Real-Time Grade Updates: Pro or Con for Students, Teachers?

When I was teaching high school and I corrected the very first set of projects my sophomores submitted at the beginning of the semester, I was extremely proud of myself for grading and returning them to the students in a timely manner. They turned in their projects on a Tuesday, and I returned them that Friday, staying up late each evening that week to grade, record, and post their grades for the projects to Haiku, the classroom management system our school used to manage class rosters, grades, discussion pages, and online assignments for classes.

Now, I think this quick grading turnaround says more about my lack of social life at the time than my grading efficiency, but I digress. The point is, grading that first set of projects so quickly set a horrible precedent for the rest of the school year. Because after that, when the class would turn in a set of essays, one of my students would inevitably ask me the day after they turned them in, “Ms. Doyle, are our grades for our essays on Haiku yet?”

Yes, child. I graded all seventy-five five-page essays, edited them, wrote extensive comments on and assigned grades to each, then posted all the final grades to Haiku in sixteen hours since I left school and came back this morning.

This can be one of the problems with students and parents being able to access grades at all times through online classroom management systems, as discussed in depth in the recent Wall Street Journal article, “When Curious Parents See Math Grades In Real Time.” In the article, parents describe their (slightly over-the-top, borderline traumatic) experiences with seeing their students’ grades updated online in real time, and how it contributes to their and their students’ overall stress:

When Stephanie Precourt saw an F last year on an online report for her 11-year-old son Carter, who usually gets As, she was stunned. “I was shaking when I emailed the teacher,” she says. Turns out, the teacher had accidentally typed “10″ instead of “100″ into the grade report, and she fixed the error, says Ms. Precourt, a North Canton, Ohio, blogger and editor. But the experience left her discouraged; “I felt like, why should I bother checking if it isn’t accurate?”

Now, I would say as a general rule that if one failing test grade by your 11-year-old causes you to become so upset that you erupt in bodily tremors, it might be time to put things in perspective.

But I see these parents’ points that classroom management systems that allow students and parents to access grades at all times, such as Moodle, Blackboard, Haiku, Pearson PowerSchool, and more, can create a certain amount of stress for students and parents alike. If a student receives a C on the first quiz of the year and there isn’t another assignment or assessment until the next week, her weekly progress report will show a C, which can be stressful for a student accustomed to receiving A’s and B’s. And teachers can attest to the constant requests they get to update grades immediately. Emails from parents/students asking “Have you updated our/my child’s  grades from our/their  latest assignment/essay/quiz to Haiku/Blackboard yet?” can become extremely irritating to respond to on top of lesson planning, grading, prep work, tutoring, and other responsibilities. Just because teachers have the ability to update grades 24/7 doesn’t mean they want to, or should, for that matter.

But ultimately, I would have to argue that as a teacher, I liked that my students were able to see their grades at any point throughout the semester thanks to a classroom management system. I had a surprisingly large number of students approach me at many points throughout the semester because they weren’t happy with the grade they saw on Haiku. As a result, they approached me for extra help outside of class, ideas for extra writing practice, and extra credit opportunities in order to boost their grades. When only the teacher has access to student grades throughout the semester, students can’t be proactive in bringing their grades up and instead have to wait for the teacher to approach them. Giving students constant access to their grades empowers students to take initiative, and I was always happy to see my students make the responsible choice to check their grades often and come to me for improvement if they needed extra help. Ultimately, that’s a win for teachers and students.

Just give your teachers at least a week to return your papers before you start bugging them, okay kids?

What do you think of being able to see grades in real time on classroom management systems, students, parents, and teachers? Start a thread in the comments below, or take the conversation to Twitter: @Technapex.

Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.

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About Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.