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Failure to Connect


Mrs. Bluebird is distressed that so many parents fail to log on to her district's online gradebook system, which would enable them to track their child's work and progress. She comments:

That silence you hear is the sound of parent involvement, or, more precisely, the lack thereof. ... It's like they don't even care. And we wonder why the kids don't care either.

What else amazes me is that in the age of communication via websites, email and online grading systems, parents are able to keep track of their students progress more than any other time in history. However, parents at this time are not as technology smart as their students and do not want to use these tools. They still want phone calls and mail. Until parents are trained to use these tools they will continue to not log on.

I agree! It drives me crazy! We have our grade books online for every parent to be able to keep track of. I even have a website with ALL assignments inputted for the week on Monday's. Even the worksheets are scanned into a PDF file and the parents could print them at home. I get phone calls almost daily about homework and what their child has missed. I teach special ed. and i say all the time my students aren't disabled their parentaly challenged!

I have been doing some reading in this area because I am deeply interested in parent involvement and find the communication potential of technology to be powerful. What I find initially disturbing is the continued and almost universal response to a less than stellar communications endeavor to be, "See we did this wonderful thing for them and they still didn't respond. They just don't care."

Some of the case studies that I have been reading have to do with what is necessary to build an online involvement--either among customers of various types, or among educators. First off is a need to assess the target group. Knowing if they have computers is a start. But, there is more listening that needs to be done--and forgive me for saying this, but schools are not outstanding at listening. What kinds of messaging are parents open to receiving in an online environment? Perhaps the interactive gradebook isn't the best starting place. Consider some other possibilities: emergency notifications via email or texting. Online submission of various forms--school lunch applications, summer school registration, individual teacher emails. Some schools offer online pre-payment for lunches--a tremendous convenience. These things might provide the needed "hook" to get parents online with the school.

In other arenas (including teachers) it has been helpful, perhaps even necessary, to begin with a series of face-to-face encounters. Handing out passwords (and are parents able to reset the passwords to something that they can remember--or are you providing them with something else they have to keep track of?) just does not provide a sufficient orientation to a new way of doing things. Instead of those meaningless Open Houses in which parents mill around looking at the building and teachers try to avoid any individual discussions (which is what the parents are primarily interested in)--why not spend the time in groups in the computer lab setting up an individual account and seeing what each teacher has posted and hearing what they plan to post on a weekly basis?

I would commend Bluebird's district for standardizing and supporting this as a district. It is of little use to have a few teachers, each using a different system and a different set of passwords that they hand out on the fly at parent night. But, she might ask next if her peers are all as diligent as she is in updating their individual pages. There is nothing like an out-of-date page to kill enthusiasm. If the math and science teachers aren't playing, the parent may give up before discovering all the effort that the English teachers is putting in.

I can attest that parents are not disinterested or uncaring. One benefit that your system allows is that you have already identified the "early adopters." Look at them in that way--rather than as the parents who really care--and begin to use them to evaluate what is working and what is not and why. See if they are willing to provide some hands-on intro at the next opportunity. You have a rich resource at your fingertips. Use it.

My school has just set up a "Parent Portal" where parents can log in to see students' assignments and grades. Most of the staff is very hesitant to even do this in fear that nobody will log in and it will be just another task to complete on our already large workload. Of the few parents I have spoken to, they are all very nervous about it as well. I was shocked to hear how many parents felt they were not prepared enough to do this via of the internet. I agree that this endeavor of an online grade book needs to train parents in learning how to do access the information.

I actually had a parent call the other day to complain about her daughter's grade. When asked about the note on the progress report sent home the day before, she replied, "Oh, I just sign those things. I don't look at them." We also have an online gradebook system that she doesn't check. And we wonder why the kids don't seem to care.

I think that there are multiple reasons why parents fail to log on and check the grades/assignments of their children. I am sure there are some parents who do not have the ability or knowledge to access an online grading system. During the first part of the school year, parent night etc... a quick demonstration could be given or a handout distributed to the parents informing them how to check the online grading system. Some parents are too busy, some parents don't care. In some instances, there may also be a language barrier to overcome. But whatever the reason may be, the teacher needs to step up (once again), and find some solution to the problem. If the parents are involved the students will certainly be involved.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Robert Cuevas: I think that there are multiple reasons why parents fail read more
  • ChemTeacher: I actually had a parent call the other day to read more
  • Danielle Mislick: My school has just set up a "Parent Portal" where read more
  • Margo/Mom: I have been doing some reading in this area because read more
  • Avin Bailey: I agree! It drives me crazy! We have our grade read more




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