Why I Refuse to Check Grades Online

Val Curtis

During my time as a teacher this WONDERFUL new tool graced our desktops. . . online grading.  We were promised that having our students’ grades online would improve the communication between parents and teachers and it would help students increase their accountability. It would improve student learning by creating checkpoints other than progress reports and semester reports cards.

It did. . .and it didn’t.

This fantastic tool was coupled with a link directly to my inbox if a parent had questions. As a result, this would happen:

8:45 pm Dear Mrs. Curtis, Jenny turned in her science journal today and it isn’t showing up in the grade book. It shows a zero. I hope we can address this. Thanks! ~Jenny’s Mom

9:30 pm Mrs. Curtis, Jenny is sitting here crying. She promises me that she turned it in. I am telling her that I see a zero. Can you please tell me whether or not she turned it in? ~Jenny’s Mom

10:45 pm Hello, Jenny is now on restriction for the weekend and cannot go to her soccer tournament or Abbey’s sleepover. I wish you wouldn’t ignore my requests, this is IMPORTANT. Jenny is claiming she did it, but obviously, she didn’t. This is just a mess. Can she turn it in for credit tomorrow morning?

7:00 am (cc: our principal) Mrs. Curtis, I have asked you repeatedly to confirm whether or not Jenny turned in her journal. We checked her grade last night and there was a zero. Jenny swears she turned it in to you. Did you lose it? I will check the online grading today to see if you found it.

10:30 am (cc: Me and the school counselor) Dear Ms. Principal, I would like to schedule an appointment with you to discuss a situation with Mrs. Curtis, Jenny and a lost assignment. At this point, Mrs. Curtis has become non-responsive to my emails.

This might seem farfetched, but it happens to teachers too frequently. In the Age of Immediacy, where we can Google every answer to every question that enters our mind right now, we want it to apply to all things. It is important to remember there are people putting that information into the computer.

Ok, so first to the Parents:

1) Teachers are not sitting behind their computers all day (and night) answering emails from parents, grading and entering grades.

2) Stop using this tool as an immediate checkpoint.

3) Give teachers 24 hours to respond to an email, particularly the ones sent at all hours of the night. When teachers arrive in the morning, they are running around taking care of students, meetings, administrators, getting their lessons in line for the day, making copies, setting up labs / activities and making sure that all 32 computers are working in the computer lab for their afternoon elective class. Oh yes, and they attempt to make it to the bathroom before the bell rings because there is no leaving the classroom while you have a room full of kids.

4) At the middle school level, I had 120 students. As a result, when I collected a larger assignment (or any assignment at all), it took me awhile to grade it. When we enter an assignment into the computer, it asks for a due date. When that due date occurs, it expects a grade. If we do not have a grade entered at the strike of midnight, a zero appears. Don’t panic. Ask your student, in a conversational tone, if they turned it in. Check back in a few days.

5) If a grade is mistyped into the spreadsheet, print it out and ask your student to give it to the teacher. Promote that your child is their own advocate and ask them to take care of the issue. Twenty years from now when their accountant makes a mistake on their taxes, you want them to be able to deal with it. We want our kids to always check for errors and to resolve the problem without panic. First and foremost, we have to remember that human error happens and it is just that, human error.

6) If you are concerned with learning disabilities and/or accountability issues with your child, set up a standard check in with the teacher. The screen isn’t going to tell you what you need to know.

7) Remember when we went to school? We had report cards. That’s it. Our parents weren’t allowed to micromanage our every assignment and that was probably better for us. It made us accountable. We had to learn that consistency was the key to success.

Ok Teachers, your turn:

1) Set a date in the beginning of the year (or now!). “I will have my grade book completely up-to-date every Monday morning at 7 AM.” If it happens more frequently, BONUS, if not, you can always refer to it. Make it reasonable.

2) Please don’t feel the need to answer emails immediately. I know that feeling, I really do. I am the quick resolution person. However, if you try to fire off the email five minutes before class, chances are you will be interrupted 5-50 times and your thoughts will be scattered at best.

3) Remember when a parent lashes out, there is probably a parent-child issue going on and it is not necessarily about you. Breathe.

4) Thank you. Thank you for taking it ALL on. Curriculum, students’ needs, safety, education, parents, administrators, meetings, meetings, meetings and so much more. Thank you.  (Do you see how students’ needs is highlighted up there? That is a GREAT read, but don’t go there just yet. I’m not done here.)

Ok. This last bit is for everyone.

1) STOP trying to interpret someone’s tone from an email (Key and Peele demonstrate this beautifully – uncensored). If you have an issue with someone, send them an email to schedule a phone call or an in person meeting. Do not throw down all of the facts in a ranting email and expect a positive exchange. The snowball starts rolling down the hill and it is difficult to stop.

2) Once you hit SEND, your message is out there and you can’t bring it back in. If you write an email and you feel aggravated while you are writing it, wait 12 hours before you send it. Yes, 12 hours.

After experiencing online grading from a teacher’s perspective and a parent’s perspective, the face-to-face (scheduled) dialogue is always the winner. I don’t look at my son’s grades online, granted he is only in 2nd grade. Ultimately, I want him to be accountable for his learning. He might fall along the way, but that is ok. There are school expectations and home expectations. They live hand-in-hand. I expect my kids to stumble in middle school and we will discuss a way to show them that they are responsible for their education, what our expectations are and what will or will not happen if those expectations are met or not. Will I check in? Most definitely. Daily? No. Weekly, probably.

So I am curious.

Teachers, What are your school / district policies about the frequency of updating online grades?

Parents, How often are you looking at the online grades?

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Val is the Editor-in-chief of BonBon Break. A former middle school science/math/tech teacher, she put her career on hold to be at home with her son and daughter on an island in the Pacific Northwest. When Val breaks away from her keyboard, she enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, camping, photography, tidepooling, sailing and potlucks. She gets a kick out of combing the web for recipes and making them gluten free so she can share meals with her husband, family and friends. She is a tech-gadget geek who is poked fun at, but it doesn’t bother her a bit. Combining her love of photography, tech and graphics to create new, fun content for BonBon Break quenches her “thirst” for integrated technology.