Vol.#59: Four Things I Wish Parents Knew About Grades Online

old report cardSchools have been communicating with parents about their child’s success in school since the days of the one-room school house. I remember getting “progress reports” or “interims” for the first time as a student in the late eighties. In an effort to update the parents and students with progress before the end of each quarter, we received written notes or computer printouts mid-quarter. These had all the assignments listed, where report cards simply had an average or letter grade.

However, in the information age, parents and students can now check on a computer or smart phone around the clock and see the status of grades in each class. This is a powerful and relatively new reality in education. Were I able to log on and see all my grades as a student, or were my parents able to, I know many things would have been different.

However, after a teaching students with families who have this capability for several years now, I have found the “resolution” to which some parents wish to have their child’s grades focused at all times a pragmatic impossibility for the teacher.

Here are four things I wish every parent knew:

1. Grading is not immediate. 

Look, I get it. I type in my phone number at Yogurt Mountain for the rewards program (I may have a “sea salt caramel” problem, but I digress) and before I grab a napkin the rewards email comes in and my phone chimes in my pocket. We are in an age of expecting immediate feedback, from our banks to our froyo.

However, a middle school teacher with four classes of thirty students teaches 120 students. If the teacher looks at your child’s assignment for only three minutes, she has six hours of grading to do. Just because the posting is immediate doesn’t mean the process to assess the work is, and it will go a long way with your child’s teachers if you keep that in mind.

2. Ask your child about the grade first. Always.

I have entered a grade at 9 am planning and had an email asking about it within ten minutes. In class, was handing out the test and went reviewing the information, retest procedures, and so on. Were the parent to wait until their child got home, the child would should be able to answer the questions.

This is more than just the “you have one of them and I have 120″ mentioned above. By asking, the parent reinforces the student is the one in the driver’s seat of his/her education. By explaining what they learned at school, a student will reinforce those concepts. And absolutely, if your child can’t explain something after you’ve talked with him or her, feel free to follow up with a call or email to the teacher. You’ll know more than you would have and have a great starting place.

3. Understand the way in which your child’s grade is calculated.

I have a “formative” category that is weighted zero. These might be pretests, standardized benchmarks, and other grades which provide information of progress that to not factor into the actual average. I say this at Open House. I say this at “Meet the Teacher” night. I say this a Student Led Conferences. It’s printed on the interims, in comments next to the assignments, and is posted on my webpage. This doesn’t stop me from getting emails. Actually, I don’t even mind the confused emails as much as I do the angry ones who accuse me of incorrectly calculating the grade because the parent has added and divided by the number of grades, ignoring the fact that major summative assignments are weighted more heavily than minor ones. So, maybe this tip should just read, “Seek to understand before you attack.”

4. Keep in mind that it is just a snapshot in time.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 4.35.28 PMIf you check grades online or the teacher prints them for you to review, keep in mind that like your bank account, it’s just what’s there at that very moment. Your child’s average is obsolete as soon as another assignment has been collected. Do not panic about that grade that is lower than you’d like,  nor “relax” if it’s fine. It’s just that day’s reality, and will change soon. Your efforts are better spent looking at with what types of assignments your child struggles, if there are retake or make up opportunities listed, and if your child is turning work in on time.

Teachers, what tips for parents would you add?

Parents, what things could a teacher do to help communicate your child’s successes and struggles in online grade reporting?

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9 thoughts on “Vol.#59: Four Things I Wish Parents Knew About Grades Online”

  1. Yes! I agree whole-heartedly. The thing that I’m a bit frustrated about is I grade it first in Edmodo, then it also has to go in the district’s “Powerschool” grading system so that makes it less immediate.

    1. Hi Bill,

      I use Edmodo too, and one thing I REALLY wish they would do is let me sort the progress by my “groups” which are my class periods. It would make it so much easier! Let me know of you know a work-around for that!

      Many Thanks,

      Erica :)

  2. Parents need to do a little leg work and investigation before implying that a teacher didn’t do their job to immediately let them know of a poor score. My mom had to interrogate me and dig through book bags for graded material.

    I would like to think that online grading was established to keep parents informed at a faster rate than traditional forms of communication, but also to free up teachers time a bit and to eventually eliminate the need to be the sole communicators! Oh if my mom would have had 24 hour access to my grades, my life would have been very different!

  3. Since I teach high school, I find it harder to get parents to log on to edline and even take interest in their child’s progress. I can look and see if the parent or student have logged into their edline account and it is sad to see how few actually do. I find many parents are stuck in the old days and are waiting for a note home or a phone call. As teachers, we know how impossible it is to plan for your classes and make mutiple phone calls home. Students should be held accountable for keeping things organized and watching over their own progress. We are trying to prepare them for real life after all.

  4. The reality is that as educators we are preparing ourselves and our classrooms to conform 21st century technology, but a lot of parents and our students are still in the 20th century at home. How do we bridge that gap?

  5. As a teacher and a parent, I understand the grading process. What I don’t understand is my child’s 2nd grade teacher, who will go weeks without updating grades and gets defensive when you ask about grades. I should not have to ask you about MAP testing results. It is not the riddle of the sphinx. My child should not have a 91 for 8 weeks and then when the 9 weeks are over they have an 80. It works both ways. You cannot ask for parents to be patient, and not hold up your end of the bargain.

    1. Hi Valarie,

      I’m not sure what MAP testing is, I’m inferring some kind of standardized scores? I personally never use those as a summative assessment that impacts an average. Also, while many large assignments may come at the end of learning that impact a grade, grades should not be a last second surprise to the parent, teacher, *or* the student. The student can’t make adjustments without regular feedback.

      However, that’s me the teacher. Me the parent has young children like yourself. Students do not get percent grades in my county until middle school. Elementary is all standards based grading. While I think a few letter grades could be introduced in 4th or 5th grade (maybe just math and reading?) 2nd grade is too young, in my opinion. I like the non-judgemental informative feedback my second grader’s report card brings.

      Best,

      Erica

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