I was an early advocate for posting grades online. In fact, our site was the first school in the district to have a majority of the teachers posting grades and homework online, thank you very much. We were several years ahead of even the high school. I remember parents who were used to having easy access to that info, getting crabby when their kids hit the high school, and almost nobody on the staff had any web presence.

The gradebook program (another trailblazing effort at our site) our staff used in those days allowed for several ways to post the data online. One of the ways would display the whole class in one screen with six columns: student ID number, points earned/points possible, total percentage, letter grade, rank in class, number of zeros.

This is the way we rolled at our site. It was just enough information for everybody to stay informed without micromanaging. At Back to School Nights, I would tell parents,

“Your focus should be on the last column: number of zeros. We want that number to be ZERO. If it is, the rest should take care of itself. If that number is greater than zero, your student’s first step is to see me to find out what it is and if it can be made up. If your student has zero zeros AND the letter grade is still low, THEN we have something we need to talk about.”

I also liked the “rank in class” feature. There used to be sooooo much jockeying for position and trash-talking and… ummm… trying. It was a lot of fun to watch.

The downside was that many of the kids treated their grade like it was on the stock market:

“I’m up 3.5%! Yay!”

“Why did that happen?”

“I don’t know… but yay!”

But now my grade book is live on the net as soon as I hit the Save button. And the stupid software automatically puts a letter grade for every assignment, no matter how small. And I have no control over how it displays the information.

So now I get this:

“I see Baby Mozart has been getting B+’s on her Friday tests. What can we do about this?”

“Umm… she has a 97% in the class overall. I think she’s doing ok. The tests are only part of the class and grade.”

“We don’t accept B’s in this family. Also she got an F on that quiz on Wednesday. How can she make that up?”

“That was 5 points. She got 2. We will have more than 1000 points possible in the quarter alone. She still has a 97% in the class.”

“We certainly don’t accept F’s in this family. How can she make that up?”

And even worse, the kids STILL don’t take advantage of the information. Yesterday I got an e-mail from a kid with like five missing assignments out of about twenty. (The e-mail has been edited for spelling and clarity.)

“Mr. Coward, I just looked at my grade, and it is really low. I am confused about why it’s so low because I’m really trying hard. What can I do to get my grade up? Hope you are having a great day.”