Information now or later?

PHS English teachers Keith Beard and Brian Rockett work together to learn the new Information Now grading program that all Shelby County Schools will use this school year. (Special/Connie Nolen)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

STI is an acronym that Shelby County Schools employees, students and parents know well. STI is to many Internet-savvy parents and students what report cards and teacher conferences were to most parents and students of not so many years ago.

STI stands for Software Technology, Inc., the name of an education data management company. STI also provides parents and students Internet access to grades.

For a few years, STI has been an invaluable tool enabling parents to keep up with their children’s grades between report cards. STI has been used in Shelby County Schools for more than a decade. In the lifespan of technological tools, STI is an old lady.

This year, the state Department of Education is requiring all school systems to move to STI’s newer software program, called Information Now or INow.

“There are many positives about INow,” said Pelham High School teacher Katy Burnside. “INow is live. As soon as we post a score, parents see that score. With our old system, parents had to wait for servers to upload information to the STI website — and that process took days.”

PHS Principal Bob Lavett said, “INow is a great tool. We’re able to generate more information in less time. Eventually, parents will be better informed.”

Of course, with technological improvements, there are inevitable complications. Three years ago, the Alabama State Department of Education required all Alabama school systems to complete the upgrade by 2011. Shelby County Schools has worked to avoid the technical difficulties some other school systems have experienced through extensive employee training.

Unfortunately, until the end of the first semester, parents and students will not have access to grades through the new program. PHS Principal Bob Lavett said, “Shelby County Schools wants Information Now to be a highly reliable tool for parents.”

More time is needed to insure that INow functions as that highly reliable parental tool in a system as large as Shelby County Schools. How will parents and students keep up with grades without internet accessibility?” PHS teacher Beth Tiffin said, “I plan to make more phone calls and have more parent conferences.”

Teachers will send emails — and perhaps we’ll use grade sheets holding students accountable for keeping their grades. Progress report and report card dates are available under calendars on the Shelby County Schools website. INow will lead to more Internet grade accessibility, but that progress will come later.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.