Osteen, Julia A. (2005). Effects of an Online Grading System on Parent Involvement. Instructional Technology Monographs 2 (2). Retrieved <insert date>, from http://itm.coe.uga.edu/archives/fall2005/josteen.htm.

Effects of an Online Grading System on Parent Involvement

by

Julia A. Osteen
University of Georgia

 

Abstract

An online grading system that provides attendance, assignments lists, grades and comments to students and parents by way of the Internet has potential for providing specific, individualized home-school communication regarding a student’s progress. The purpose of this study is to describe the implementation of an online grading system at a high school and its effects on home-school communication. Based upon a parent survey as well as parent and teacher interviews, results show that the online grading system, serving as a vehicle for partnerships, had a significant impact on meaningful and positive parent involvement.

Literature Review Methods Results and Discussion Conclusions References

 

Introduction

Parent involvement plays an important role in children’s academic success. The role of parent involvement could be either negative or positive. An increase in the positive kind of parent participation provides for positive academic gains even for students who are motivated (Faucette, 2000). Moreover, parent involvement improves with increased home-school communication (Epstein, 1996) and the type of communication that most impacts students’ achievement occurs in the form of discussions with families regarding student learning and goals (Marzano, 2003). An online grading system that provides grades, attendance, assignments lists and comments to students and parents by way of the Internet has potential for providing specific, individualized communication regarding a student’s progress.

The purpose of this study is to describe the implementation of an online grading system at a high school in the southeastern United States and the way parents use the system. I propose that carefully implementing an online grading system including training for parents and guidelines for teachers will increase the amount of positive parent involvement.

Research Question

Can an online grading system provide the type of communication needed to encourage effective parent involvement? The following research sub-questions will be considered:

  • How can an online grading system be structured so that parents are effectively informed of individualized student progress and therefore provided with discussion starters?
  • How does the use of an online grading system affect the communication between teachers and parents?
  • What guidance can schools provide to parents when using an online grading system so that parents can follow-through with effective parent involvement?

Problem

This problem is worthy of research due to the fact that online grading systems have been in the media headlines lately (Jesse, 2005; Steele-Carlin, 2000) , yet little research has occurred regarding their impact on student progress. The research that has been published on similar systems has occurred in middle school settings (e.g. Hampton et al., 2002; Zappe et al., 2002), but very little can be found about online grading systems in high school settings.

Assumptions

At the outset, I assume that parents desire to positively impact their child’s achievement. Additionally, this study accepts that teachers welcome positive parent involvement. Other assumptions are that communication is vital to educational efforts, that technology holds potential for positively impacting communication efforts, and that positive parent involvement will result in higher academic achievement for the student.

Limitations and Delimitations

This study does not attempt to draw a correlation between positive parent involvement and student achievement. Additionally, it will not evaluate the effectiveness of parent training by a school. Participants of this study will be limited to parents and teachers of high school students enrolled in tenth through twelfth grades from one high school in the southeastern United States.

Definitions

Parent involvement refers to active interactions on the part of the parent with the student, school, and teacher. These interactions can be divided into six categories: parenting, communication, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community (Epstein, 1996). The two categories that the study will focus on are communication and learning at home. An online grading system is defined as a system that utilizes the Internet for delivering such confidential and individualized information as grades, assignments, comments, and attendance by making use of a user login and password. In this particular study, the online grading system is one component of the school’s student information system.

Overview of Methodology

Several pieces of data were collected for this study. Parents were invited to attend a parent training session that not only acquainted them with the technology but also provided guidance in how to use the information to best help their child. Additionally, teachers were provided with minimum guidelines from the administration regarding their use of the online grading system as well as suggestions for optimal use of the system. Once the orientation was completed, expectations were communicated, and the system was implemented, parents were surveyed regarding their use of the online system, their feelings about communication with teachers, and how they choose to use the information provided by the system. The survey was followed by interviews of parents that were chosen randomly. Teachers, too, were interviewed regarding their use of the system as well as their perceptions of the effect on parent – teacher communications.

 

 

Literature Review

Part of my duties as Technology Instructional Lead Teacher at a high school in the southeastern United States, includes helping teachers develop a vision for how technology can affect their students’ achievement. As part of these duties, we began discussions about the implementation of an online grading system. Several surrounding school systems made the decision to use an online grading system that would give parents and students access to their grades via the Internet. As discussions of an online grading system continued, the high school teachers voiced some major concerns about utilizing such a system. Through discussions with the teachers, one question that kept surfacing was: What educational reasons indicate that providing an online grading system is beneficial for high school students?

