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School Loop enables helicopter parenting

By Talia Soglin

Photo credit: slideshare.net
Photo credit: slideshare.net

Parents today have an unprecedented amount of insight into their children’s lives. From GPS tracking devices on smartphones and cars to programs that log internet searches, parents today can track their kids’ every move in ways their parents could never dream of. Even beyond the use of technology, the rise of helicopter parenting has stirred up debates surrounding the legality of letting kids walk to and from school alone.

Helicopter parenting, or better yet for this day and age, drone parenting, is unquestionably king. Yet another feature of this phenomenon is School Loop, the online student gradebook used at AHS.

At Alameda High, it is necessary for students to use School Loop, and parents are strongly encouraged to create accounts as well. Both students and parents have access to assignments posted by teachers in addition to a breakdown of the students’ grades in each class, down to every individual assignment. Additionally, School Loop emails both students and parents a daily “Homework Email,” and while the email does list homework assignments, it also features the student’s grades prominently.

For students, School Loop has the potential to be a valuable resource, one that makes life easier and helps them take responsibility for their grades. There’s no excuse for not knowing that you’ve missed an assignment, for example, and therefore no reason to not seek help. Most teachers update grades fairly rapidly, and it can be helpful to receive this feedback when an assignment is still fresh in the mind. Grades are by and large not a surprise at the end of the quarter or semester, which helps reduce unnecessary stress.

However, School Loop can and does breed hyper-focus on grades among students. Even for students not particularly disposed to fixating on grades, the constant availability of information can be distracting and even stressful. The temptation to refresh School Loop in the hope of new information is similar to how we interact with social media — School Loop is a newsfeed in its own right. This effect, while at least partially mitigated by the positive aspects of School Loop, is only magnified by parental presence on the site.

While School Loop has both pros and cons for students, there is no true benefit to having parents on the site. The line of thinking used to support the daily class-by-class, assignment-by-assignment update is that by keeping close watch on their grades, students and parents can together ensure the best chance of the student’s academic success. By seeing their kids’ grades, parents can encourage them to seek help or even contact their kids’ teachers themselves.

This is a well intentioned claim — parents, of course, only want the best for their children. They may think that by keeping watch on School Loop, they are helping their kids be more responsible.

However, the assumption that parents must be dialed in at all times sometimes feels like it is based upon the inherent mistrust of kids, or perhaps on an unconscious fear that they don’t have what it takes to be successful on their own. Teenagers, especially older teenagers, are fully capable of taking responsibility for their schoolwork and should be expected to. And with School Loop, in addition to counselors, tutoring, and the many services offered by teachers themselves, students have a plethora of resources to take advantage of.

Furthermore, students should be expected to communicate with their parents about their grades. School Loop can be a roadblock to healthy conversation about grades between kids and parents, because parents are always in the loop — or at least always believe they are. Ironically, parents possess too much information to have productive conversations — School Loop makes it too easy for them to become involved long before they should. Parents do not need to know about every little bump or drop of their kids’ grades.  

The inability to let kids go — to let them take control over what is in reality only a portion of their lives — is indicative of a larger cultural inability to let kids fail. No, the school should not stop trying their hardest to help students graduate, and no, parents should not stop supporting their kids. However, both school, teachers, and parents should offer support, assistance, resources, and guidance (as they already do) — and then let students figure it out. School Loop is a resource for students, one which has great potential to teach them how to manage their life at school and beyond. The power of that resource is undermined if parents use the site as a hovering tool.

Unintentional though it may be, the school system seems to be placing more value on grades than on life skills. And in the end, grades should not suffer because parents don’t have 24/7 access to them. Students need to become capable of managing their classes without constant parental involvement, because in a few short years they will need to become capable of living away from their parents entirely.

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