Thursday, June 2, 2011

“Full academic surveillance”

CNN reports on some of the questions raised by the latest technological “advance” in education: the trend toward giving parents online access to their kids’ homework records and grades. “I post all my students’ responsibilities, their current and upcoming assignments, and timelines for every project they have,” said one teacher who won an award for her use of technology. “I also post messages detailing the status of homework, whether it’s missing, late, or incomplete.”

“Indeed,” the article asserts, “online programs have expanded to such a degree parents can now conduct full academic surveillance.”

It turns out, though, that not everybody wants “full academic surveillance.” One mother said:
I tell them flat out, I don’t do that. I don’t think it’s normal to be so involved. It creates an unhealthy relationship between parents and their kids. I think kids resent it. My job as a parent is to teach them how to do things on their own. I don’t want to be that kind of policeman in my house.
Unsurprisingly, the kids aren’t that fond of it, either:
One child complained on a discussion board, “Every single time a teacher entered a grade incorrectly, I had a missing assignment, or something else bringing my grade in a certain class down, it was hell at home. I began to stress more over my parents’ reaction to grades than the actual grades.”

Another student railed, “My mom now seems like the enemy.”
A psychologist interviewed for the article warned that “When parents exert too much control, children can become depressed and have increased levels of anxiety.”

But who cares, as long as their grades and test scores go up? No one assesses schools by how much anxiety and depression they cause. No funding hinges on those metrics. No school jobs are on the line. Nor does the law care whether the kids get any experience with being independent, or whether they become adults who hate learning, or whether they are immersed for thirteen years in authoritarian values. Under No Child Left Behind, education now has one and only one goal: get those scores up, and nothing else matters.

It’s a nice coincidence, though, that this “full academic surveillance” became possible at just the same time that it became fashionable again for the government to spy on its own citizens. No one can say we’re not preparing these students for life in the real world!

Related post here.


KD said...

In junior high, the ICCSD starts using such a system called PowerSchool.

I can relate to the concerns expressed in the article. When my older kid first started junior high I would check it often...more recently not so much.

I think schools struggle with how much information to provide parents. When my oldest child was in school for the first few years I found much of the information incredibly vague...or given to me in "eduspeak" terminology, which I didn't always understand. If a child is struggling, they should clearly articulate this to parents...which didn't happen with our oldest child.

I don't care if my kid always gets her reading log turned in(yes they still have them). I still want to know what the big picture is though, or if she suddenly starts declining in a certain subject.

In fall there is an event at the junior high where you meet all the teachers briefly, and they tell you about what they are teaching, contact information etc. They seemed much more willing to talk about what they would teach the kids. Coming away from that experience, combined with the PowerSchool, I did find it a little odd to be getting more information than ever before, when I had expected less.

StepfordTO said...

This post calls to mind Foucault's Discipline and Punish, the French title of which is Surveiller et Punir. The metaphor of the Panopticon seems especially apt. I think Foucault should be required reading in teacher's colleges. (I know, as if! But one can dream can't one?)

FedUpMom said...

Ugh. These programs are such an unbelievably bad idea.

Our public middle school brags about its program that allows parents to view all their kids' grades in real time, and I think: what problem is this supposed to solve? The kids aren't under enough pressure yet? Somebody allowed them a moment of privacy by mistake? They've found some little corner of their lives which isn't about performance and ranking? There's not enough unpleasantness between parents and kids at the end of the school day? What, exactly?

My older daughter's private school has a similar program, but I never log in. I've forgotten how, and I'm not interested in finding out. My husband has logged in a couple of times to top up her lunch account, but that's it.

Anonymous said...

I refuse to participate in the Power School program here in Iowa City, opting for the old-fashioned method of conversing with my child to find out how her classes are progressing.

Chris said...

Stephany -- I just realized that I never responded to your comment! I'm afraid you caught me just as I was going on a sanity-preserving internet holiday. But thanks for commenting. I feel the same way about Power School. This year they've even extended the program to elementary school kids, who don't even get any real grades -- for all those parents who keep a constant watch on their kids' standardized test scores, I guess.

Chris said...

KD -- Sorry to have neglected this comment until now. But please tell me that junior high students don't actually have to turn in "reading logs"!

FedUpMom has a great compilation of posts from across the blogosphere complaining about reading logs here.

KD said...

I'm not sure if it is the across the board policy, but I know that some teachers in seventh and eighth grade require reading logs.