After the initial concerns were expressed, it became evident that these teachers deserved a well-researched and thought-out answer. This literature review is an effort to do just that. More discussions with teachers revealed that there was a concern that “helicopter parents” would use this type of system to hover over and then swoop in to rescue their children. Our school has a lot of parents whose goal is to get their child into an Ivy League school. These parents demand a lot, not only exerting their push on the school and teachers, but also on their children. Teachers see this type of parental push as being counterproductive to the educational process. Indeed, a discussion with our high school counselor yielded much the same concerns. As all of these issues were being contemplated, an article in Time Magazine came to light. The article echoed many of the same concerns the teachers at our school were expressing. “Teachers just shake their heads as they see parents so obsessed with getting their child into a good college that they don’t ask whether it’s the right one for the child’s particular interests and needs.” (Gibbs, 2005, p. 45) As I began thinking about the initial question and subsequent discussions, several themes emerged: parental involvement in students’ education, communication with parents, and the role that technology can play with parental involvement. Could an online grading system provide the type of communication needed to encourage effective parent involvement?

Parent Involvement

Since the Goals 2000 legislation that addressed school reform, parent involvement has been a focus of the American Education system (Epstein, 1996; Ramirez, 2001) . Additionally, parent involvement regulations became part of Title I which included mandates for specific school-home connections in order for federal funding to be maintained. (Epstein, 1996) Educational reform has also included involving the participation of parents and the community (Ogawa, 1998) .

Over the past decade, school organizations have begun to recognize school-family-community connections as one of the components that influences student learning and success in school (Epstein, 1996) . Much discussion has occurred regarding the “model of overlapping spheres of influence” (Epstein, 1996, p.233) . In this model, the student is the center and schools, families, and communities all have influences upon the student. This idea of “shared responsibility” (Epstein, 1996) no longer requires parents to be the sole initiator of how to become involved in their children’s education each year, but requires schools to provide paths of communication and involvement.

Research indicates that parent involvement is one key to increasing student achievement. As stated by Lunenburg and Irby (2002), “research on family and community involvement has proven that students whose parents are actively involved in their learning are more likely to be successful in school” (p.26) . Furthermore, research indicates that the most accurate predictor of school success for a student is not socio-economic status, but the degree that the student’s family can nurture their learning in the home (Faucette, 2000) .

What specific benefits are possible when parents are involved with their children’s education? Homework completion is one area that can improve through the influence of parents. Family involvement in completion of homework develops a better student overall as indicated within a study conducted regarding middle school homework (Van Voorhis, 2003) . Another study (Buckley & Wilkinson, 2001) conducted with high school students to improve motivation with homework indicated that parents had the most influence on the completion of homework. It should be noted that in this study parents were encouraged to help students learn to self-manage homework and were given guidance from educators on ways to help their children achieve more understanding from the homework (Buckley & Wilkinson, 2001) . In a study on homework targeting special needs students, it was determined that the students whose parents were consistent with the program structure experienced success in improving homework completion and quality. Also, the study determined that homework strategies had a positive impact on the student’s overall academic performance (Callahan et al., 1998) . Moreover, students whose parents are more active with their education tend to complete homework more regularly, score better on tests and demonstrate positive attitudes toward school in general (Freytag, 2001) . The increase in positive attitudes could be a result of better positive attitudes among the adults since students tend to reflect the attitudes of their parents as manifested through the actions of the parents (Buckley & Wilkinson, 2001) . Families also exercise a great deal of influence that effects grades and standardized test scores (Ogawa, 1998) . As well as benefiting the student, some studies indicate that increased parent involvement can improve teacher morale and parent perceptions of teachers (Faucette, 2000) . The literature, therefore, suggests that parental involvement can positively influence students’ success with homework, grades and standardized test scores.

Even with the stated benefits of increased parent involvement, there is room for concern over blindly accepting that all parent involvement is good (Epstein, 1996) . Families can be a source of doubt and anxiety for many school organizations. This uncertainty can be introduced “when parents directly interfere with the professional discretion of teachers and principals” (Ogawa, 1998, p.2) . Ogawa (1998) suggests that both “bridges and buffers” should be created where parents and families are concerned. There are times when a school should bridge to parents in that the core purpose of the school, teaching and learning, is dependent upon that relationship. However, buffers should be constructed when the relationship would interfere with teaching and learning. Van Voorhis (2003) states that two-thirds of parents occasionally provide a form of help that is negative or inappropriate. Such inappropriate help to their children could be in the form of helping to finish more quickly, helping even though the work needed to be completed independently, or helping with the knowledge that it made the work more difficult for the student. It has been noted that teachers and administrators feel that parents can be agents of negativity to the total educational process. Some parents want more for their own children than others (Ramirez, 2001) . Additionally, high schools can bear the brunt of this negative energy from parents. They often find themselves dealing with parents who expect instant responses to every email and request a change of teacher because of “poor chemistry”. The negative parent involvement issue is big enough that it is believed to be affecting the numbers of teachers who remain in the teaching field after five years. Teachers indicate that the most demanding part of their job is managing parents and that this one issue is a bigger struggle than maintaining discipline in their classrooms (Gibbs, 2005) .

