The Downsides to PowerSchool: Why having constant access to your grades can cause more harm than good

Hannah Wallace '25, Contributing Writer

Over the course of the day, it is often noticed the number of students checking their grades on their computers. Due to the easy access of online grading systems such as PowerSchool, it only takes the click of a button to view grades for every single assignment. At first thought this may appear to be a convenient, useful tool; however when looking further into it, these websites result in more harm than good.

In an article published in 2015 from Penn State University, the topic of grade obsession was deeply analyzed. The research shares that there is a desire for perfection in many student’s minds. And because of this desire, trying to aim for A’s in all classes forces a huge amount of stress and pressure onto one’s life. With an additional attempted balance of everyday activities, stress only builds, ultimately leading not only to present day unhealthy physical effects, but even psychological too.

While many students, including myself, recognize the negative impact grades take on our mental health, teachers pick up on it too.

WHS journalism teacher Kathy Stoker shares, “I have seen an increase in students’ anxiety and depression that definitely has a connection to constantly checking their grades on PowerSchool. And I have seen students check upwards of over 100 times a quarter, which is very unhealthy. I recently saw a study that suggested checking once every 3 weeks.”

As much as I want to say I am surprised that students check PowerSchool over 100 times a quarter, knowing my own actions does not leave me speechless. On a day to day basis I will check my grades multiple times, whether it is in hopes of seeing a new test score returned, or simply out of boredom. To think it is suggested to only do so once every 3 weeks would be a definite challenge, yet one with an impactful reward.

Mrs. Stoker builds off the above idea saying, “I believe PowerSchool is a symptom of a greater issue we have about focusing on a number versus the learning process.”

With a continuous emphasis on achieving the highest percentage on an assignment, the idea of actually learning something from the experience is slowly taken away. As Mrs. Stoker explains, there is a much larger issue around the system that is unfortunately continuing to take a toll on all students’ health.

Similarly, WHS psychologist Mrs. Glenn agrees that while PowerSchool is a helpful tool for educators and students, it continues to cause a sense of self worth connected to grades.

Mrs. Glenn states, “Grades are intended to be a data point to determine how well someone is learning or keeping up with a particular subject area, but when a person starts to only identify as “good or bad” based on the number or letter they receive, it can be extremely stressful.”

Personally, I can say that these feelings without a doubt occur in my life, and many other students’ too.

From a staff’s perspective, Mrs. Glenn additionally says, “It is easy to know when a student has checked PowerSchool either because they have alerts on their phone or their demeanor quickly changes (positive and negative) after noticing a grade has been inputted.”

A simple notification of a phone can determine the entire mood of the day. As unfortunate as this statement is, it is one that has been more commonly seen in everyday life. However, this does not mean there is no room for change.

Mrs. Glenn continues, “I believe that through social emotional learning and positive mental health skills, we can equip our students with the skills and strategies to see lower grades and feel prepared to manage their reactions and feelings in a balanced way.”

As a whole, grading systems in general lead to the mindset that a student’s life is dependent on a single score. While online tools like PowerSchool do not help this issue, the root of these problems travel much farther into society.

WHS freshman Emily Gray agrees with this statement, “Assignments and quizzes will eventually become grades in PowerSchool too, so it almost always feels as though I’m thinking about my grades all the time during the day even when I’m learning in class.”

As mental health awareness continues to rise, it is important that society acknowledges that grade targeted anxiety is on the rise as well. It is clear to me that these feelings are present in my life, and I am well aware of my classmates who feel the same way. When asked about the emotions triggered by receiving a bad grade, Gray only emphasized the worse she felt. On behalf of all students, I think most can concur.

A similar thought process to Gray’s can be seen in so many, as she says, “Throughout the day all I can think about is how that grade will affect my average grade and how I shouldn’t have gotten those specific questions wrong.”

To constantly have thoughts like this running through your mind, how is it that school can be a place viewed to grow?

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