CLARITY: What the new program means for students and teachers

By Meilan Solly
LEESBURG, VA- Technology. It’s a word which defines the modern world. Teenagers live on Facebook, and even adults can’t resist smart phones. For students, technology has always been an important aspect of education. Promethean Boards relay most of the information given in class. There are video announcements, and a lot of homework assignments need programs such as Word or PowerPoint in order to be completed. One part of school which always remained untouched by technology was grade reports. Students received paper interims and report cards, just like students of yester-year. They needed to ask their teachers to find out what their grades were or they used grade sheets to calculate averages. On April 25th, 2011, however, a group of Loudoun County students were introduced to a new way to see their grades.
Curriculum, Lesson Plans, Assessments, and Reports for Instructors Teaching Youth, a program better known as CLARITY, is defined on the Loudoun County website as “a web-based application for assignments, assessments, and grades.” LCPS elementary schools are using it for the second year, and it is being piloted by 6 secondary schools: Broad Run High School, Farmwell Station Middle School, Tuscarora High School, Smart’s Mill Middle School, Potomac Falls High School, and River Bend Middle School. For teachers, it is basically an electronic grade book, but for students it is a new way to see course grades whenever they want. From April 25th through June 3rd, students’ grades, assignments, and attendance records are available for parents and their children to view online. Parents must get a password from their child’s school, and they can then access CLARITY whenever they want.
“I guess it’s good. You can see where you are,” Cara Dudley, a sophomore, says about CLARITY. She believes that the pros of the new program are that students will know what they’re missing and why “grades are so bad.” On the other hand, she dislikes that parents have the password to CLARITY and are able to look at it. Ipshita Bose, a freshman, agrees with Dudley. “My parents obsess over [CLARITY] and check it every day,” she notes.
Mrs. Austin, a ninth and tenth grade English and History teacher, sees a lot of potential in CLARITY. “I think it is the best way for students to track progress in a class,” she comments. She adds that students can also make plans before school on how to rectify missing assignments. Mrs. Austin says the effect of CLARITY on teachers is that “Students ask over and over again, ‘Did you grade my paper yet?’”
As for how the program will affect students’ actual grades, not just how they are viewed, Dudley offers this opinion: students might try harder in a class if they know where they are in that class. Mrs. Austin thinks it will force students to be more proactive.
Educators are constantly looking for new ways in which to involve students and parents in progress. In today’s world, the answer is commonly technology. CLARITY, Loudoun County’s next step towards a better future for education, is a technology tool that will definitely change many parts of students’ lives. Whether those changes are for better or worse is yet to be seen.