Nevertheless, there is a more compelling body of research that points to the need for parent involvement. Not all activities of parent involvement will lead directly to increased student learning; however, continued influence over time may lead to improved student attitudes, behavior, or motivation and as a result, student learning (Epstein, 1996) . It is up to the schools and teachers to determine the most effective means of involving parents and provide guidance to parents regarding those means. According to the National Education Longitudinal Study (cited by Gibbs, 2005), home discussion of school-related issues was the most strongly related area of parent involvement to academic achievement. Bertrand & Deslandes (2005) also indicate that parents should be aware of the benefits associated with continued parent-child communications about schooling, career and work planning over time. Other studies (e.g. Marzano, 2003) affirm home discussions of school-related issues as effective parent involvement as well . This may be particularly true in the case of high school students when discussions about school, classes, and the future can greatly impact attitudes, behaviors, and grades (Epstein, 1996) . What can schools put in place to encourage such discussion at home?

Communication

What communication is necessary so that families have needed information to initiate productive discussions with their children regarding school achievement? Could an online grading system help to provide the type of effective communication with parents that is needed?

Effective communication with parents begins with a mutual respect and awareness of the shared, however different, investment each party is making to the development of the student (Miretzky, 2004) . Parents have a need for specific types of communication involving student’s academic progress, behavioral concerns, social-emotional development, and curricular issues. Ninety percent of parents involved in a study at a Florida middle school indicated that their number one need from school-home communication is information regarding their child’s progress (Freytag, 2001) . Additionally, there is “growing evidence of the importance of personalized communication with the families, especially during the secondary school years” (Eccles & Harold, 1996, p. 28) . The main goal of teacher-parent partnerships should be to improve communication with parents across the grades in an effort to encourage students to succeed in school. Unfortunately, research bears out the fact that communication tends to decline as students move through the school levels from elementary to high school (Epstein, 1996) . It is up to the schools to open the paths of communication with parents in an effort to help secondary students improve achievement (Buckley & Wilkinson, 2001) . Epstein (1996) suggests that the student is an important “transmitter” of information back and forth from school. However, others contend that anything filtered through someone else is subject to distortion (Miretzky, 2004) . Using the student as the sole messenger of information is problematic at best, even if the intention is to foster independence. Other avenues for parent-school connections are necessary for effective communication.

Technology’s Role with Parent Involvement

Technology has the potential to encourage effective parent involvement. It can be used to communicate between families and schools on matters involving student progress and school activities (Hernandez & Leung, 2004). Technology can also improve the automation of data gathering and analysis on student performance making the availability of individualized information less time-consuming. Using technology as a tool, teachers can more readily provide parents with tips on how they can help their children as well as ideas for how to be more involved (Otterbourg & Conference Board., 1998) .

Over the past decade there has been an increase in the number of studies conducted that target technology as a tool for improving parent involvement. The state of Alaska has a particularly daunting task due to its geographic and weather issues. Parents simply don’t have the resources to spend time at the school learning about their children’s educational needs especially when the school is a great distance away from many of the parents. Alaska’s public schools have tried web-based chat groups, web-based bulletin boards, email discussion lists, and homework email lists in an effort to keep parents more informed (Weiss & Nieto, 1999) . Voice-based technologies (Bauch, 1994) and web-based technologies (Beghetto, 2001; Hampton et al., 2002; Weiss & Nieto, 1999; Zappe et al., 2002) have both been explored as a way to connect schools and families. Silva (2003) documented the use of a web-based system to provide electronic mail as well as discussion areas.

In the public media, there has recently been an increase in the amount of information being published regarding online grading systems (e.g. Jesse, 2005; Steele-Carlin, 2000) . While this strategy is currently making headlines, there is little in the way of research studies regarding the impact that an online grading system has on encouraging parent involvement and in turn, student academic achievement. The small amount of research available on this topic has been conducted solely in middle grades settings (e.g. Hampton et al., 2002; Zappe et al., 2002) . Zappe (2002) reports on a study conducted in a rural, central Pennsylvania junior high school. Parents felt that the computerized grade tracking system increased responsibility among their children and equipped them with information they could use when talking with their child about school achievement. Hampton (2002) states that at a middle school in South Dakota the highest academic gains among students occurred in correlation with the highest number of parent “hits” on their online grading system. More research is needed on the affect of online grading systems and possible correlations to student achievement especially in the high school setting.

Summary

The reason for this study is to provide answers to teachers regarding the benefits of an online grading system. Research suggests that an increase in the right kind of parent involvement provides for positive academic gains even for students who are motivated (Faucette, 2000) . We also know that parent involvement improves with increased home-school communication (Epstein, 1996) . The type of communication that most impacts students’ achievement occurs in the form of discussions with families regarding student learning and goals (Freytag, 2001) . Technology can help to bridge distances when communicating with parents regarding student progress.

