December 13, 2017

Powerschool: a furtive stressor hides in our phones

Jacob Nangle ’18

Once again this year, questions on the usefulness of Powerschool have sparked discussions between students, parents, and teachers on the website and app.

 On a recent Sunday morning, my phone vibrated with a notification that my Spanish grade had ‘dropped’ a bit. My teacher must had entered my class participation grade. My heart began pounding as I tapped into the Powerschool app and saw the down arrow next to my new grade, which to my surprise, had dropped one letter grade.

. Powerschool is a major stressor in disguise, as obviously seen by its flawed system, which constantly changes term grades as smaller grades are entered and the way it pervades us through its mobile phone application. While not mandatory to have the app, the program helps you keep up with your grade.  I find Powerschool to be nerve-wracking, as it causes unnecessary anxiety and stress for students.

I cannot deny the benefits of Powerschool. After all, having a phone app that keeps track of all your grades is a convenient way to keep up with assignments and check in with teachers about your grade in their class.  Jared Wu ‘18 says that while he in general enjoys the benefits of Powerschool, it’s not to be checked constantly and instead should be checked daily.

According to 2013 Huffington Post blog post, former educator Chris Crouch cites grades as eliminating the true meaning of learning. When all students expect from school is a letter, there is no value in the curriculum. Students should value the skills they learn in the classroom and connect what is written on a white board to the real world. Crouch goes onto say that grades turn school into a high-pressure environment.

I concur with all of Crouch’s points and also want to point out that education does not equal competition. Apps like Powerschool can easily turn harmless bus ride chit-chat into a severe beating on one’s self esteem. We’ve all been there, a friend asks ‘what grade did you get’, and after hearing their response, you make your answer higher.

English teacher Ms. Caroline Prinn said she’s seen the effect that Powerschool push notifications have on her students. She remarked that getting notifications from the mobile phone app tends to make kids stressed and nervous about the process of getting grades, since they are updated so frequently.

PsychCentral published a study in one of their articles which came from University of Karolinska Institute and the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. The researchers discovered that adolescents with the lowest final grades (who were around sixteen) were three times more likely to commit suicide than those students who graduated with stellar marks.

This experiment, done within a Swedish school, sheds light onto the amount of pressure and emotional stress that grades put on us. Powerschool is an aid to student stress and therefore we have to question its role in our day to day life.   

My heart should not start racing because of one minor grade change. Students should not view school as a competition to see who gets out alive because education could not be further from that. The purpose of school and education is to learn how to learn, to acquire the necessary skills for the outside world, and to enlighten and excite young minds about the world around them.

Keep Powerschool? Sure. Just get rid of push notifications and make sure to give it a warning on the app store, for stress induced madness.

As for the school, I wonder if Powerschool is a must-have for our school. Do we really need to file everyone’s grades into a computerized database? I think just a red marker grade is enough to send anybody over the edge, yet alone constantly receiving those marks.

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