The Parent Portal: A Glimpse Into a Student’s Life in Grades

By Alexis Aberman

As first quarter comes to an end, Byram Hills students undoubtedly feel pressure to finish this marking period on a high note. Between exams, homework, essays, and extra curriculars, many students certainly have a full plate when it comes to school work. Each day, the halls buzz with the nervous excitement surrounding success in school. Peers can be heard eagerly asking each other “what’d you get?” and the grade-consumed mentality of many high school students is all too common. The craze surrounding grades may be increasing as students’ grades become more accessible through the implementation of the Parent Portal into the Byram Hills School District.

With this age of innovation and increasing technology, there are clear benefits. The Parent Portal allows both students and parents to have access to grades within seconds. After logging into his/her account, a user has full access to current grades at that moment. This allows for an increase in both parent and student awareness surrounding measures of success in school. Freshman Ben Gordon appreciates the efficiency of the Parent Portal, as he explains that “the Portal is a good tool for students because you can easily access your grades and see how you are doing in each class.” For many, the Parent Portal is an important resource, especially when used in a timely fashion. Many teachers will post scores from exams and other assignments as they grade them, which allows both students and parents to immediately be aware of their grades. In fact, Mr. Horowitz, who teaches Honors Chemistry, describes his daily use of the Parent Portal. He explains, “I use the Portal all the time in the fact that I try to post the grades within 24 hours of the given assignment. I feel it’s important that students receive feedback on all their assessments, and they’re able to discuss it while it’s fresh and in a timely fashion.” Similarly, Senior Olivia Tauber describes her regular use of the Parent Portal. Like many other students, Olivia says “[she] uses the parent Portal all the time.” She goes on to explain, “I check [the Portal] practically every night, and during the day when I know test grades are posted.” Many parents would also agree with the advantages of the Parent Portal. One mother who frequently monitors her children through the Parent Portal describes, “The Portal is useful because I know what is going on with grades and can intervene when necessary.” However, at what cost are these benefits experienced?

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A student checks the Portal. (Photo by Sarah Ehrlich)

Despite many clear improvements to both the school related awareness of students and the timeliness of grade access, there are also apparent consequences to using this system. Many students describe the stress and anxiety that surrounds their constant access to grades. The first problem is that Portal grades at a given time are not always representative of what a student’s final average for the quarter might look like. For example, the first grade posted on the Parent Portal becomes the sole contributor to a student’s average at that time. Olivia Tauber expresses the frustration in having to “explain to [her] parents how there’s only one grade and [her] final grade will improve.” Additionally, having constant access to grades may affect one’s outlook on any given assignments or tests. Ben Gordon explains, “if you do badly on one test, your average may drop and you may be stressed out that you have to do better on the next one.” Specifically, having access to each grade allows students to calculate exactly what test score they need to boost their grade to a certain letter value, which puts additional pressure on students to achieve this grade. Junior Nick Weitzman also describes that it is disappointing when “[He doesn’t] get a chance to tell [his] mom a grade.” Because both students and parents alike can access the Portal, a student’s parents may learn of their child’s grade before their child has the opportunity to tell their parents on their own. One mother agrees with the evident drawbacks of portal use.  She explains, “I have considered my children’s feelings when on the portal. It can sometimes feel as if I am invading their privacy.” Even teachers are becoming increasingly aware of the pressure the Portal may put on students to obtain good grades. Mr. Horowitz says, “It bothers me that we work so hard for the presentation of a minor product that is only a small part of the educational process.” He goes on to discuss the additional stress that parent use of the Portal can cause. He describes, “My biggest issue with the Portal is the elimination of the student-parent communication about grades because parents can check them without having to discuss with their kids. There is something to be said about a parent and a student opening a report card that has been mailed home and having a discussion about what it means.”

The positives and negatives that come with the use of the Parent Portal certainly exist and affect the daily lives of Byram Hills community members. Whether you love or hate the Portal, we can all agree that it is not going anywhere. This advance in technology is far too beneficial not to utilize from the standpoint of both grading efficiency and organization. However, the disadvantages that cause additional stress and pressure in students must be addressed. Communication is the most important factor in this issue. Parents, teachers, and students alike should discuss their feelings regarding Portal access and their views on its impact on privacy. Above all, Byram Hills strives to promote a happy and healthy learning environment for its students, and it is important to remember the importance of growth in knowledge over the numerical value a student is given.  Instead, let us all focus on our academic achievements measured by how much we learned. As Mrs. Roby once told my grade-obsessed class, “you are not a number.”