Parents Split on Real-Time Access to Children’s Grades

As more schools offer instant online access to students’ grades, assignments and attendance, it should make it easier for parents to keep up with their kids’ academic progress. But, contrary to expectation, these tools have often proven a source of stress and dissatisfaction for the parents and for their children — especially in cases where the information is not timely, poorly maintained and isn’t set in proper context.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while in theory, putting information at parents’ fingertips is a good thing, at least some consider it a case of “too much information.” Literally. Crystal Patriarche, whose three kids attend schools in and around Chandler, Arizona, said that on top of everything that they bring back in their backpacks every night, attempting to keep up with the kids’ work electronically is an overload. However, even inside the Patriarche house, the opinion is split.

But her husband John, a construction consultant, loves the system. He says tracking online reports for their daughter Anna, 13, enables him to help her spot her weaknesses and improve her study and planning skills before it’s too late to avert a bad grade. Using the online data, “you can get ahead of it and help your child so they can turn it around before the final,” Mr. Patriarche says.

Long gone are the days when digital gradebooks were a creation of motivated teachers eager to streamline their administrative duties. More schools are adopting unified systems that don’t require any tinkering by the instructors aside from entering the data. Yet many fail to do even that.

According to the results of a survey conducted by SheKnows, the fact that the information available online wasn’t kept properly up to date was a complaint expressed by nearly half of those polled.

When complete and timely, however, this information could serve as a powerful too for parents and an even more powerful motivating factor for the student:

Susan Burkinshaw says her sons Zach, 15, and Joey, 17, used to “deny that they’d done anything wrong” when she saw low grades posted online. “Then I’d go to the teacher and find out my child in fact didn’t turn in homework,” says the Germantown, Md., accountant.

Zach says he sometimes missed turning in homework in the past. “Now I make sure I do things when they’re supposed to be done,” he says. He also warns his mother if an assignment he has turned in isn’t yet posted by the teacher.

Still, like any system that relies on humans, there is room for an occasional nasty surprise — like the one experienced by Stephanie Precourt when she noticed a F on the report card of her typically A-grade-earning 11-year-old son. A short email sorted out the mistake. It turned out that Carter’s teacher made a typo when entering grades, having inadvertently assigned a 10 when she meant to type in 100.

10 5, 2012
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