November 4, 2006

Perhaps They Should Have Tested More - Excelsior Software

Teachers' Input of Grades Crashes System

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 4, 2006; B03

There are probably some Montgomery County students who would prefer that their first-quarter grades never saw the light of day. For a few hours this week, it almost appeared that their prayers would be answered.

A new computerized grading system in 52 middle and high schools seized up Wednesday, overwhelmed as thousands of teachers simultaneously typed in final grades for the marking period. It was the first real test of a new electronic grade book that frees teachers from the tedium of marking grades in ovals with No. 2 pencils and feeding them into Scantron machines.

Officials eventually shut down the system and fixed a glitch that had caused the networking equivalent of a rush-hour pileup on the Beltway.

At a union meeting Wednesday night, frustrated teachers logged what might be the first-ever no-confidence vote in an educational software program.

"They had spent hours in front of their computers, trying to enter their data, and it wouldn't go through," said Tom Israel, executive director of the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents teachers.

The Pinnacle electronic grade book, piloted in four schools last year, is scheduled for countywide use in secondary schools next year. A timesaver for teachers, it also offers parents a chance to monitor their children's progress from week to week on the Edline Internet site.

School system officials said the brief system failure would not delay Thursday's scheduled release of old-fashioned, hard-copy report cards to students.