The online system allows educators to manage attendance, grade books, lesson plans, student transfers, grade promotions and other information from any computer with Internet access.

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