kitchen table math, the sequel: iParent

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Now that my son is in high school and getting real grades (not vague 1-5 and 6-10 rubric scores), I'm much happier. On top of that, I get to check all of his grades online at iParent. The high school apparently laid down the law and told teachers to get the grades uploaded as soon as possible. In fact, there were a couple of times when I knew his test scores before he did. This is quite different from middle school where I never saw a lot of work, let alone the grades. The weightings are all there and the current grade is given.

I expected grading in high school would be better defined and defendable, what with the importance of GPAs. At the open house last week, almost all of the teachers talked about grading and how grading in the different classes are coordinated. In math, they decided to reduce the weighting of math homework to just 5% because they felt that too many were using homework to pull out a passing grade. There is a sense that they really spend time on the issue. I never felt that way in K-8. It now seems like many more parents and kids are paying attention.


Crimson Wife said...

I am very glad that I went through school before things like iParent. I would not have appreciated the micromangement it allows parents. By the time I was in high school, I was managing my own workload. There were times I knew that I had a strong enough average in a class to blow off some stupid "busywork" assignment in order to focus my time & energy on something more important. All my parents saw was the final semester grade, and it was always acceptably high (typically some form of an "A").

Had iParent or similar system been available, the micromangement potential would likely have led to conflict between my parents and me. My dad in particular would likely have been on my case about every single assignment, no matter how pointless or irrelevant to my final grade. That's just his personality type- he's the kind of guy who has trouble seeing the forest for the trees. While I'm more of a "big picture" kind of gal.

I'm all for having clarity in grading, but I think the development of iParent is a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, CW. And I even think that it was a good thing for my school-resisting children (2 our of 3). The temptation to bug them incessantly about homework would not have helped them in the long run, and would have had a bad effect on our home life. My third, a conscientious student, who did very well in the end, also had her share of less than 100% days. She needed to learn to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Normally, I would agree, CW, but now I think it's a good thing, mostly, because kids that get into trouble often wait until it's too late. Unfortunately, unlike in my day, grades are high stakes.

I didn't look at my son's grades until his first disastrous report card came in. He was clueless about how to get out of the hole he had dug for himself. He had no idea that he was supposed to study way beyond what the teachers were suggesting. He was intimidated by the process of meeting with the teachers to get extra help (he'd never needed extra help from a teacher.) He was intimidated by the signing-up process in the extra help room. He just thought it would all clear up, like in the past.

A few of his teachers use Powerpoint notes. It took him a while to realize that those notes are the B-/C notes. To make an A, you need to go much farther.

Of course, no one told him any of this, and I was just happy to finally be done with afterschooling.

Another interesting thing that comes out of monitoring the grades is seeing some of the goofy stuff they do, I believe, to lower grades so they don't give out too many A's. Goofy projects are one way. Another is to give them a 4 question quiz that they are unprepared for, so that one wrong means a C. There were around 3 or 4 that did this quite a bit last year, and I notice a few doing it this year. So, the grades are total rollercoaster rides whether your kid is an honor student or not.

Apparently, there have been enough complaints that they're looking at how they can change it.

We also have teachers that still adore participation grades, so I have to talk to him about how he is participating so he doesn't get nailed with a low grade that brings down his overall grade. Coaching him in personality 101 was not something I planned on doing, but apparently (and mostly in the non math/science classes) I have to do it.

So, yes, I agree that it's micromanaging, but I'm more annoyed that the school keeps putting me the position of having to do it.


SteveH said...

If you have parents who are a pain in the butt, the lack of iParent might be a minor help, until the report card comes. For me, it's provides wonderful clarity after the black box and rubrics of K-8.

The other benefit is that it forces teachers and the school to really think about grading and weighting. If my son busts his butt trying to get a good GPA, then he (and I) expect the school to work just as hard and be able to defend their position.
It's clear that it has forced the school to fix one of their biggest problems; the difference in grading between teachers. You see the weightings at iParent. If one teacher is weighting class participation at 25% and another at 5%, everyone knows it right away. If you look just at the report card, you never see this breakdown.

