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CANVAS dies in “Infinity War”

Haley Seymour, Co-Editor

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In 2016, BFA introduced Canvas, a learning management system for proficiency based grading. Canvas was supposed to align with PowerSchool in order to provide an official gradebook for report cards and official transcripts, as well as a place to store Personal Learning Plans, eportfolios, and manage an online-style class.

However, students, parents, and administration have struggled with how to use Canvas, specifically how to find out how a student is progressing toward meeting proficiencies in his or her classes.

Because there have been many issues with Canvas over the past two years, BFA will be switching from the current Canvas/PowerTeacher combination to PowerTeacher Pro and PowerSchool Learning.

PowerTeacher Pro includes both traditional and standards-based grading systems, as well as being able to customize grading systems to match one specific school or district.

Preston Randall, Guidance Director at BFA, shared his reasoning for switching to PowerTeacher Pro.

“There are a number of reasons. I think the primary reason is when we got Canvas, we were under the impression that Canvas would talk to PowerSchool, which is where report cards and transcripts come from, so that the scores that teachers enter into Canvas would automatically go into PowerSchool. But, they don’t,” Randall said.

PowerTeacher Pro directly aligns with PowerSchool Learning. Previously, teachers had to move all data from Canvas into the old PowerTeacher manually. This was BFA’s main reason for deciding to stop using Canvas.

“There have been a lot of good things about Canvas as a learning management system that people like: being able to submit work directly through Canvas, students having access to videos and other information in Canvas… there have been things about it that people really like. But, at the end of the semester is a ton of manual work for teachers taking data out of Canvas and typing it in over again in PowerSchool so we can run report cards and transcripts, because Canvas doesn’t have a transcript or report card,” Randall said.

The potential implementation of PowerTeacher Pro has worried faculty that they wouldn’t have all of the same features they had before. However, PowerTeacher Pro has many of the same positive features as Canvas, as well as being an easier program for both students and administration.

According to the PowerTeacher Pro website, the learning management system was “built for teachers, by teachers,” which shows teachers that this system could be right for them and their students.

Another reason for BFA wanting to eliminate Canvas is its difficulty to use by students, teachers, other faculty members, and parents. Many students found it frustrating and difficult to find their grades through Canvas, and many teachers struggled to put grades in Canvas.

“The other side is people being able to see; as a student, being able to see how you’re doing in class. In [PowerTeacher Pro], there’s a look-up feature that lets you quickly access your grades. In Canvas, it’s many, many clicks. I have a hard time working with my students with so many clicks to figure out where they are with their grades. I think being able to streamline how families, counselors, case managers, and most importantly students can really get an idea of how they’re doing in class, is really important,” Randall said.

Chris Mosca, principal at BFA, explained how the idea of switching to a different program was introduced.

“We did a survey to try to test and see how effective Canvas was and a lot of the feedback we got was that it was very awkward to be in two systems, PowerSchool and Canvas. It became difficult to go back and forth. It required greater effort for staff to be able to import grades. It created a level of difficulty for parents and some families,” Mosca said.

This survey launched the idea to change to a different program. Although they didn’t know what program they wanted to switch to, Mosca and others debated on how to make an effective and positive change.

“I organized a task force in the fall to look and see if we should make any changes. The survey results certainly played a role in that, as did the survey of faculty [represented] through the task force. It was a unanimous decision through everyone involved that one place to access and input grades would be a huge upgrade for us,” Mosca said.

Mosca explained that although many were disappointed and struggled to use Canvas, it was the best option they had at the time.

“There was a district-wide initiative to get into a learning system that would help us easily transport [Kindergarten through eighth grade] personalized learning plans and e-portfolios into a system relative to the [ninth through twelfth grade]. The [Kindergarten through eighth grade] was using a system called Haiku at that point and we had two options: it was Haiku or Canvas. Based on the presentations that we saw, Canvas looked like the better product. But as I have learned, even though you have opportunities to hear presentations and ask questions, sometimes you don’t know the effectiveness or how well the program will be integrated until you actually implement it. Based on the information we had… it seemed like a good product. The issue was it didn’t interface well with PowerSchool,” Mosca said.

Mosca and Randall look forward to what’s to come with PowerTeacher Pro in the upcoming school year.

“I’m excited about PowerTeacher Pro because I think it really is going to support the kind of communication we want to serve between students, parents, case managers, counselors, and teachers. I think [PowerTeacher Pro] is really going to help that communication, which I think is really critical to supporting student learning,” Randall said.

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