PowerSchool Makes Students Feel Powerless


Zoe Arntsen

PowerSchool notifications can cause students extreme and unnecessary stress.

Nason Jones, Staff Writer


A notification lights up the phone of many students and it reads:

“Your Language Arts grade is now F.”

Stress engulfs the mind. Rushing thoughts flood the mind about previous work, previous assignments that might have been missed, or teachers that might have lost work. Focus is gone. Sleep won’t come easy tonight.

Three minutes later, after nonstop stress and panic, the grade changes back to what it was before. A sigh of relief, but then it happens again later that evening for a different class, or a mistake happens, and those same emotions return.

That stress is something that we as students face collectively on a day-to-day basis and it is something that for many students can turn into anxiety, which isn’t healthy for students.

PowerSchool is helpful for students, parents, and teachers to be able to keep grades updated. But students now have an issue where they are constantly bombarded with notifications and a fear of what each notification reveals. These notifications are often connected to an absence, one mistake from a teacher entering a grade incorrectly, or something else that can’t be controlled by a student.

But the stress is real.

I have felt the pressure that comes each time my phone notifies me of a grade drop. Most of the time, these drops are because assignments are auto set the grade to an F until the grade has been entered, or it gives a notification that I did poorly on the assignment. From that moment until I can ask my teacher about the grade, I am in a panic. More often than not, it was due to just a simple mistake or the system updating. This happening to me created constant stress, which made it so I could not focus on things that I enjoyed as easily.

Highland student Elaine Mork confesses to feeling stress from PowerSchool constantly, “especially if teacher has put in like zeros for assignments that you haven’t done yet and the class hasn’t done yet,” Mork said.

This constant stress that students face is something that students do not know how to handle. Highland needs to help students understand how to better handle stress, and students need to stop giving themselves reasons to panic. Turning off notifications might be a way to do this, but this only creates more reasons to stress when students worry they are not being notified of problems.

In other words, this stress is not going away. Teachers should be trained to better helps students learn how to process stress and better use it as a motivator. Otherwise, these stresses constantly happening  could result in effects such as chronic stress.

Yale Medicine defines chronic stress as, “A consistent sense of feeling pressured and overwhelmed over a long period of time.” This could fit many students’ emotions with the stresses of school and the power that the app has over students. Students want good grades and many if not all want to be successful in school. PowerSchool notifications doesn’t help in these situations.

“The issue is when your mind you feel like you have lost control,” Highland language arts and psychology teacher Ted Sierer said.

The fact is that stress affects students’ performances in school, as reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, shows that stress has an important role in everyday cognition, including learning.

The study concluded: “Cognition means reception and perception of perceived stimuli and its interpretation, which includes learning, decision making, attention, and judgment. The net effect of stress on cognition is a reduction in cognition and thus, it is said that any behavioral steps undertaken to reduce stress leads to increase in cognition.”

The brain’s ability to learn is affected by stress. If students are stressed, from the app or other factors, their ability to learn is compromised.

“If you’re constantly being notified that things are going wrong,” Sierer said. “It’s easy to slip into that mindset that I’m losing control.”

PowerSchool simply needs let the students be able to change the notifications and the school should be able to auto default what the notifications can be for those students who have the notifications set. Under PowerSchool, there are two options under notification settings — either turn off the notifications or receive them every time a grade is changed. There is no ability to change notifications to the end of the week or at a certain time of the day.

The wellbeing of a student’s mental state should be something that should be focused on more. And it just simply requires the ability for the app to give more options, and for the school to take it as a moment of learning so that students who do face these stresses from grades can focus more on class and learning.