Online Gradebooks Let You Cyberstalk Your Kid's Scores & That's Not a Good Thing

student checks online gradebookRemember being a kid and getting a really bad grade on a test? After the initial ache in your stomach and burning in your cheeks subsided, your next thought may have been: I hope my parents don't find out! Well, thanks to online gradebooks, today's youth don't have the luxury of hoping Mom and Dad forget all about that failed test!


When my son was in elementary school we were able to view his report card online, which was fine, as I'm all for saving paper. But when he entered middle school, we were able to see every single grade he received -- even on things like homework and class participation -- as they rolled in in real time.

Yikes! Talk about TMI. I like to trust that my son is getting his work done and actually learning rather than simply striving for a number. But knowing that with a few keystrokes I can see exactly how he's doing in every single class is both a blessing and a curse. (Do I really have the extra brain space to keep track of his gym performance?)

For example, when I notice an algebra grade in need of (sometimes drastic) improvement, I'll try to (gently) suggest that he pursue extra help. But often things quickly devolve into a shouting match as he tells me, "I don't need it! I understand the concepts," and I have to say, "Not according to grades I just saw!"

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Everyone has a bad day or finds a test more challenging than you were prepared for, so I wonder if I'm doing him a disservice by checking this "parent portal," as they call it, when I feel like he's playing video games far too often and neglecting his schoolwork. 

Would he figure out how to manage his time on his own or get extra help when needed without my nudging him? I hope so. These years before high school are the right time for learning all of that, preferably on his own.

But much like Pandora's box, once you've opened it, it's hard not to look inside -- again and again. I know some parents who check daily and then discuss the grades with their kids that evening. No one likes to be micromanaged, even if it may result in better grades. And what parent wants to play the part of nightly grade warden? I'd much rather enjoy the blissful oblivion of my parents' generation -- get a report card at the end of the marking period and then discuss it.

I'm thankful this online gradebook didn't exist when I was a kid for a number of reasons. Even if I received a 98 on a test, my dad was quick to point out that if I'd studied harder I could've gotten those lost two points. I'm sure if my parents had known about certain test scores, my afternoons of spacing out watching Brady Bunch and Little House on the Prarie would never have been allowed.

Without things written in stone, teachers sometimes gave you the benefit of the doubt, especially if you brought an average over the course of a semester. You were given encouragement for really trying. Is that still possible with everything assigned a value at each step along the way?

Kids have plenty of stress already. Middle school is a tough time in which many are trying to figure out where they fit in. They're already anxious about high school. Knowing that parents can sneak a peek at every single quiz and test score only adds to the pressure.

As a parent, of course you want to know if your child is struggling or needs a bit of extra help. But, personally, I'd prefer to hear it from my child or his teacher rather than find out by cyberstalking him.

If we want our kids to take responsibility for their grades, we need to grant them the freedom and privacy to do just that.


Image via Lapina/Shutterstock

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