Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keeping up the grades

Oscar's transition from elementary to middle school has been bumpy. Coming from a cozy, flexible school of a little over 200 students, he's now one of 920 kids in a sprawling three-story building. I'm not sure if it would have been any easier if we hadn't moved, but his academic scores haven't been what we're used to. Putting this in the nicest way possible, my guess is that Oscar is not used to the organizational demands of middle school. It's not easy to get any information out of him, though.

If you ask Oscar how his day was, he'll always reply, "Good." Any homework? "No."

That would be a lie. Luckily, the Seattle school system has an online database called The Source that lets teachers post grades and homework assignments; parents can access the lists using their child's ID number. Here's a less-embarrassing example from Oscar's Japanese class at left. When checking out Oscar's grades earlier in the school year, I was able to see that he was failing language arts and social studies. I was shocked! Digging deeper, I could see that he had not turned in several homework assignments, which was eroding his grades. I subsequently learned that he had had opportunities to improve his score on other substandard work he had turned in, and didn't take advantage of them. An intervention ensued, and I discovered to my horror a binder containing a jumble of incomplete worksheets, crumpled up class notes, and duplicate handouts -- even though he started out the year with neat tabs separating sections for each subject.

I'm sure I'll have to keep organizing the binder and reviewing his work with him, but the good news is that Oscar's language arts and social studies grades are no longer failing. (Which incidently is notated as "E" here instead of "F". Crazy!) The bad news is that he's now failing band class. How is that even possible?! Turns out that his band teacher hadn't been posting the assignments and grades over the term, but now that the term is ending, he has posted them. Who knew there were written assignments in band class?! So, even though the The Source is helpful, it isn't foolproof by a longshot. Live and learn.

The whole experience has been eye-opening to me. I'd love to know if there are systems similar to The Source in other school districts. Anyone?


  1. One of my co-workers also has a son who entered middle school in Dalton this year. Her experience sounds very much like yours! Another parent showed her the web site so that she can track his homework assignments and test grades. Not sure why she didn't know about this until he was in trouble but better late than never!

  2. I heard from someone else via private message that there is a similar website for Detroit-area parents too. I had no idea this thing existed (maybe throughout the U.S.?)! Cool!

  3. High schools in Oakland have this and they've been promising an implementation in middle school, but nothing yet. If I missed it I'm going to be pissed and concerned because I'm one of those parents who wants and looks for these kinds of tools, and I'm about as connected at the school as you can be. Still, I guess I'd better start inquiring because it seems to becoming a standard for middle school.

  4. Hmm, Oscar seems much like his Dad back in the day at MHJ - shorts and all! Genius is like that or so it turns out, just look at Chris! I'm so proud! And, OMG, Carrie, if there is anyone who can keep the boyz in relative check it's surely you, one amazing woman. Would love to talk sandra@earthlink.net LOL big time! Also, looking for JaCK.