 

 

Methods

The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of an online grading system on parental involvement. Can an online grading system provide the type of communication needed to encourage effective parent involvement?The following research sub-questions will be considered:

  • How can an online grading system be structured so that parents are effectively informed of individualized student progress and therefore provided with discussion starters?
  • How does the use of an online grading system affect the communication between teachers and parents?
  • What guidance can schools provide to parents when using an online grading system so that parents can follow-through with effective parent involvement?

I propose that carefully implementing an online grading system including training for parents and guidelines for teachers will increase the amount of positive parent involvement. The online grading system being used is connected to the overall student information system. Within the student information system, the teachers use an online grade book component that allows for input of grades, comments, descriptions and codes. Likewise, the teachers take attendance through the online grade book component. ( see Figure 1)

 

Figure 1. Grade book screen for teachers’ online grade book.

The grade book portion of the student information system also feeds information that is available to students and parents through the online grading system. The online grade component of the student information system allows for students and parents to view attendance, grades (individual and averages), comments, descriptions and codes that teachers enter into their online grade book. (see Figure 2) Parents and students access the online grading system by using an assigned user name and password.

Figure 2. This is the main screen for the online grade system accessed by students and parents.

 

Design

This study made use of survey research design. Leedy and Ormrod (2005) define survey research as acquiring information about groups of people that might include characteristics, opinions, attitudes, and perceptions by asking them questions and tabulating their responses. Survey research data can include surveys, questionnaires, interviews and focus groups. Survey research is most applicable when researchers are confronted with an information need and existing data are insufficient. The flexibility of this approach is its main advantage. A disadvantage to using a survey research design is the lack of reliability due to relying upon self-report data. Survey research applies well to this study due to needing to find out perceptions of parents and teachers as well as how parents use the information provided with the online grading system.

 

Instruments

Questionnaires and interviews were both used to acquire data with this study. A questionnaire (see, Appendix A) was used to gather information from parents after using the online grading system for the first nine weeks of the fall semester. Both open-ended and closed-ended questions were included on the survey. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted with a representative sampling of parents. Interview questions varied between open-ended and closed-ended questions (see, Appendix B). Closed-ended questions allowed for the participants responses to be compared more easily while open-ended questions provided opportunities for more explanation and perhaps a better understanding of parents’ perceptions. Lastly, thorough interviews were conducted with a representative sampling of teachers. Both closed-ended and open-ended questions were employed for the teacher interviews as well (see, Appendix C). All interview questions and responses were typed and given to the participants for their review and clarification before the results were analyzed. Information from the interviews served to provide verification of information gained from the survey.

 

Setting

This study was conducted at a high school in the southeastern United States in a suburban area. The school is an independent school and as such, students apply for admission to the school. There are approximately 610 students in the ninth through twelfth grades. 81.99% of the students are Caucasian, 7.74% are Asian American, 7.52% are African American, 1.9% are Hispanic American, and .8% represent other cultures. (see Figure 3) All faculty members hold certification in their respective fields and seventy-percent of the faculty hold advanced degrees. One-hundred percent of graduates from this high school go on to attend college.

Figure 3. Students for the school year 2004-2005 by cultural/ethnic/racial groups.

 

Participants

Parents of tenth through twelfth graders were invited to participate in the survey questionnaire. Additionally, a representative sampling of parents was asked to take part in interviews. This sampling was determined randomly. A list of students in each grade was obtained. Using a random number generator, two numbers were determined. The parents of the students who appeared next to those numbers in the list were contacted for inclusion in the interviews. Finally, a representative sampling of teachers was asked to participate in interviews. The group of teachers interviewed represents a continuum of minimum use to full use of the many features offered by the online grading system. Teachers were provided minimum requirements from the administration for use of the online grading system. These minimum requirements will define “minimum use” where teachers are concerned.

 

Procedures

 

Parents of tenth through twelfth grade students were invited to attend a training session that not only acquainted them with the technology of the online grading system but also provided guidance on how they can best use the system to provide help for their child. The administration communicated expectations for minimum use of the online grading system to teachers and communicated to parents what should expect from teachers. Once this orientation phase was completed, tenth through twelfth grade students and parents were assigned login information. Letters were mailed home to all parents of high school students containing expectations for teachers and the parents and students login information.

After the first nine weeks of the fall semester, a survey questionnaire was made available online and in print form to parents of tenth through twelfth grade students. The survey was sent home to each family through the Bible classes. The parents were required to provide their name on the consent form in order to assure only one response per family. Responses to the questionnaire were recorded and tallied. Parents from six families were then asked to participate in an interview, either by phone or in person. Following the completion of the questionnaire survey and the parent interviews, six teachers were asked to partake in interviews as well. To ensure accurate data collection, all interview questions and answers were typed and given to the interviewees. They were asked to review the document to make sure their responses were recorded accurately. Consent forms (see, Appendix D) were given to all participants of interviews and those parents participating in the survey were required to acknowledge their consent through written signature or online acceptance depending upon which version of the questionnaire they complete.

