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Taking attendance in the 21st century

When I first started teaching, in the previous century, taking attendance in a public school classroom was so simple and dull. It only took about 30 seconds and the whole thing was over. Where was the fun in that? I looked at my seating chart, observed students and empty seats, wrote the names of absent students on a piece of paper and put it on a receptacle on the door, and that was it. Done.

But now thanks to technology like the wonderful Powerschool system, it is much more interesting. Here is the process:

  1. After going to the website, which you are not allowed to bookmark:
  2. Type in your 10-digit “user name” and your password that must be a minimum of eight characters in length and no longer than 16 characters. The password shall be comprised of upper case letters, lower case letters, and numbers. It shall not contain the user name alias. It shall not be shared, and it shall be changed at a minimum every 90 days.
  3. Click “Go”.
  4. From among the 16-plus choices that come up on the next screen, click the correct one of the three “Powerschool” boxes.
  5. Then select your current class from the list on the next screen.
  6. Reset the attendance code. You must do this for every class every period every day. It is fun.
  7. Momentarily look away from your computer and glance at the human beings in your classroom to determine their attendance status.
  8. Mark the attendance on paper (your own paper that you supply – schools don’t supply us gradebooks any more because now we have such wonderful technology) as a backup for the frequent occasions that Powerschool or the Internet access isn’t functioning, or you need a quick reference for a conference or call, or you experience a fire drill or actual emergency and need the information on hand.
  9. Then enter the information from paper into Powerschool, noting medical information and birthdays as you go. Click one of the two “submit” buttons.
  10. Note that the class attendance button is now green. This gives you a brief moment of satisfaction from having completed attendance within the first few minutes of class as frequently and strongly urged by higher powers. Enjoy that moment. Then start the whole process over again because a student just came in late.
  11. Now that attendance is “done” (you never know when an absence will need to be changed to a tardy or when that student who was not in your classroom will need a status change to “present” because of a field trip you forgot about or someone forgot to tell you about), it might be a good idea to look at or enter grades while you have the program open.
  12. To do so, you can choose “New Gradebook Launch”, which isn’t working this year, “Run Installer Once, then Launch”, or “use the old Launch”.
  13. This type of file can harm your computer. Do you want to keep launchGradebook…jnlp anyway? Of course! Click “Keep”!
  14. Then click launchGradebook…jnlp.
  15. Watch as the captivating and mesmerizing Java opening takes place.
  16. Do I want to run this application? Hmmm…I guess so. I’m not sure why anybody would quit now after having this much fun…so I click “Run”.
  17. The application is being verified as it loads, I see. Glad to know that.
  18. Now the gradebook screen comes up, and after selecting the correct class and students, you can enter the data that you previously entered on paper.
  19. But as you do, do so with care, because you might get a popup window that reads, “PowerTeacher Gradebook did not receive a response within the timeout threshold. Your changes may still be processing on the Powerschool server. Please attempt to refresh class information to update the gradebook with the latest information from Powerschool.” If you do indeed get that popup, follow the directions and attempt to refresh multiple times as the popup pops up repeatedly. It’s fun.
  20. It’s also fun when PowerSchool (or do I mean PowerTeacher? It’s sometimes hard to keep track in the midst of using such awesome technology every day that doesn’t even count as “using technology” when being evaluated) gets stuck and you keep clicking different classes but the same list of students stays on the screen.
  21. When you’re finished or when you’d like to again turn away from your computer and look at human beings for a nice diversion…
  22. Click “X” to close the gradebook window.
  23. Then sign out of PowerSchool.
  24. This brings up a “Single sign-on error message”. I’m a baseball fan. I hate errors when my team makes them. “Single sign-on identity provider does not support single sign out. Close all browser windows associated with session to preserve account security.” Take a deep breath, be brave, and close that window.
  25. Logout of RapidIdentity. You didn’t even know you were on RapidIdentity? You were.
  26. Then close browser COMPLETELY to finish logging out.

Yes! Let’s hear it for the 21st century! And to think our state only has to pay about $7 million a year for this great stuff! I guess the reason we can get it so cheap is because Pearson Education (from whom we get PowerSchool) CEO Marjorie Morris Scardino only pulls down about $2.5 million a year plus stock options.

Jeff Lee

Jeff Lee teaches high school art in Yadkin County Schools.