Texts Tell You When Your Kids' Grades Drop -- Let the Nagging Commence


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If your children are cutting classes or missing assignments, you probably want to know sooner rather than later, as it can mean they're heading down a bad path that could have negative implications for their grades and, ultimately, their futures. But just how quickly and how often do you need that information? How about via text message, right to your phone?

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As NPR reports, two Columbia University researchers decided to leverage technology to get parents more engaged and found that sending text alerts when kids were either skipping classes or falling behind was extremely helpful. Working with the largest school district in West Virginia, Peter Bergman and Eric W. Chan of Teachers College, Columbia University, developed software that was able to communicate with teachers' electronic gradebooks. Then, using parent-provided phone numbers, they sent alerts that looked like this:

"Parent alert: Jaden has 5 missing assignments in science class. For more information log online."

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While that's not a text any parent looks forward to receiving, apparently, it works. Bergman and Chan explained in their study:

In a field experiment across 22 middle and high schools, we [sent] automated text-message alerts to parents about their child's missed assignments, grades and class absences. The intervention reduces course failures by 39 percent and increases class attendance by 17 percent.

Impressive, right? But what's also interesting is that the researchers found that parents did not follow up by going online or logging into any parent portals. Perhaps just good old-fashioned nagging was enough to do the trick!

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For parents who are trying to allow kids some independence and encourage that they take some responsibility for their schoolwork, this may feel like a bit of a step backwards or just another invitation to the helicopter parenting party. No mom or dad wants to nag the kids constantly, but considering research shows that parental involvement leads to student success, perhaps a little pestering goes a long way.

(Or you could always block that number in a little parental "ignorance is bliss" denial move. Just sayin'.)

For some parents who are looking for as much info as they can get, this service might be a dream come true. If you're afraid your child has fallen in with a crowd you're not thrilled with and is ditching class, or you're concerned a failing grade will prevent your kid from moving ahead with his or her education, having this knowledge could be really useful in cutting to the heart of the matter and getting back on track as quickly as possible. 

Also, you have to wonder if kids will try a little harder knowing that their parents are going to find out pretty darn quickly as opposed to months down the line when report cards are distributed. 

It's certainly a text that'll make you say, "Oh damn it [or worse], now I have to go deal with this," but if it helps your student establish some better work habits and be a bit more conscientious, it could be worth a bit of that initial pain after your smartphone pings. 

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