 Data Analysis

After the data was collected, questionnaire responses were analyzed by graphing of closed-ended question responses and sorting of open-ended question responses. Open-ended question responses were sorted based upon categories that emerge from the comments. Microsoft Excel was used to keep track of the tallying and graphing of close-ended questions as well as the sorting of the open-ended questions. Additionally, interview responses from parents were analyzed and categories of responses were created to allow for a more accurate data comparison. Interview responses were noted with paper and pencil notations and then compared with questionnaire responses to determine if the information from the two sources matched. Data from teacher interviews was analyzed separately by creating categories of responses and sorting the information obtained. The data gathered from the teacher interviews were then compared with the information received from the parents. Conclusions were drawn determining if the use of the online grading system had any impact on the quality and quantity of parent involvement exhibited.

 

Role of the Researcher

In my experience as a classroom teacher for 17 years and a Technology Instructional Lead Teacher for the past 5 years, I have attempted to lead teachers with integrating technology and their curriculum. As part of that leadership, I help teachers develop their own vision for how technology can affect their students’ achievement. I view the online grading system as a technology with great potential impact on student achievement. During the 2004-2005 school year, I participated in a pilot group that implemented the use of the online grading system. Having familiarity with that implementation gave me practical knowledge that I could use as I work with teachers and parents. Further, I believe that parents desire more communication from teachers about their child’s progress and that teachers desire to feel comfortable opening lines of communication with parents. As I acknowledge the limited time of teachers and mounting duties placed upon teachers, I view the online grading system as a mechanism to help teachers provide parents with personalized information without added work. Conducting this study allowed me to explore the impact that specific, individualized communication can have on the type of parent involvement manifested and the relationship between teachers and parents.


 

Results and Discussion

Survey Data

Out of 450 total students in grades 10 – 12, thirty-four parents responded to the questionnaire. Twenty-five filled the questionnaire out online while nine completed paper copies of the questionnaire and returned them. The number of respondents represents 7.5% of the overall population. 44% of respondents were parents of eleventh graders while 32% were parents of tenth graders and 24% were parents of twelfth graders.

The questionnaire results indicated that the vast majority of parents access the online grade system from a range of multiple times in a month to multiple times in a week. (see Figure 4) A more positive result is the fact that none of the respondents indicated accessing the online grade system less than once a month.

Figure 4. Frequency of Access to Online Grade System by Parents.

A little over 70% of parents responding to the survey also indicated they are very comfortable with using the system even though 79% indicated they did not attend the parent training session offered at the beginning of the school year. (see Figure 5) Respondents generally indicated being comfortable with using the system although almost 30% selected needing some sort of assistance with its use.


Figure 5.
Degree of Comfort Using the Online Grading System by Parents.

When indicating the frequency with which parents received communication from their child’s teachers through the online grade system, 94% of respondents said that most teachers update the information on their child once every three weeks or more frequently. (see Figure 6) 85% of parents indicated that they either never noticed the codes or comments in the system or that only a few of their child’s teachers made use of the codes and comments tools within the system. (see Figure 7)

Figure 6. Frequency that Teachers Update the System.

Figure 7. Frequency that Teachers Use Comments/Codes within the System.

The frequency of communication received this school year to last school year has shifted slightly according to the parents surveyed. Fifty-six percent of parents indicated that the frequency of communication last school year was in the range of average to high frequency while almost 70% of parents said that the frequency of communication this school year is in the range of average to high frequency. Perhaps the most interesting number to look at here is the fact that almost 24% of those surveyed indicated having a low frequency of communication from teachers last school year compared to less than 9% reporting the low frequency of communication for this school year. (see Table 1 and Figure 8)

 

05-06

04-05

High Frequency

5.88%

2.94%

 

29.41%

17.65%

Average Frequency

35.29%

35.29%

 

20.59%

20.59%

Low Frequency

8.82%

23.53%

Table 1. Frequency of Communication from Teachers Compared.

Figure 8. Frequency of Communication from Teachers Compared for 04-05 and 05-06 school years.

 

65% of parents participating in the survey said that they feel they have more consistent information than in the past as a result of the online grading system. (See Figure 9) 27% of those responding indicated that the online system had not changed the amount of communication they received or that the amount of communication has decreased.

Figure 9. Impact of Online Grading System on Amount of Communication Received.

Parents characterize their relationships with their child’s teachers as good indicating that they feel comfortable asking questions when needed. 12% of those surveyed indicated that they had no contact with their child’s teachers and therefore, did not know what type of relationship they had with them. (see Figure 10) 100% of parents participating indicated that the online grading system has had a positive impact on their relationship with their child’s teachers. (see Table 2) The parents believe that they either have more specific information available to use in discussion with teachers or that they have less of a need to contact the teachers since the teachers are providing information through the online system.

Figure 10. Parents Characterize Relationships with Teachers.

 

Impact of Online System on Relationships with Teachers

Positive - communications with teachers can be very specific and I don't have to ask questions to get basic information

41%

Negative - I feel my child's teachers are not willing to talk with me one-on-one when I have specific questions.

