Teachers’ failure to update grades raises concerns

Kristin Lam, Editor-in-Chief

The online gradebook is the main line of communication between teachers, students and parents. When teachers don’t keep them up to date, it is difficult for students and parents to gauge their or their children’s progress in the class.

Principal Bill Atterberry said that teachers not updating their gradebook is the most common complaint parents bring up in conversations with him.

“We have been frustrated, as have many other parents, about a number of the teachers our kids have had the last two years who do not keep up with their gradebook,” a parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “There are times where teachers are 10-12 weeks or more behind in putting things in the gradebook. This makes it impossible to see if your student is making improvements or even approximately where their grade currently stands.”

Every teacher is required to indicate the progress, quarter and semester letter grade. Atterberry says for some teachers, that is all they do.

Senior Mason Chiao said that last semester a teacher inputted two of the tests students took in the first quarter in addition to a couple of homework assignments from the beginning months of the semester. Everything else was updated the last week before semester grades were due.

“I think that if they actually kept their gradebook up to date I would’ve had a better idea of how I was doing in the class,” Chiao said. “I would’ve studied more depending on how well I did on the tests.”
Atterberry said that some teachers who keep their own gradebook offline also complicate matters. Administration can only encourage, not require them, to use the district gradebook system. Atterberry noted that, for job evaluation purposes, non-use of the gradebook cannot be held against teachers at Bear Creek.

Lodi Education Association President Jeff Johnston said that the LEA teachers’ union does not make or enforce site rules regarding the supervision or evaluation of teachers. Johnston said that is the role of school administration and the district.

Sophomore Sandra Sunio said that although her teachers handed back their scores, they always waited until three to four weeks worth of work piled up before updating the Aeries grading program. Sunio said it was stressful for a lot of students because they wouldn’t know how the scores affected their overall grade.

“Studying for finals was enough stress and not knowing our overall updated grade in order to determine how good we had to do on our final to raise the grade just added more,” Sunio said.

“It was more frustrating for me when my grades were borderline.”

Conversations, emails and personal check-ups are some of the ways the administration can address this issue. If the Board were to negotiate a mandate to regularly update online gradebooks with the teachers’ union, Atterberry said it would absolutely benefit the students.

Johnston, however, is skeptical about mandating teachers to keep timely grade updates.

“Inasmuch as gradebooks go, perhaps we would involve ourselves if it’s a curricular issue,” Johnston said. “We would talk with the district if it has to do with curriculum, textbooks or grades.”

Johnston said that there is a spectrum of involvement in terms of how people utilize tools available to instructors. He also said there are nuances and shades to this challenging conversation on updating the online gradebook. Minor assignments can be misleading if students fail to deliver on critical assignments at the end of the semester.

“The issue of whether teachers publish grades online immediately raises an instant accountability issue if it doesn’t show the whole picture,” Johnston said. “I can see why teachers wouldn’t want to put themselves in the way of extraordinary parent criticisms if students are not doing cumulative assignments relative towards their grade.”
Overall Johnston said there’s a larger issue than instantly publishing grades online on a public media.
“They’re in the profession to help kids, not ambush kids with grades,” Johnston said. “The objective of education is learning…How do you measure it? How do you report it? You’re going to get a wide range of answers.”

Everyone acknowledges that running a classroom is a monumental task on top of other duties; teachers have a lot to get done, are involved in several programs on campus and care about their students. They also have personal lives. When teachers fall behind, however, students are often not as motivated to keep up their work.
“If the teachers can’t keep up with updating grades every so often it shows that they shouldn’t be giving out so much to begin with,” Sunio said.

Atterberry said the majority of teachers, however, are updating their gradebooks regularly because they understand the investment of time.

Spanish teacher Alma Rossete updates grades every other day when she doesn’t have weekly tutorial or meetings. She also dedicates time during the weekend to grade, especially because she teaches the AP Spanish class with more individual grading. With a sophomore son at home, Rossete finds checking grades online as a parent a helpful implementation of teamwork.

“It’s the best way of communication between teachers, students, and parents,” Rossete said. “It allows the opportunity to have a meeting or explain whether they should get help at tutorial. A lot of parents didn’t know there was tutorial until they emailed me because they were checking grades.”

Bear Creek’s new mission statement says, “Teachers, students, parents, support staff, and community members work together to create a welcoming environment at Bear Creek High School [emphasis added].” Atterberry said that this mission statement agreed upon by all teachers grounds the conversation on updating online grades to collaborate with and inform students and parents.

“This is something we developed over the past year: a mission and vision statement that really defined who we are,” Atterberry said. “Everyone had the chance to contribute to that, and if we’re going to believe in that we’re all going to have to work together to make it come to life.”