Schools 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, I was handing out the test and 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.
If 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.