Monitoring Students’ Grades in Real Time
Now, parents can check their kids’ progress online. But is it a good thing?
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The Responsibility Project
In case you aren’t the parent of one of the millions of students in all 50 states whose school uses PowerSchool, a “student information system,” here’s the overview: PowerSchool is a program that lets parents track their kids’ attendance, discipline, grades and scheduling, all the way down to the comments that teachers have made on their papers. It generates detailed reports on students’ progress and, according to The Atlantic’s Jessica Lahey, many parents – and kids – are using it obsessively.
Bryan Macdonald, senior vice president of PowerSchool, told Lahey, “Our best data suggests that over 80 percent of parents and students who have access – meaning their school has enabled remote access – use the system at least once a week…and many users check multiple times a day.”
Lahey herself received a letter from her son’s high school offering her PowerSchool access, giving her the ability to track nearly every aspect of her son’s academic life. But she and her husband opted out completely. She explained, “My husband and I handed the letter over to my 14-year-old son with the promise that we will not be using the system to check on his grades or attendance (or anything else). In return, he promised to use the system himself and keep us apprised of anything we need to know.”
Of course, every situation is unique, but many parents who responded to Lahey’s Facebook query about using the technology agreed that it took away the opportunity for growth when their kids had to look them in the eye, take responsibility for not having studied and talk about the consequences. And for teachers, the technology is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the openness that it encourages is helpful, but on the other hand, some parents have become obsessive about the program. One teacher wrote, “These parents tend to be the ones who push their children the hardest and are the first to complain when grades aren’t entered on the DAY an assignment is due.”
Ultimately, Lahey writes, the choice is up to each parent as to whether the benefits outweigh the costs. As one parent wrote, “I think this is a good thing but it can completely undermine trust between parent and child.”
Do you use PowerSchool or a similar program to keep up with your kids’ academic progress? Has it helped, or do you feel like it’s taking away some teachable moments about responsibility and accountability? Let us know here.