Relieving Students or Stressing Them Out More: The New Genesis Policy

Seren Park, Staff Writer

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Starting this second semester, the Genesis grading portal will be unavailable on school days from 7:50 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. as a means to decrease the stress and anxiety associated with student grades. While students are able to sign into Genesis, when they attempt to look at their grades, there is a bolded statement that reads, “The Gradebook is not available at this time.” Although the reasoning behind the policy change is understandable, there has been a significant amount of dissent by students who feel that this is an unnecessary hindrance. 

The implementation of this policy change has been discussed by school personnel for over a year, since when it was first mentioned by the staff after similar policy changes in other schools. Another source of inspiration was Dr. Denise Pope, a Stanford professor, who was a guest speaker back in 2015 and talked about student stress levels and anxiety. Her lecture was also one of the reasons behind the block schedule, due to the idea that for mental health, not having eight classes every day is beneficial. According to the school, the policy change is designed specifically for mental health, so that students can relax and focus on what’s in front of them instead of checking the portal, which they can do at home. Blocking the grading portal during the school day is meant to be a small part in contributing to the social and emotional wellbeing of the students.

Mr. Morrison explained the reasoning behind it, saying, “As a district, all the schools in Tenafly contemplate how to lower anxiety. I am very lucky to have a superintendent and a board of education that are very much aware of the stress levels that our students face, especially at the high school level. Our goal is to lower student anxiety and stress levels while promoting student self-advocacy and the primacy of student-teacher communication. So, in layman’s terms, I’ve been hearing many stories about students being contacted by their parents about their grades at school before they have the chance to talk to their teachers and before they even get home. Certainly, communication between parents and students about school and grades is important, but 8:00 to 3:00 is the time for students to focus on what they’re learning in their classes. Students should be given the chance to look over tests that are given back and talk to their teachers alone before being questioned about their grades.”

Some of the students remain relatively neutral about the situation. Eunice Park (’21) said, “It doesn’t really apply to me since I don’t check grades that often, unless it’s for certain classes like AP Chemistry, but I know some people who check it very often and they hate the new policy. Everyone’s complaining about it.” 

However, many more are contentious in response to the new policy change. A recent poll by the class officers of the class of 2021 on the Facebook group that asked for opinions on the recent change in access to the portal showed that 93 people opposed it while 2 people supported it. These numbers seem to generally represent the entire student body, as an overwhelming majority dislikes the policy change. Brenda Kim (’21) stated, “It’s really dumb and I seriously don’t understand. We have to wait a full day to talk about any issues with our teachers, since we have to go home to see the grade and bring it up the next day. What can you do if you catch it near the end of the semester? It seems counterintuitive and there’s no logic to it. Students will be thinking about the grade for the entire day and if they go home and see their parents, they’ll be unprepared and it can escalate into a conflict.” Simply put, most students are not responding positively towards the change, as is expressed by Anusha De (’20) when she said, “I hate it, I hate it, I absolutely hate it. I can’t check my grades if the numbers are going up or down and I can’t talk to my teachers.” 

On the other hand, teachers prefer the new times to access Genesis. Mr. Whitehead said, “Often times, I have students or parents emailing me about a certain grade before I even hand the assignment back. It’s better now because the students look over their tests and see their mistakes.” Mr. Hegarty commented, “I’m in favor of it because there’s no need for students to look at their grades in school, and if they’re really curious, they can ask their teachers.”

Currently, there are some issues with Gradebook being disabled during the school day, especially at this point in the year, when the last grades of the semester are being inputted. For students whose grades suddenly drop and for those who need to make up assignments or tests, not being able to talk to their teachers can create misunderstandings and incorrect final grades. Regarding the complaint that the timing of the policy change is inconvenient, Mr. Morrison responded, “We decided to implement the policy the start of second semester because it is a natural point academically, as the grades for the first semester are finalized and the grades for second semester are beginning. I think right now we’re in an exceptional circumstance because grades are still being finalized, but it’s important to keep in mind that they’re never set in stone. Teachers can always write change in grade forms for their students if they realize they’ve made a mistake.”

There are also questions as to why blocking Parent Portal is not enough if the main reason is to allow students a chance to talk to their teachers before their parents see their grades. Jonathan Tenenbaum (’21) asked, “I think the intention to prevent the over-involvement and concern of parents unintentionally works to the detriment of students. However, why is the student portal blocked? It’s not like parents check the student portal. Students have the right to check their grades, and, be it inadvertently, the decision to disable Genesis prevents the ability of students to take the consideration of their studies or their own grades into their own hands.”

It is also important to remember that there are students in special circumstances who aren’t able to look at Gradebook until late at night, like those with many after school activities. Kira Baltaytis (’21) asserted, “For those of us with after-school commitments, we’re not on our phones again until 6 p.m. The stress of the unknown for that long is more stressful than knowing what grade you got.”

Despite the current negativity surrounding the change in access for the Genesis grading portal, Mr. Morrison requests that people wait for a period of adjustment before making any final conclusions about it. “With any change, there’s a period of adaptation, which is why I think the students aren’t very optimistic towards it. The easiest thing for us to do is nothing, but that’s negligence. The closing of Genesis is a small change that reflects the time, energy, and research that we put in to help the kids we’re entrusted to care for.” The new policy is, for the time being, a pilot program, and the school will seek the thoughts of students, staff, and parents after a marking period.