Dr. Blakeslee Quoted in Abilene Reporter News

0 Commentsby   |  09.21.11  |  Uncategorized

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Abilene, Wylie schools let parents view grades online

Students’ progress now easier to track


Parent Sarah Zell willingly sifts through her son’s grades at Wylie Junior High online, even though she understands why some students might find the capability frustrating.

But for her, the ability to check on his progress is wonderful, she said, whether or not it creates occasional tension.

“I think waiting for the big ‘surprise’ grade at the end of the six weeks would cause a lot more tension then seeing one bad grade that might be able to be corrected if it is caught in time,” Zell said. “This lets me keep up with how he is doing throughout the six-week grading periods so I can encourage him to keep up with his assignments and his studying.”

Both Wylie and Abilene’s school district offer tools for parents to check on students’ academic progress, and those at both districts say the tools have proved popular.

Wylie ISD superintendent Joey Light said parents and teachers appreciate the added level of transparency the district’s “Family Access” system brings.

“The philosophy behind this is that the parent and the school are partners in the education of their child,” he said. “The more a parent knows about the progress of their child, the better.”

Such tools keep “everyone accountable,” Light said, and tend to give parents a chance to look at a variety of information, not just grades.

For example, parents in AISD can look up assignment calendars, check disciplinary actions and even see the number of tardies and absences students have logged.

But information on class grades, report cards and course completion is a big part of what’s available in the district’s “FrontRunner” system.

Secondary campuses have provided a more or less real-time grade book option for several years, said Phil Ashby, AISD spokesman. Elementary schools added the capability this year.

Kimberly Turnbull, a health science instructor at Holland Medical High School, uses the system as both as a teacher and a parent.

“As soon as the students turn in their work and it is graded, I record these grades so the student and parents can see the progress,” she said, noting that she can also use the tools to explain assignments and inform parents of missing work.

Kim McMillan, a fifth-grade math teacher at Wylie Intermediate School, said such tools, ideally, allow teachers to work as a team with families.

“Good communication with our parents is an essential tool we depend on to ensure student success,” she said, noting that the online tools also allow teachers to easily access parents’ contact information.

“The technology makes it much easier to communicate with parents on a daily basis,” she said.

Parent Michael Murphy has used Wylie’s Family Access to track the progress of his four sons.

“For parents, the Family Access option to check grades can be a very valuable tool,” he said. “Of course, like all such tools, it is only as good as the input.”

Murphy, who is chief executive officer of Abilene Regional Medical Center, said most teachers take the time to keep grades updated on a timely basis — making it frustrating “when you do encounter the occasional teacher that can’t or won’t keep the grades current.”

Such technology, when properly used, allows parents a chance to engage children in discussions about a variety of problems, ranging from test anxiety to learning disabilities to other issues, such as bullying, that may factor into low performance in the classroom, said Sara Blakeslee, an assistant professor with Abilene Christian University’s department of marriage and family therapy.

But parents should remember to offer their children acceptance and love, regardless of grades, she said.

“Healthy relationships are formed and maintained when children are confident they can approach their parents with no fear of rejection or emotional abandonment,” she said.

However, this does not mean parents should accept poor grades that are clearly below their child’s capabilities, Blakeslee said, noting that parents and children should ideally use the tools to collaborate on ways to improve academic performance.

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