Why Parents Need to Stop Obsessing Over Their Kids' Grades

These days a lot of school districts are making use of online portals. The tools allow parents and teachers to stay on the same page, to facilitate communication, and to take the mystery out of report card time. While communities use the portals to varying degrees, those who engage with the platforms are generally positive about the experience. But is it possible to overuse these systems? At what point does checking your child’s grades become obsessive — especially in a high-stress, competitive environment?

Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, wrote in the New York Times that schools with a higher focus on success might need to change the way they use the portals:

In areas with high levels of student stress and related suicide clusters, school officials who are seeking to dial back the focus on grades and scores might consider establishing restrictions on portal use. Many schools enforce parental restraint by limiting access to the portal to once or twice a term, usually at the midterm or just before final grades are due. Other schools open the portal only once a week on an appointed day so parents can check in, but can’t obsess over the minute details of daily grades and scores.

It seems that one high school, in particular, has figured out how to best handle the situation.

Barbara Starkie, principal of Apponequet Regional High School in Lakeville, Mass., wrote in an email that the grading portal has had a positive effect on students and parents in her school because, while parents and students have unlimited access to grades, teachers post updates only every two weeks. This allows teachers and students to talk about learning, progress and the minutiae of scores and grades before grades are entered online. Dr. Starkie said she believes this “metered release” approach is beneficial for students and parents because it encourages restraint and keeps the focus on student empowerment and learning.

“It keeps folks from overchecking,” she said.

The author of the article stresses the importance of focusing on your child him/herself, and not so much on grades. While test scores can tell you some things, they can only show so much. A better indicator of budding issues or problems is the behavior of your children — and that is something you can only see if you are consistently interacting with them, and not a portal.

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