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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Mom knows everything: Apps let parents track kids' schoolwork -- and drive them crazy

If only parents were involved in their children's education, teachers said, students would do so much better. If only teachers communicated better with families about their kids' progress, said parents, kids would learn so much more.

Nearly all districts are using online grading systems to inform students and parents about their achievement and attendance and remind students about assignments, according to a 2022 Education Week survey. It seems to be driving everyone crazy.

It's easy to send grade alerts to parents' phones, writes Sarah Chaves, a Boston teacher, in The Atlantic. She can "share feedback on assignments, class-discussion notes, and updates on school policies." But it's also easy for anxious parents to bombard teachers with requests for retakes on tests and extra-credit work. It's exhausting.

As far back as 2016, nearly all school districts were using virtual gradebooks "through student-management software such as PowerSchool, Engrade, LearnBoost, and ThinkWave," wrote Laura McKenna also on The Atlantic. "While many parents seem to appreciate the increased connections with their schools, others — myself included — are not interested in the constant surveillance and assessment of their children."

The pandemic accelerated the use of learning-management software, writes Gail Cornwall on The Cut. The apps are increasing stress for already anxious parents and students.

Parents and kids can see an eight out of ten on a quadratic-equations quiz or 77 out of 100 on notes about “Muscovite Society Before Westernization.” They can also watch grades change in real time, with an A-minus on a unit test transforming an overall science grade from a C to a B. Some apps also allow parents to sign up for a push notification when their child’s GPA drops.

To limit obsessive checking of the app, some schools post grades only at specific times and don't update on weekends, writes Cornwall.

Kelsey, a law-school professor in Washington, D.C., uses grade portals to help her daughter Aria, who has a diagnosis of ADHD, stay on top of assignments, writes Cornwall. The high school principal told parents to check the portal at least once a week. Late assignments may get only 50 percent credit. Due "to her type-A personality and the addictive nature of the software, she often ends up checking it more than that — and pestering her daughter and ex-husband, who has custody of Aria some nights, with reminders."

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