What happens when teachers see the report cards as parents see them
“I have never seen one of these” remarked a teacher. “Me either” pipes in another. Murmurs of agreement ripple through the room. Our teachers are looking at sample report cards from elementary, middle, and high school that parents read regularly when similar papers arrive in their mailbox. Since I am both a teacher and a parent I am struck with this reality: teachers are engaging in practices of reporting without realizing, through no fault of their own, what the final product looks like. Then I realize that at my last school I never saw the report card that students were receiving! It is strange, isn't it?
The teachers pour over the samples with great interest identifying differences, inconsistencies, and confusing information. “This is really interesting” the theater teacher observes. Again, murmurs of agreement. She continues, “Imagine if you have a child in elementary, one in middle school, and one in high school. This would be so confusing because those reporting systems differ”. “Even if you had a first and third graders it would be confusing because even those reporting systems differ” adds a language teacher. Everyone ponders this fact and a few people utter that probably the report cards should be rewritten to be clearer and more consistent. A finger vote yields 100% agreement in giving our focus group the “go ahead” to rewrite the report cards. Their intensity and genuine interest is evidence, again, for me of how much these teachers care. They care about the students and they care about the parents.
Back in February we had actually received this very council from Ken O’Conner when we met with him during an ECIS conference on Assessment for Learning. We were deliberating the approach we would need to take to gradually move ourselves to a standards-based reporting system. “The first thing you need to do, “ he advised, “is to rewrite your report cards|. So, we now have 100% support from the staff to proceed with step #1.
We met this past week as a focus group to evaluate the changes necessary for the report cards. In addition to the overall look of the report card, we discussed the “citizenship” grade that teachers currently record at the end of each quarter. It is one grade that encompasses the idea of effort. Our first task was to better define this grade and break it down into the pieces that it represents. After researching and considering several report cards from other schools we came up with a list of ideas. We think that these four areas can adequately assess a student’s “Approaches to Learning”
- Works cooperatively
- Works independently
- Turns in completed assignments on time
- Comes on time and prepared to class
Each teacher would assess each student in each of these areas, determining whether the student consistently, often, sometimes, or rarely meets the expectations. The next step for us, as a focus group, is to write the descriptors for each area. Can you think of an additional area we might need to consider or a component of any descriptor that you think should be included?