by Vinny Roca
The 2011 school year is a new beginning in terms of communication between home and school. For the first time parents and students will have access to the grade books of teachers, allowing for constant knowledge of items such as grades, attendance and upcoming assignments. Having access to these constant updates in grades, once only known by teachers, is stirring many opinions with students, parents and faculty.
School officials took a thorough approach in deciding to switch to the open grade book. A committee was formed to study the issue and how it would affect learning in the school. Part of the process included sending teachers to other schools with the open grade book to see the effects of its presence.
Mr. Panagoulias was at the head of the committee and oversaw the discussions. The decision to make the switch was made under his supervision. He told The Buzz “ Our main two main reasons for opening up the grade book was, one, anything we can do to increase to flow of information home…and [open grade book] allows for a better conversation between students and parents as well as students and teachers.”
However the grade book has raised some questions from some teachers and students. A major concern is grading participation. The way teachers factor in participation varies from teacher to teacher, but now with the open grade book a parent or student can see every piece that goes into a final grade, including a specific grade for classroom participation . Teachers of classes that require large amounts of participation, such as English and foreign language classes would now have to assign a numeric value to the amount a student participates.
Mrs. Lucibello, an English teacher who served on the committee, expressed her concerns in regards with open grade book and classroom participation. “It’s difficult to assign a numerical value to the amount a student participates especially when a vital part of a student’s grade is this number… I’m losing my wiggle room to really adjust a student’s grade based on how they participate in my class…however, this is the way education is moving, it’s all becoming more and more number and less and less human.” Some students expressed the same concerns as Mrs. Lucibello.
Mr. Panagoulias addressed the idea. “There is no easy way to assess participation, my concern was I wanted to stay away from a situation where students didn’t know they were participating, you should know as a student whether you are participating or not. Being comfortable speaking in front of a crowd is something we want every student to accomplish by graduation, so this lets students know how they’re doing, but still there is no easy way to quantify it.”
Many students have opinions about how the open grade book has worked and its existence in general. Bryan Liu, a junior, stated his concerns when he said, “I got an 89 for participation in English, it changed my grade by more than I expected.” When asked how the system could work differently he said,” it would be better if teachers could just change grades up or down based on participation. My grade might be different if it worked that way.”
Although not all the talk with students is negative, but rather surprisingly positive. Abby Raynor is junior who is very in tune to how she is doing in school, and when asked about open campus she said, “I’m not going to lie, I check it every night, there’s just something about knowing how your grades are that makes you feel more confident and comfortable going to school.” When she was told that in the days leading up to the end of the marking period infinite campus would be inaccessible she jokingly said, “Oh no, I’ll be lost without it.”
A student who preferred to remain anonymous spoke of a more humanly concern when she said, “I really like the system, but the part I don’t like is that I feel like my parents always have eyes on what I’m doing, for one thing there’s no more throwing out tests to hide a grade.” This might be a bad thing in the eyes of the students but a good thing in the eyes of teachers.
Parents never turn down an opportunity to know how their kids are doing in school, which certainly doesn’t exclude having access to their children’s grades. One mother, Theresa Bustos has a son who is a freshman who goes to BHS. “I’m not the best at computers, but ever since I found out how to access [my son] grades I’m the computer at least once a night.” she told the Buzz with a smile on her face.
Other parents don’t know what to make of it. Another BHS parent, Joann said, “I have a freshman in the high school and a freshman in college. I love the access I have with the open grade book but what concerns me is I that I can be on my son’s back now about his grades, but when he goes off to college I’m not going to be there, I just hope by senior year he’ll independent enough to stay on his own back.” She expresses a very true concern which is probably held by other parents. Is having the open grade book good for college preparation?
Overall the open grade book has been accepted with positive feedback. However the long term effects of having this privilege will only be seen in the years to come. This step taken by the school shows much initiative in creating a more informed learning environment in which students, parents and teachers are always in the know and never have an excuse for falling behind. Tweaks to the system might be made in the future in order for a better experience; however, the overall introduction seems to be a success.