Switch to ASPEN sparks confusion and debate


Students can utilize the ASPEN program on the school chromebooks. The recent change to a new system has been difficult for many staff members and students to adjust to.

Brendon McCormack, Contributing Writer

While many know Aspen as a great skiing mountain or tree, at Schreiber, it is the new web-based computer application that allows our administration, students, parents, and teachers to exchange grades, attendance, schedules, teacher comments and other educational information.  The information can be accessed by logging into the network either on a computer or on a smart phone.
The switch from PowerSchool to ASPEN is an intended upgrade for students, parents, and faculty.
“PowerSchool was not doing all of the things that we needed it to do,” said Assistant Principal Mr. Craig Weiss.  “It was also getting slow,” he added.
The conversion to ASPEN was a group decision led by Mr. Weiss.  Involved were senior administration officials, Board of Education representatives, and the technology department, who conducted research on both systems in order to identify which would benefit the district the most. It was a long and expensive conversion that began last winter.
Although the change was meant to be an upgrade, not everyone is pleased with this new system.  To many, using it is an uphill battle.  Some teachers say that the number of steps it takes to accomplish a simple task is frustrating.
“It takes me 20 minutes to do something in ASPEN that would take me two minutes to do in PowerSchool, and I can even do that in twenty seconds on a grid on paper,” said science teacher Ms. Lindsay Di Fazio.
There are many students who agree with those teachers.  A large number of students are complaining about the complexity of the system.  Some find it rather difficult to navigate through the site and to access their grades.
“When I first logged on, I had a really hard time finding my grades,” said sophomore Ruth Benitez.  “Other networks like Engrade are better.  I can just log on and immediately see my grade for any class that uses it.”
Some parents agree with the students and teachers.
“The main purpose is checking up on grades and schedules and the new system makes the simple complex,” said one parent.  “It is just much harder to obtain basic information. It is also a concern that the government has access to some of the information.”
Administrators, who use the system for different purposes than the students and teachers, continue to stand behind ASPEN.  Administrators are using ASPEN to send statistics to New York State and organize events at Schreiber.  According to administrators, it is much faster for them to send information to the state through ASPEN.  Many feel that it will just take time to get used to, but will be worth the early struggles.
“Change is often hard for people,” said Mr. Weiss.  “People have gotten used to things in a certain way.  After time, we will feel the positives of the change we have made.”
Mr. Weiss also believes we are almost over the hill.
“At least by this time next year, everyone should be comfortable.  ASPEN offers more. However, it is more complicated.  Thus, it will take longer for users to adapt,” said Mr. Weiss.
While some teachers stand against ASPEN thus far, not all teachers react negatively to the system.
“It has the potential to be a wonderful tool for students and teachers alike,” said mathematics teacher Mr. Adam Wolfert.  “It gives transparency to the grading process & enriches communication between and among teachers, students, and parents.”
Administrators also assume that students will be able to quickly adapt to the new system because many are technologically advanced.  The students, however, seem to disagree, PowerSchool was faster and easier for their needs.
One student argues how not all teachers allow their students to see their grades, while other teachers simply do not use the system.
“Not all teachers make their grades live; making viewing grades very inefficient,” said senior Kim Winter.
The companies that sell ASPEN also believe in its benefit.  X2 Development Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Follett Software Company, claims ASPEN is a “world leading, enterprise platform for school and district administration, learning, and communications.”
They say their goal is to “partner” with school districts and to “reduce the administrative burden on educational professionals.”
The companies’ sales are up as school districts across the country continue to buy this new system. Only when people get used to the system can a fair conclusion be made about the switch from PowerSchool to Aspen.