The school’s new software service, Blackbaud, which will start in 2017-18, comes with a grade-book component. It will allow students to have unrestricted access to their grades – if individual teachers so choose.
While this system of giving immediate online access to grades to students is common at other schools, this type of access shouldn’t be provided at Country Day because of the damage it can – and almost certainly will – do.
Although access to grades is meant to make the lives of students easier by allowing them to finally have all their grade breakdowns visible and organized in one area, it has a very high potential to backfire.
With the launch of this grade book will come the beginning of something unproductive and unhealthy: “e-hovering parents.”
Although unrestricted grade access is intended for students only (parents will be given a portal with limited access, according to director of technology Tom Wroten), there’s no way for the school to prevent helicopter parents from forcing their way into their children’s accounts.
Now, before you think “I’d never do that” or “My parents would never do that,” consider that there are SCDS parents with access to their children’s email accounts, College Board accounts, Common App accounts and more.
So if teachers begin posting grades for individual assignments online, it’s inevitable that some parents will demand access and cause undue trouble for everyone.
If, for example, a current student earns a 2/10 on a quiz, the student can simply work extra hard to bring up his or her grade without their parents ever having to get involved.
With online grades, however, parents will see the 2/10. And if you have a parent who doesn’t panic at such a low grade, good for you – but understand that many parents would.
Parents are already concerned with their children’s grades. Imagine how concerned they’ll be when they see every grade that goes into the grade book.
Currently parents see only quarter and semester grades. Those grades often reflect hundreds of points, rendering a 2/10 on one quiz negligible, especially with extra credit.
But to some parents a 2/10 is a complete failure. When parents see a grade like that, they’re likely to jump to conclusions, unnecessarily chastise (or even punish) their children or confront teachers.
That means teachers can expect several phone calls per week from concerned parents whose children got bad grades on small assignments and quizzes.
Ongoing grades should be kept between students and teachers. Regardless of intent, Blackbaud will bring parents into the mix, causing unnecessary stress for students, unnecessary work for teachers and an unnecessary and unhealthy mindset among parents.
Country Day is a college-preparatory school, meaning that it prepares its students for success in college. One aspect of college preparedness is learning to manage oneself. If parents start getting involved in every little assignment, students will lose the opportunity to learn that crucial ability.
Blackbaud’s online grading system isn’t a bad thing in itself – in fact, the program can still aid students who want to be more on top of their grades.
Many teachers still calculate grades by hand, sometimes making it hard for students to get immediate grade checks. With Blackbaud’s grading software, calculated grades will appear automatically on teachers’ online grade books, so they can respond quickly to grade-check requests.
Consequently, the school should require all teachers to use Blackbaud’s grading system to calculate grades – but not to share those grades with students through a portal.
Blackbaud is fine. Blackbaud’s grading system is fine. Just don’t make all of the assignment grades available to students through an online portal. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a “student” portal will actually be a “student-only” portal.