With the start of the spring semester, Jupiter Grades will be the new schoolwide gradebook

Jupiter+Grades

Katherine Lian

Jupiter Grades

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Following the PupilPath ban last spring and the release of the reportedly “difficult to navigate” DOE gradebook this past fall, the Townsend Harris Parent Teacher Association (PTA) began fundraising to acquire the Jupiter Ed system as a new, separate gradebook for THHS teachers and students. Recently, the Jupiter gradebook was officially purchased for all teachers, and as the spring semester begins, it will go into effect for all classes.

The removal of PupilPath from NYC schools due to a data breach led to the development of a new DOE-based gradebook, GAMA, that few teachers had experience with when it was initially released in September. However, the frequent technical difficulties and inconveniences of the gradebook left teachers with what many described as an undependable platform for inputting grades and students with little ability to monitor their course progress.

Parent Coordinator Jodie Lasoff said that the DOE gradebook proved itself “inadequate for our teachers’ needs,” which led to many teachers opting to use different grading platforms for their classes. The multitude of platforms made it difficult for students and their families to have a comprehensive idea of their academic performance. “Having all grades on one platform is easier for everyone, from families to staff to students,” said Ms. Lasoff.

Math teacher Aleeza Widman said, “The DOE gradebook didn’t match how I grade, because I do a point-based average and [the DOE gradebook] only allowed you to weigh things by tenths [of a percent] or 25 or 75 percent.”

Students expressed dislike for the new gradebook because they were unable to access their grades and were left in the dark about their performance until report cards were given out, except for some Google Classroom reports that varied in what information they displayed. Junior Kaia Lain said, “I hate having to calculate my approximate average in a class and not being sure about what I can improve on. [Google Classroom] doesn’t work very well [for showing an average].”

“An average is a tool that allows us to see where we need to put [in] extra effort. Without it, we can feel rather lost and in the dark,” said sophomore Daniel Li.

Before the schoolwide purchase, many THHS teachers were paying for the Jupiter gradebook out of their pockets just to avoid using the DOE grading system. According to the Jupiter Website, if a teacher was not part of a school agreement and had not formerly used the platform, they would have to pay $90 annually.

To remedy these issues, the PTA encouraged parents to donate money towards purchasing Jupiter for teachers. This fundraising effort was in addition to their annual appeal letter, which raises funds from families to pay for school expenses and programs that are not funded by the DOE. “We were able to get [some of] the funds by reallocating some of our planned budget lines,” Alex Lauren and Gregory Prasad from the PTA said. While making sure they didn’t cut down on the other activities they sponsor, the PTA “were able to fundraise the rest of the funds through [the] parents.”

“The parents were the loudest voice of wanting to have a [grade] book they can view,” Assistant Principal Ellen Fee said. According to Ms. Fee, Jupiter grading will be beneficial for both teachers and parents, since the current system does not possess “all the capabilities that make communication with parents and students most efficient. The expectation is that students will be able to access their grades regularly, [and] know how they are doing at a snapshot at any time.”

“Jupiter lets us make assignments out of [however] many points [we choose], and that’s similar to how Skedula was,” Ms. Widman said. “I think Jupiter is going to be better [than the previous system].We had a really great training on it last week, and I think it will be easy for kids and for teachers to use.”

Ms. Fee also said that Jupiter, like Pupilpath, allows students to have an idea of their current grades through the use of colors and tells them the information that they could use to learn how best to raise their average. Harrisites can now log into their Jupiter accounts with their OSIS numbers to access their course averages and a detailed grade breakdown for each class – including the weight for each category and individual test or assignment. Some other features include receiving notes from and direct messaging with teachers.

Sophomore Nirjhana Paul, already having used Jupiter in middle school, said “I am glad we are officially switching to Jupiter. I believe it is really user-friendly. You can talk with teachers that aren’t even [your] own, and you never feel alone since help is at the tip of your finger.”

Having a schoolwide gradebook will “certainly be a positive change,” said Ms. Lasoff. “It allows [teachers] a more complete picture of their students and lets them keep families in the know.”

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