0%

Positive - I have had less of a need to contact teachers since the teachers are providing information through the online grading system

71%

Table 2 . Impact of Online Grading System on Relationships with Teachers.

71% of parents indicated that they have available to them specific information about their child’s progress while 94% of respondents said they typically ask their child specific questions about the child’s schoolwork after viewing the information online. (see Figure 11) Additionally, 76% of parents indicated that they typically have discussions with their child either daily or several times a week regarding academic matters or school activities. (see Figure 12)

Figure 11. Typical Behavior after Viewing Student’s Grades Online.

Figure 12. Frequency of Discussion with Child Regarding Academics or School Activities.

 

The survey open-ended question responses yielded several themes. When asked to elaborate on the availability of specific information regarding their child’s progress, 38% indicated that the information comes mainly through the online grading system while almost 30% indicated specific information comes through other means such as email or telephone conversations. Perceived disadvantages of the system included a need for more specific information from teachers, a need for more frequently updated information, the lack of personal contact, and possible negative feelings by students when parents use the information provided in a negative way. Additionally, the main benefit of the online grading system as perceived by the respondents is more available information for students and parents. 35% of parents noted a higher accountability and ownership level with school achievement on the part of their child while 44% saw no difference with their child as a result of the online grading system. Some of those seeing no difference in their child also commented that their child has always been good about communicating with them regarding his/her school work.

 

Parent Interview Data

Parent Interviews were conducted with six parents. Two parents were randomly chosen from a list of students for each grade level involved, 10 th – 12 th grades. The list of students for each grade level was numbered and a computerized random number generator was used to determine the parents to involve in the interviews. All interviews were conducted over the phone to minimize issues with schedules. All of the randomly selected parents agreed to take part in the interview as consent was obtained over the phone.

Two of the six parents involved in the interviews indicated not using the online grading system at all. Their reason for this was due to the belief that keeping up with grades and progress in classes is the job of the student. Both parents believe that their children should be responsible for informing them of problems as they go through. One parent indicated that students will have to be responsible for their own achievement in college and, therefore, should be required to do so in high school. It is interesting to note that both of these parents chose not to fill out the survey since they did not use the online grading system. Even though the two parents mentioned here do not use the online grading system, they both believed that such a system has a place as an available tool for younger students or for students who are having academic difficulty.

Other than the above noted differences, the remaining data gathered from the interviewees matched with the data retrieved from the survey. Most felt the online grading system was a positive means of communication for their families. Specific information about grades was more frequently communicated and that the online system did much in the way of providing a communication vehicle between parents and teachers. Four out of the six parents interviewed felt that the type of information learned through the online grading system was different than before. Parents and students now have access to good grades as well as the bad grades that have been communicated in the past. All six parents indicated having regular discussions with their children about academic matters and school activities. Table 3 lists quotations from parents that were echoed by others.

Quotations from Parents

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advantages:

 

 

 

 

kept informed; can be proactive for child

keeping up with progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disadvantages:

 

 

 

 

not updated frequently enough

 

 

child may think too much information available to parents

Table 3. Quotations from Parents recorded during interviews.

Teacher Interview Data

Teacher interviews were conducted with six teachers to find out the perspective of the teachers after using the online grading system. The teachers who participated in the interviews were chosen from a list of teachers who work with the different grade levels. The teachers interviewed represented different curricular areas as well as the different grade levels involved, 10th – 12th grades. In addition, a variety of experience levels was represented within the teacher group that was chosen.

Four out of the six teachers interviewed reported having attended the training session at the beginning of the school year. Five teachers indicated having an average to above average level of comfort with using the system. All but two teachers indicated some level of decrease in their overall workload as a result of the online grading system citing fewer parent conferences and fewer email contacts from parents requesting information. Two of the six teachers mentioned specifically that their relationships with parents are now more of a partnership and that discussions with parents center on how to help the student rather than retrieving basic grade information. In addition, two of the teachers admitted to being worried that the online grading system would encourage parents to micromanage or “hover” over their high school students, but they quickly added that their fear had not proven to be warranted. According to most of the teachers interviewed, parents are using the online system to engage in discussions with their children and require the student to be accountable for their work. It should be noted that one of the teachers interviewed was a first year teacher and had no basis of comparison regarding increased/decreased parent contacts or increased/decreased overall workload. In addition, one of the teachers indicated that they recently had difficulty with a group of parents and felt this experience cast a negative shadow over perceptions of the online grading system. Table 4 shows some of the quotations gained from the teacher interviews.

 

Quotations from Teachers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advantages:

 

 

 

 

 

 

makes kids & parents more aware of what it takes to make up their grade

parents see everything; don't have to answer "what has he not turned in"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disadvantages:

 

 

 

 

 

 

can be used to micromanage students by parents but haven't seen this happening yet

expectation that everything has to be seen quicker than before

 

 

Table 4. Quotations from Teachers recorded during interviews.

