November 2. January 24. April 4. These are days of the year where, as students, we feel a rush of emotions, from relief to indifference to anxiety.
At the end of every quarter of the school year, the SIS (Student Information System) gradebook is unavailable to students, as well as parents, for nine days.
SIS allows for students, and parents especially, to access students’ attendance records, academic performances, and course materials. All MS (middle school) and HS (high school) students’ parents receive weekly progress reports detailing class performance. However, around the end of the quarter, not only is the gradebook closed, but FCPS has stated that it will not send out these progress reports during the nine-day period.
During this nine-day period, teachers are expected to complete inputting grades for all assignments and exams, and come up with a final quarter grade for their students, or in some cases a final grade. This expectation results in teachers from over 40 middle, high, and secondary schools, logging in to SIS to fill in grades.
Many students wish to be updated regularly on how they are performing in classes, such that they will log in to SIS countless times throughout the week, sometimes even several times in a day. Teachers tend to take advantage of the nine-day period, as many of their graded assignments will be put in then with students anxiously waiting to see how they performed. With all these teachers and students logging in at one time during the end of a quarter, into one application, SIS would be victim to lag, as well as possible crashing.
“In the past, when FCPS didn’t block access to SIS at the end of the quarter, hordes of students-and less often, parents-would access SIS over and over, checking their records, and overburdening the system so that it was hard for teachers to get in and post grades. It wasn’t the worst experience in the world, but it could be kind of frustrating to have to wait to get access to SIS,” Mr. Sherwood Williams, an English teacher at Jefferson said.
FCPS closing the gradebook also ensures that students and parents do not send pestering emails to teachers regarding grades. Many teachers at Jefferson teach around five classes, each having an average of twenty-six kids. That’s 130 students’ parents who may end up emailing a teacher during one week.
While some teachers tend to get annoyed by pestering emails, Williams, believes that responding to these same emails is part of the job and he’s happy to respond to any he may receive.
“I do get a few requests for clarifications about grades—and I’m happy to clarify—or requests that I simply add points to the grade for a particular student—which I politely decline—but I don’t think that I get any more requests now that grades are “live” than I did before. In any case, I don’t object to those requests. They’re part of the job,” Williams said.
For Williams, the opening of the gradebook is a source of transparency, which Williams is wholeheartedly convinced, is a good thing.
“When I talk to colleagues from overseas, the teachers are shocked that students and parents in America would have 24/7 access to the gradebook, and shocked, too, that the school expects so many grades to be included in the system. Personally, I’ve gotten used to the American approach, and as a general rule, I think that transparency is a good thing,” Williams said.
Some students feel strongly, that the gradebook closing is detrimental towards their academic performance, while others find it to be a way to let loose at the end of a quarter.
“It can sometimes let me destress after everything that gets piled on at the end of the quarter, but in classes that don’t give students a break it tends to not matter,” sophomore Vikram Raghu said.
While for Raghu, the closing of the gradebook doesn’t affect his life too much, sophomore Kritika Jothishankar expresses a completely different opinion.
“When SIS closes, I end up stressing a ton about my grades. I want to reach out to my teachers about them, but it’s hard to because I don’t know what’s going on in SIS. In the past, a teacher made a mistake with one of my assignments and it was really tough trying to fix it because the quarter had ended by the time I could actually see my grades,” Jothishankar said.
The closing of the gradebook does in fact culminate differing opinions of the Jefferson community, but whether its a student, parent, or teacher, all are simply looking out for the academic performance of the students.