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The Octagon

Blackbaud’s proposed online grading system divides community

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Bianca Hansen
Chemistry teacher Victoria Conner teaches the general chemistry class about the structure of carbohydrates.

With the school’s addition of a uniform online database, Blackbaud, comes the opportunity for another somewhat controversial program: a fully online grade book.

This grade book can be used by teachers, allowing them to give their students unrestricted access to their grades.

While Blackbaud’s official website boasts its technology as beneficial, only some of the SCDS teachers are excited about its possibilities

Chemistry teacher Victoria Conner said she thinks the new program will make students’ lives easier.

“Students get all their grades returned to them anyway,” Conner said. “It would put it all in one place, which might be beneficial because students wouldn’t always be asking for grade checks.”

This is because Blackbaud would automatically calculate students’ grades, even taking weighting into account.

However, Conner said she will probably keep some things off of the shared grade book so she can work in extra credit and homework without worrying her students about possible late or missed assignments.

Other teachers are less enthusiastic about an automatic grade book.

English teacher Patricia Fels said she thinks granting easy and unrestricted access to students will result in parents monitoring their children’s grades, which encourages helicopter parenting.

“Students sometimes get lower grades on assignments that won’t affect their overall grade at all,” Fels said. “Explaining (why students get a bad grade) individually to each parent would just take too much time.”

On the implementation of an online gradebook without student access, Fels has no opposition, though she says she prefers the conventional pen-and-paper method.

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
Blackbaud’s logo

And this fear of over-involved parents is not restricted to SCDS teachers alone.

It’s become such a problem over the past few years that the Family Research Harvard Project has published a list of tips to parents and administrators on how they can minimize stress and “e-hovering parents.”

And there’s another concern about online grade access that worries some students and teachers.

With a quick and easy way to check one’s overall grades, competitiveness over minor percentage differences might emerge.

Sophomore Brandy Riziki sees the new program as a positive learning tool, yet she still has concerns.

“On one hand, (getting regular updates on your grades) is helpful because one just needs to know how much one needs to improve,” Riziki said.

However, she added that she feels her grades should be kept to herself and her teacher, not her friends and parents. And this seems to be the general consensus of the student body as well.

On the positive side a study done by the ERIC Institute of Education Sciences shows that there is a direct correlation between students who regularly check an online grade book and “higher academic self-efficacy.”

And sophomore Luca Procida said he feels like the new program will do just that.

“During times when we have a lot of work, it will be good to keep track of everything you are doing,” Procida said. “I think it will also give people a chance to see where and how they can improve.”

By Mehdi Lacombe

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