 

Conclusions

This research study showed that the careful implementation of an online grading system can have a significant impact on meaningful, positive parent involvement. When parents were given specific information regarding their child’s progress, they responded favorably by engaging in meaningful conversations with their child regarding academics. Parents and teachers alike saw the online grading system as a vehicle for true partnerships with the achievement of the student at the center.

Communication between teachers and parents improved as a result of the implementation of the online grading system. Not only did parents indicate a higher frequency of communication than in the past, but they also noted that the online grading system provided a means by which positive achievement could be reported in addition to the negative achievement that was noted previously through printed deficiencies and progress reports. Parents report having more consistent information readily available to them.

This study also brought to light some difficulties with implementing such a system. There is a real danger for teachers to allow the online grading system to “speak” for them and not seek out more personal forms of communication when appropriate. In addition, the online grading system is as good as the data inputted. Timely information that can make a difference in dealing with a child is only available if teachers input grades in a timely fashion creating a higher expectation for teachers. The use of comments and codes can help to more fully communicate to parents where a single grade may not tell the whole story. 30% of parents and 20% of teachers involved in this study indicated needing some sort of ongoing support and assistance with the use of the online grading system. Care should be taken to develop a support system for parents and teachers that consistently provides help for those who need it.

 

 

References

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Appendix A

Parent Survey

 

Please answer all questions as completely as possible.

 

In what grade is your child? Choose all that apply.

    1. 10 th
    2. 11 th
    3. 12 th

How often do you access the online grading system?

A. several times a week

B. once a week

C. several times a month

D. once a month

E. less than once a month

Did you attend the parent training session offered at the beginning of the school year? A. Yes B. No

How comfortable do you feel in using the online system for checking on the progress of your child?

  1. Not comfortable at all
  2. I use it but am not sure where to look for information.
  3. I use it but am not sure how to interpret the information there.
  4. I can use it when I have help.
  5. Very comfortable

 

 

Structure of Online Grading System

 

How often do your child’s teachers update the information in the online system? Choose all that apply.

  1. Most update it once every three weeks.
  2. I found several teachers who update the information more frequently than once every three weeks.
  3. It seems like every time I checked the information had not been updated at the three week intervals.
  4. All I see are my child’s averages and not the individual assignment grades.

Do your child’s teachers make use of comments and/or codes (M for missing assignments or E for exempt) to give you more information? Choose all that apply.

  1. Most of the teachers use codes and/or comments.
  2. I was not aware of what the codes meant.
  3. I have never seen codes or comments used.
  4. A few teachers use codes and/or comments.

 

Has the online grading system impacted the amount of communication you receive about your child’s progress? Choose all that apply.

    1. Yes, I receive more consistent information than in the past.
    2. No, I don’t see a difference in the amount of communication I’m receiving
    3. Yes, I feel the information I need is at my fingertips with the online grading system.
    4. No, I receive less communication than in the past.

 

Communication between Teachers and Parents

 

How would you characterize your relationship with your child’s teachers?

    1. Good relationship – feel comfortable asking questions if needed
    2. Strained – don’t feel encouraged to be an active participant by the teachers
    3. Don’t know – haven’t had any contact with them

     

How has the online grading system impacted your relationship with your child’s teachers? Choose all that apply.

    1. Positive – communications with teachers can be very specific and I don’t have to ask questions to get basic information
    2. Negative – I feel my child’s teachers are not willing to talk with me one-on-one when I have specific questions.
    3. Positive – I have had less of a need to contact teachers since the teachers are providing information through the online grading system

Place a mark on the line indicating the frequency of communication you received from your child’s teachers last school year. (1 = high frequency, 5 = no frequency)

 

 

Place a mark on the line indicating the frequency of communication you receive from your child’s teachers this school year. (1 = high frequency, 5 = no frequency)

 

 

Do you feel you have available to you specific communication about your child’s progress? A. Yes B. No

Please explain. ___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________


Effective Parent Involvement

 

Choose the one that best describes your typical behavior. After obtaining information about your child’s progress from the online grading system, you

    1. Contact your child’s teacher immediately
    2. Ask your child about the information but then have to contact the teacher because the child acts surprised by the information
    3. Ask your child specific questions about the information
    4. Never do anything with the information

With what frequency would you say you talk with your child about academic matters and school activities?

    1. Less than once a month
    2. About once a month
    3. Several times a month
    4. Once a week
    5. Several times a week
    6. Daily

List the disadvantages of the online grading system as you perceive them.

 

 

List the advantages of the online grading system as you perceive them.

 

 

What differences do you see with your child as a result of the information being available through the online grading system?

 

 

 


Appendix B

Parent Interview Protocol

 

The questions in this document are broad prompts to engage the participant in big-picture thinking and conversation. Use active listening techniques to encourage further conversation, such as “I heard you say…” then repeating the major ideas communicated by the participant.

 

How often do you access the online grading system?

In what grade is your child?

Did you attend the parent training session offered at the beginning of the school year?

