Plugged-in Parent | Use online grade reports to stay on top of your kids’ progress

Q: Our school has started using an online grade book. What is the advantage?

A: Many schools have implemented an online grade book-software that allows parents and students to access the student’s test and homework scores any time from any location and follow their progress as the school year unfolds.

Access to grades for elementary students is less common because scores are often calculated based on a variety of developmental benchmarks, not always through numerical grading scales. For middle and high school students, however, it is becoming extremely common to access grades online, and parents are finding the ability to track a child’s performance just one of the advantages. Many of the programs also allow parents to e-mail or instant message teachers directly, keep track of attendance and improve communication about schoolwork.

To get the most out of your school district’s online grade book, follow these simple guidelines:

Understand the program. Take the time to understand the features and functions of the online grade portal before the school year gets away from you. Take advantage of any parent workshops or tutorials online offered by your district to help you understand how to log in, how grades will be entered and calculated and how homework is weighted.

Avoid obsessing. The ability to watch your student progress can easily become obsessive-especially for parents of students who struggle or excel-and parents may find themselves addicted to the online grade book. Avoid checking grades daily. Instead, pick a day once a week and let your child know that’s the day you’ll be checking in. Make that a day to talk to your child about the week’s performance, upcoming projects or exams and develop a strategy for any improvements, if necessary.

Be patient before you panic. You log in and find that your child is getting an F in a class. Don’t panic. Unlike a traditional grade book that a teacher would tally midterm or at the end of a semester, online grade books often have a built-in calculator that will continue to show a student’s average. Many children may miss assignments or fail a quiz early in the semester as they acclimate to a new teaching environment, but the low grade will become averaged in with better performance as they adjust.

Give teachers some time to adjust. On top of all the other responsibilities teachers have during the school year, posting and recording students’ grades is just one of those tasks. Some teachers may take more time than others when it comes to posting grades online. It is not unusual for a teacher to take a week or longer.

Encourage your student to check in, too. Middle and high school students should get in the habit of checking their own grades. Many colleges and universities also allow students to access their scores and communicate with faculty online, and their experience early on can help them learn how to take initiative and responsibility for their own performance.

Keep your paper records. Until you know exactly how long grades and scores will be stored in your school’s online system, make sure you still keep the hard copy of your child’s report card as proof of grades in case you need them for camps, school admissions, scholarship or program applications.

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