Transparency in Assessment through Web-Based Communication
Public and private schools are adopting new technological software to manage student information in a web-based format. These programs have the capability to provide students and parents with on-line access to grades and higher quality assessment information with the hope that students take information about their grades and use it formatively to improve in the classroom. Teachers, however, have historically kept their grade books private and increasing transparency into grading represents a major change in teachers' communication of student achievement. This qualitative case study examines the impact of increasing transparency in assessment by providing parents and students access to web-based grading information on teachers' perceptions of the quality and effectiveness of communication with parents and students, teachers' perceptions of student motivation, teachers' application of the program, and teachers' perceptions of their communication with each other. Seven teachers participated in this research study over the course of one semester at a large, suburban New England high school. The data from this study showed that increasing transparency in assessment to students and parents resulted in changes in the nature and substance of communication between teachers, parents and students. Teachers reported changing their use of the program over the course of the semester in order to provide greater clarity of assessment data to students and parents and, as a result, students were able to use it formatively to improve student learning. Teachers reported that the greatest impact of this program was in improved communication with students leading to increased student effort and a sense of student ownership over grades. Teachers also felt that increasing transparency in assessment influenced communication and collaboration among teachers. The findings of this research study provide implications for educational practice, policy, future research and leadership.