How comfortable do you feel in using the online system for checking on the progress of your child?

 

Structure of Online Grading System

 

How often do your child’s teachers update the information in the online system?

Do your child’s teachers make use of comments and/or codes (M for missing assignments or E for exempt) to give you more information?

Has the online grading system impacted the amount of communication you receive about your child’s progress? Please explain.

 

Communication between Teachers and Parents

 

How would you characterize your relationship with your child’s teachers?

How has the online grading system impacted your relationship with your child’s teachers?

What is the frequency of communication you receive from your child’s teachers?

How does the frequency of communication you receive this year compare to last year?

Do you feel you have available to you specific communication about your child’s progress? Please explain.

 

Effective Parent Involvement

 

How do you use the information provided to you through the online grading system?

What differences do you see with your child as a result of the information being available through the online grading system?

Describe the typical setting when you access the online grading system for information. What is happening around you? Where are you? What happens after you obtain the information?

List the disadvantages of the online grading system as you perceive them.

List the advantages of the online grading system as you perceive them.

With what frequency would you say you talk with your child about academic matters and school activities?

How has the online grading system impacted your relationship with your child?

 

 

 

 


Appendix C

Teacher Interview Protocol

 

The questions in this document are broad prompts to engage the participant in big-picture thinking and conversation. Use active listening techniques to encourage further conversation, such as “I heard you say…” then repeating the major ideas communicated by the participant.

 

The students that you teach are in what grade/grades?

Did you attend the teacher training session offered at the beginning of the school year?

How comfortable do you feel in using the online system for providing information to your students/parents?

Has the online grading system increased or decreased your overall work load? Please explain.

 

Structure of Online Grading System

 

How often do you input grades in the online grading system and show that information to parents/students?

Do you include comments and/or codes with the information you provide students and parents through the online grading system?

What differences do you see with your students as a result of the information being available through the online grading system?

Describe the typical setting when you access the online grading system to input information. What is happening around you? Where are you? What happens after you input the information?

List the disadvantages of the online grading system as you perceive them.

List the advantages of the online grading system as you perceive them.

If a school were contemplating using an online grading system, what would your advice be to them?

 

Communication between Teachers and Parents

 

With what frequency would you say you receive individual requests from parents wanting more information on their child’s progress?

Has the frequency of parent-teacher conferences, face-to-face or over-the-phone changed?

Do you receive more or fewer email communications from parents?

Has the online grading system impacted the amount of requests you receive from your students’ parents? Please explain.

How has the online grading system impacted your relationship with your students’ parents?

How would you characterize your relationship with the majority of your students’ parents?

 

 

Effective Parent Involvement

 

What do you perceive are parents doing with the information they receive through the online grading system?

 

 


Appendix D

Consent Form

 

 

I, ____________________________, agree to take part in a research study titled, “Effect of an Online Grading System on Parent Involvement”, which is being conducted by Mrs. Julia Osteen, from the Instructional Technology Department at the University of Georgia (770-243-2285) under the direction of Dr. Michael Orey, Department of Instructional Technology, University of Georgia, (706-542-4028). I do not have to be in this study if I do not want to. I can stop taking part at any time without giving any reason, and without penalty. I can ask to have the information related to my responses returned to me, removed from the research records, or destroyed.

 

The reason for the study is to find out if an online grading system can provide the type of communication needed to encourage effective parental involvement.

 

• The research is not expected to cause any harm or discomfort. I can quit at any time. My child’s grade will not be affected if my I decide to stop taking part in the research.
• The study will be conducted for 9 weeks during the first half of the fall semester. Throughout the duration of the study I may be asked to complete a survey and/or participate in an interview.
• Any information collected about me will be held confidential unless otherwise required by law. My identity will be coded, and all data will be kept in a secured location.
• The researcher will answer any questions about the research, now or during the course of the project, and can be reached by telephone or by email.  I may also contact the professor supervising the research, Dr. Michael Orey, Instructional Technology Department, at (706) 542-4028.

 

Additional questions or problems regarding your rights as a research participant should be addressed to Chris A. Joseph, Ph.D. Human Subjects Office, University of Georgia, 612 Boyd Graduate Studies Research Center, Athens, Georgia 30602-7411; Telephone (706) 542-3199; E-Mail Address: IRB@uga.edu

 

I understand the study procedures described above. My questions have been answered to my satisfaction, and I agree to take part in this study. I have been given a copy of this form to keep.

 

__I DO give permission to you to reproduce responses that I may produce as part of surveys or questionnaires. No names will appear on any materials submitted by the teacher.

 

__I DO NOT give permission to reproduce responses that I may produce as part of surveys or questionnaires.

 

_________________________ _______________________ ______
Name of Researcher                            Signature                                          Date

Telephone : ________________ Email: _________________________

_________________________ _______________________ ______
Name of Participant                            Signature                                          Date

 

Please sign both copies, keep one and return one to the researcher.