NC Public Schools Begin Fourth Year of PowerSchool

Parents of school-age children in North Carolina have been adding a new word to their vocabulary: PowerSchool.

Until three years ago, most parents lacked easy access to real-time information about their children’s grades in school and attendance. Now, with a new school year getting underway Monday for most schools, technology leaders with the NC Department of Public Instruction expect more parents will be logging in to the online PowerSchool application as a key source to help keep abreast of their children’s education. On typical school days last year, an average of 307,000 parents logged into the parent portal and another 200,000 logged into the mobile application.

PowerSchool, the state’s student information system, is at the heart of Home Base, a suite of digital classroom tools and instructional resources launched in 2013 to serve not only teachers and administrators, but also students and parents. Under the previous student information system, only 20 of North Carolina’s 115 public school districts provided parents with an online “portal” to view the latest information about grades and attendance for their children. Now, all districts are using the PowerSchool parent portal with at least some of their students.

It’s catching on. In a single week this spring, more than 450,000 parents and students accessed the secure parent and student portals in PowerSchool, giving districts yet another approach to help strengthen parent engagement, a critical factor for student achievement.

“By using PowerSchool’s parent portal, we can connect parents to key data about their students’ schoolwork. This frees parents and teachers to spend their conference time discussing strategies to help students improve,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson.

From the start, Home Base was envisioned as a way to harness digital technology to improve teaching and learning for all teachers and students in North Carolina. The Department of Public Instruction contracted with PowerSchool, then owned by Pearson Education, to develop the nation’s first statewide and integrated classroom and reporting application – serving the state’s more than 1.4 million students and nearly 100,000 educators.

North Carolina’s Home Base approach is seen by other education agencies as a model design that effectively knits together a robust student information system, through PowerSchool, with an instructional improvement system and an assessment and reporting platform to streamline processes and school – all of which are aimed at simplifying reporting and strengthening teaching and learning. North Carolina’s model is now central to the vision of PowerSchool Group, LLC, which acquired the application from Pearson Education.

PowerSchool also provides a single comprehensive data source for numerous software systems that previously were needed to manage student information – from initial enrollment through high school graduation. By coordinating reporting for migrant students, English learners, school nutrition, exceptional children, and homeless students, PowerSchool now provides a “one stop shop” for data related to all students. NCDPI has realized cost savings as a result by reducing the maintenance and support of otherwise redundant systems.

In addition to giving parents access to their students’ information, the PowerSchool component of Home Base allows for easier data sharing, especially for federally required reporting and student transfers from one district to another.

Many of the early challenges in launching Home Base and PowerSchool have been overcome. Teachers and other district personnel say they are seeing real benefits. In fact, state surveys show that 97 percent of teachers believe a centralized system is important for student success and support. NCDPI leaders have begun work to consider how Home Base can be improved and enhanced in a “Home Base 2.0” initiative.

For more information about Home Base or its student information system, PowerSchool, please contact the NCDPI Communication division at 919.807.3450. Parents wanting access to the PowerSchool parent portal should contact their local school district.