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The Scary Truth About Grade Portals

The invention of the online grade portal could be considered one of the biggest technological advancements in education in the last 20 years. Now, instead of having to ask the teacher to pull out her grade book or waiting for progress reports, students and parents can access their grades at the click of a button. It’s magnificent! But, as we all know, too much of a good thing can turn sour very quickly, and grade portals are no exception. The truth is, if used incorrectly, grade portals can be very scary. But don’t fret! You can use the grade portal for good with a few easy changes. Here are a few of the scary, and good, things we’ve noticed about accessing grades online:

Picture of woman on computer

The scary:

Checking too often can create unnecessary stress

Obsession over anything is harmful and the grade portal is no exception. A parent or child checking the site too frequently can create problems where there are none. Seeing that there is a 0% in the grade book before the teacher has the chance to enter the real grade can create stress and tension. Clicking refresh until the test grade pops into the system wastes precious time. The constant worry and consumption that comes from visiting the grade portal multiple times a day isn’t worth the minor amount of information that you might gain.

What to do instead of checking every free minute of the day: Try to limit checking the portal to once a day. If you start to feel that daily is too often you can limit yourself and your child to a few times a week.

They aren’t accurate 100% of the time

Teachers and grade portals aren’t perfect...this means that sometimes getting worked up over a grade you see can be stressful for no reason. Your child’s teacher might enter an assignment well before entering the grades or may wait to punch in the extra credit until everyone has turned it in. This means an inaccurate grade can sit in the portal for a day or two.

What to do about the inaccuracy: Not logging in so often can alleviate the feeling that something needs to be done about an inaccurate grade right away. If a grade seems inaccurate, or you suspect your child might have not turned something in (but they say they have), try to give it at least 24 hours before having your child reach out to their teacher.

Logging on can show your child that you don’t trust them

A parent obsessively checking the grade portal and nagging their kid every day about the grades they see can be damaging to the parent/child relationship. Constantly checking on your student’s marks can make them feel like they aren’t trusted or that you are expecting them to mess up. Add to this that the portal isn’t always accurate, and you can have a recipe for constant fights.

What to do instead: Have a designated day and time that you and your child check the portal together. This gives you the chance to still keep your child accountable and allows for immediate conversation about any concerns.

The good:

They can help with goal setting

When you sit down once or twice a week with your child to review their grades, it’s a great opportunity for some goal setting. If your student wants to aim for a certain grade in math class, the portal gives them a great tool to check on their progress and to take responsibility for the action steps needed to see the result they want.

How to leverage this: At the beginning of every quarter, encourage your child to set ONE goal related to grades. Gently keep them accountable during your weekly check-in.

They give your child the opportunity to learn communication

When your student notices something isn’t quite right with their grade, or they realize they need a new copy of a late assignment, they get to practice communicating with adults. Going to the teacher after class or sending a professional sounding email is great repetitive practice. Though your child will be nervous and resist this task at first, it will get easier over time and they will be grateful they got the opportunity.

How to leverage this: Require your child to make an effort to communicate with their teacher before you step in with an email or phone call. Giving your student the chance to communicate with educators will pay off in the long run!

They can help you see trends and bigger problems

Grade portals are great for seeing patterns in your child’s academic performance. Seeing all grades in one place with labels can help you see if your student is consistently not doing well on tests, projects or homework, or if they regularly forget to turn things in. Seeing these patterns when they start to emerge can give you a head start in finding ways to help your child thrive academically.

How to leverage this: If you begin to see a pattern in your child’s grades that concerns you, talk to them in a non-judgemental way about how they view it. After discussing with your student, send a friendly email to their teacher detailing your concerns with references to specific patterns you’re seeing. Ask the teacher for help moving forward and be open to meeting with school staff if needed.

How often do you check your child’s grades? Have you let the grade portal scare you in the past?


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