In a new feature segment, “What If,” senior Editor-in-Chief Grace Scheidler theorizes the possible implications certain situations or circumstances could have on Lake Forest High School students.
I’ll be the first to admit that PowerSchool is somewhat of an addiction for me. It’s bookmarked on my computer browser as well as on my phone, and I get the push notifications from the app I have, too. Finals week is characterized by frantic app refreshing as much as binge studying. It enables helicopter parents to micromanage students’ grades assignment by assignment, and for anxiety-ridden students it only increases stress levels by essentially allowing them to watch their grades progress in real time. And that’s only from a student’s point of view–from a teacher’s perspective, it creates an incentive for “grade grubbing”, the panicked emails sent by students asking to round their grades up a few tenths of a percent. For many current students, PowerSchool has been a reality since junior high at the latest, but it wasn’t always this way.
Teachers seem to think without PowerSchool, students would be less inclined to beg for last-minute grade adjustments. In the days before the online grade tracker, if a student wanted to know their grade in a class, they would have to ask their teacher–in person–to look up their grade in a physical, paper grade book. As students wouldn’t be able to hide behind their Gmail accounts, they’d be forced to take more responsibility for their grades and decide whether or not the grade bump was worth having to speak to their teacher in person.
Beyond just habitual app-refreshing, PowerSchool enables a mentality of unhealthy perfectionism and gives new meaning to the phrase “sweating the details”. After all, if you’re willing to go to war with a teacher over email about a 3-point assignment you may or may not have turned in, and the teacher may or may not remember, odds are you need a perspective check. By allowing you to craft your Chem grade down to tenths of a percent, and keep tabs on each assignment should you so choose, it almost gives too much information. In this case, ignorance might be bliss. If you’re able to calculate the difference getting a ⅗ on a completion assignment has on your overall grade, that can’t be good for your mental health in the long run.
As if the anxiety it generates isn’t damaging enough to the psyche of the average student, having 24/7 access to grades also changes the underlying mentality at school. Rather than focusing on learning and comprehending the material, students are points-driven and are willing to skate-by on completion grades and mediocre tests because even if they don’t have a handle on the material, the points will buoy their grades to a satisfactory level. Being able to see every grade in the book gives students less reason to care, and less motivation to try. In a student’s mind, the only days they have to show up are test days, and can tune out anything that won’t end up in the grade book.
All in all, it may seem like just an app, a useful tool to keep track of assignments, but it seems to have fundamentally altered the way we as students look at school.