Once a week, my elementary-age son brings home a folder full of the schoolwork he’s done over the previous week. Graded papers, homework assignments, and school info. I go through the papers and then sign off that I’ve seen it.
It would be strange if I were to toss these papers away without looking at them. Those papers were sent home with the kids to keep parents informed. But these days, especially in upper grades, this weekly folder is being replaced by a digital parent portal, where you can log in to see your child’s grades. But recently, I’ve seen some negative reactions to the parent portal, saying that it somehow undermines student academic success and feeds into helicopter parenting.
But I think the parent portal actually can help your child (and you as a parent). And that the parent portal doesn’t have to turn you into a helicopter parent. (You’re not a helicopter parent just because you know what’s going on in your child’s life- only if you’re stepping in all the time and trying to micromanage everything). Here are some benefits to the parent portal.
The parent portal teaches your kids accountability. They know you’re going to check. So they stay on top of things: what’s missing, if there’s a grade they need to pull up. It also gives kids an easy place to check to see if they are missing something. There could be times when they aren’t even aware they’re missing an assignment. Sure, they should be aware, but they aren’t perfect- they have multiple classes and something could get lost in the shuffle. The portal takes away that “but I didn’t know!” excuse.
Kids can see the consequences of their actions. How a good test score can improve their grade or a poor project score can make their grade drop. Kids aren’t just seeing scores on papers without knowing how they all work together to get their grades. They see how they EARN their grades, that grades aren’t just some random score given to them by their teachers, but actually earned by the student.
The Parent Portal can improve communication with your child. I’m guilty of asking the generic “How was school?” types of questions. The parent portal gives me specifics to ask about. Maybe it is asking about a missing assignment or poor grade, but it can also be positive- giving you the opportunity to congratulate your child on a good grade, too. My kids see that I’m taking an interest in what they’re doing at school. They spend a large portion of their day at school and the portal can help me know some of what they’re doing.
It’s a time-saving way for teachers to let you know how your child is doing. There’s no need to constantly be emailing the teachers or asking for conferences, in order to find out how your child is doing. You can log in to the portal and check it out. If you think about how many students are in each class, you realize that it would be really difficult for teachers to constantly communicate grades with each parent if they had to do it individually through emails or phone calls or progress reports. It’s all in the portal- they expect that you see it. Of course, you can do more direct communication with a teacher if it’s called for, but the parent portal lets you see if it’s actually necessary.
Your child learns how to advocate for themselves. If they don’t know that there’s an issue with their grades, they won’t say anything to their teachers about them. But if they see a missing grade that they know (or at least think) they’ve turned in, they can talk to the teacher about it. Sometimes it is actually a mistake on the teacher’s part. One of my boys had an assignment listed as a zero in the portal but when he saw it, he talked to the teacher about how he thought he had turned it in, and she found the assignment. Maybe your kids are at this point where they see something like this and talk to the teacher on their own and maybe they need a little bit of prompting from you on what they could talk to their teacher about- but either way, your child can be the one to talk to their teacher first (yes, you can step in later if things aren’t resolved or if there’s a major issue, but let them try it first).
There’s no shock at the end of the grading period. Without the parent portal, you might not see much of your child’s graded work- especially as more work is done online. And your child may not be able to piece together how their scores add up to their grade (remember- that grade they’re earning, not the one they’re given). By checking the portal, you can see if there’s an area where your child is struggling and work with your child to improve (whether that “help” is just reminding them to do work or actually working with them if they need it) while there’s still time for them to make changes and better their grades. The end of the grading period report card shouldn’t be a shock, since the portal allows both you and your child to see what is going on.
There are few pitfalls with the parent portal that you can be aware of and avoid.
- Watch how frequently you are checking the portal. If it starts turning into an obsessive several times a day thing, you want to take a step back because you’re entering into helicopter parenting territory. I set up my account to get a weekly report via email and that’s mostly when I check.
- Don’t get too upset over one bad grade. You can see the big picture. Kids aren’t going to have perfect grades at all times. If you notice a grade that’s out of character for your child, don’t make it into the end of the world.
- Give the teachers some grace in when they are uploading grades. Especially if your child turned in something late, the teacher is probably not going to run to log in that grade immediately.
But for the most part, parent portals can actually be a great help in communicating with your child’s teacher and your child. We had a good discussion about parent portals over on my Facebook page recently- head over and check it out and join in!