**Regular access to student grades online: a useful tool or another source of confusion and frustration?
When online grades first became available, many parents were overjoyed by the wealth of information available to them and went a bit overboard, often checking their child's grades multiple times each day. While this may seem like a great way to stay on top of things, it often ends up causing unnecessary frustration for everyone involved.
Here are a few tips and ground rules for making the most of this new technology without losing your sanity:
Moderation In All Things. The great philosophers were right - too much of a good thing can really be bad. When schools first began posting grades online, students began complaining that their highly involved parents would accost them at the end of every school day with, "Why did you get an 80 on your math test? We studied for hours!" and "There was no grade for your social studies assignment. Did you forget to turn it in again?"
The grade you see may not be the final grade. It's important to keep in mind that the 80 may be the actual test grade, but the teacher may have also given students an opportunity to raise that grade with an additional assignment or test retake.
Just because an assignment doesn't show up online doesn't mean that it wasn't handed in. It may be taking the teacher a while to grade all of the assignments. Or the teacher may have graded and even returned it to your child but hasn't yet had time to enter the grade into the grading program. Many unnecessary arguments about grades have taken place at quite a few kitchen tables over these very issues.
Solution: Instead of 24/7 grade surveillance, pick one day of the week that you intend to check grades online. I check my son's grades online every Friday morning. This is frequent enough for me to identify any developing problems while still allowing time for teachers to change grades as necessary.**
**Know How the Program Works. All online grading programs that upload to the Internet do not work the same way, so you will want to find out how to interpret the numbers and other codes you may see on your computer screen.
Find out from your child's teacher how grades related to absences and late work are posted. For instance, if my son is absent on the day of a test, does the teacher put a zero in that space until he makes it up? It's important for me to know this so that I don't completely freak out that he tanked a big test. Similarly, if I see letter codes, like an A for "absent" or an E for "excused," what numerical value is associated with those letters? Do they count as zeros or do they not count at all?
Ask your child's teacher questions. There are other questions I should ask about the grading system as well. If my son gets a penalty for turning in an assignment late, does the grade I see on the computer reflect that penalty? Or does the penalty get assessed at some later date, possibly at the end of the term? Also, if test retakes are allowed, will the grade I see online be the average of the two tests? Or will it be the better of the two grades?
Learn about the instructions the teachers have been given about posting grades. Some schools require their teachers to keep them up to date online weekly while others tell their teachers to make sure they are up to date just quarterly. It's important to know this so that you don't panic when you know your child spent hours on a science fair project but don't see it show up on your computer screen for a few weeks.
Without a doubt, technology has helped parents and students become much more informed about essential academic progress. But like every great innovation, it brings with it both blessings and curses. Knowing how the program works and being able to pace yourself in checking it will go a long way in making online grades a useful tool for both you and your child.