Many parents can see the forest, but they (and their kids) know that the information is not about micromanaging, but critical and timely feedback.

By the way, I noticed that my son got a 100% in "Smoking" for PE/Health. I'm just so proud. I can't wait until they get to "Drinking".

lgm said...

Make sure that your child finds out about each teacher's extra credit, test make-up, and early turn-in policy. Many students with top grades get there b/c they ask for extra credit in all of their classes. The rest of the class will never know. Same thing for makeups - they'll ask for a test re-take and they'll be allowed to improve their grade. Other children whose parents aren't 'in the know' will never know. Early turn-in means they'll do a long term assignment and ask for bonus points for turning it in two days early. Extra credit, makeups and bonus points are not line items on the grade detail sheet.

The other thing you need to do is make sure your child is not penalized for school activities. Band sectional means zero on both the hw and daily participation grade here IF the student doesn't catch it. Since hw is 1/3 of the grade, and daily participation is 1/3 of the grade, that policy adds up to making sure the student is not allowed in the honors program since he won't be able to get the 95+ grade needed for entry. I have learned to ask each quarter for the detail sheet from those teachers who don't post on line. There's always a surprise and it always means a 10 point difference in the quarter grade.

Bostonian said...

On IParent and on report cards and college transcripts, next to a student's grade should appear the average grade (or the distribution of grades) received by all students in the class. This would help parents and employers understand if an "A" really meant good work or if the teacher was just an easy grader.

SteveH said...

Thanks for the comment on extra credit. I know that my son was surprised to find out that he would qualify for the honors boost in weighting for orchestra even though the school doesn't normally allow that option for freshmen. That means he would get a 3.4 weighting for the grade rather than the normal 3 weighting. He will, however, have to meet 4 extra music goals.

" to a student's grade should appear the average grade ..."

I agree. At least some of the teachers give out the average for tests so the students can get a feel for whether the test was difficult or whether they need to try harder. Everyone probably had at least one teacher who said that he/she does not give out 'A's. I always thought it caused students to work less.

To some extent, I really don't like the GPA game, but I'm not the one making the rules. I guess this really translates to not liking the fact that in 3 years, my son will be on the wrong side of the college supply and demand equation. This not only affects which college he goes to, but the huge cost.

Crimson Wife said...

See, I think the appeal of system like iParent tends to be inversely proportional to student achievement. It's been my observation that kids of parents who care about education by and large do well in school even without Big Brother watching. The students who are getting poor grades tend to come from families that don't value it as much and aren't likely to pay much attention to the information provided by iParent.

Whatever happened to the old-fashioned method of sending home mid-term progress reports to students who were in trouble academically?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I wish that were true, CW. But there are plenty of families that value and encourage education, but whose children resist school. Micromanaging doesn't help.

ChemProf said...

"Make sure that your child finds out about each teacher's extra credit, test make-up, and early turn-in policy."

And make sure if students are making use of all this that they know these options usually go away in college. I've had students shocked to learn after a bad exam that making things up via extra credit was no longer an option.

Anonymous said...

I told my son that if he kept his grades up I wouldn't be checking on him. But, if they started tanking and he seemed unable to correct the situation, then we would have to look at what needed to be done to correct the situation. I don't think that's micromanaging at all. Some kids need more structure in place before they figure things out.

The problem with waiting for progress reports is that it's late in the day if the situation needs to be turned around.

I just think every kid is different and you have to react according to the kid in front of you. I wasn't about to stand by and watch my son ruin his transcripts because his executive functions aren't as high as they need to be. Having come to terms with the fact that his parents actually know things, my son has improved in this area quite a bit. He's always going to be a bit behind maturity-wise, but he learned a good lesson about facing problems directly.