Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reporting on report cards

So Tuesday we were bombarded by a smorgasbord of reportage on report cards.
As best as I can tell from my siftings, the Globe and Mail kicked things off on Tuesday, even including a link to the Ministry of Education memo that hasn't been posted elsewhere in its usual locations. While dialoguing with Kelly Pedro in London, she mentioned she had touched on report-card reform at the end of November— however I did note in a Dec. 23 tweet she was working on report cards again.
Throughout the day Tuesday I noticed report cards as the topic of an Ontario Today phone-in on CBC Radio One as well as a number of localized stories from various sister papers— St. Catharines' stands out most prominently.
It got to the point — and showed the power of certain media outlets — that Minister Kathleen Wynne issued a special statement on the matter Tuesday afternoon. From the statement:
The fall Progress Report Card will facilitate better communication among parents, teachers and students by assessing students early in the school year in a new format. It will evaluate students in the same areas as the report card but instead of assigning a grade or mark, it will indicate how a student is progressing — very well, well or with difficulty.
Those who might look at this as a victory for teachers and their federations should perhaps take a step back and reevaluate.
The change eliminates a grading system, be it letters or percentages, from the fall report card. It doesn't eliminate the actual report. Parents should still receiving something, in writing, from their child's teacher with commentary on the child's progress to-date in the class. While I've never written a classroom report card, I've completed a number of written evaluations over years (Johnny is a great floater... he needs to remember to keep his belly up and his head back when on his back, and so on) and have always found the ones requiring original thought to be more time consuming and hence more meaningful than a system of plugging in grades and choosing from a range of pre-selected commentary. Good teachers should always be able to, virtually on the spot, provide an up-to-date verbal progress report on their student, and be able to back their statement up with written notes from evaluations.
This reportage and reaction also shows, I believe, the ever-present range of parental involvement. For those parents who monitor the children's work at school, keep up-to-date with what's being assigned, attend parent-teacher or meet-the-teacher events at the school, etc., a fall progress report — with or without grades — won't tell them much they weren't already aware of. It's the detached parents, the ones that sit back and react to the news their children are struggling in school, who will see a change.
But even then, this doesn't strike me as something that earth-shattering. That parent can still read the progress report, get angry and take away the Nintendo (I guess a Wii now, as opposed to the predecessor Commodore 64 in my day) until the next report card.


RetDir said...

I would agree that anecdotal reporting is more difficult to do than the current report card, so teachers will not likely be doing less work. However, ETFO will be able to claim victory to its members, and the track record of the gov't giving in to the unions in order to maintain peace at all costs will remain unblemished. ETFO may have shot itself in the foot in the last round of negotiations, but it has done very well since, so the damage doesn't seem to be severe (unless you are David Clegg).
I was intrigued by the attention paid in the G and M to student-led conferencing. That has been happening in some places for the past twenty years - I did it as a teacher, and there were schools in my previous board that used it extensively. Puts responsibility back where it belongs - on the students - for explaining how they are doing, and providing the evidence to prove it. However, it also requires a parent/caregiver who cares (and most do), which is the key variable in all cases.
Hope everyone enjoys a good holiday.

Anonymous said...

At a time when optics are everything, I have to say that while I don't have huge issues with this, it does appear that the ETFO are looking to do less, and less, and less. I wondered whether this and the move to nix the EQAO are simply payback to the Minister for the contract tussle? I can't put it past them. Sorry.

I actually think that the new idea beats those "canned" report cards that we started getting home. To parents those were a complete joke.

Perhaps the province's response via the nixing of fall report cards going to progress reports is speaking to the grandfather in Toronto who lobbied to get rid of the canned comments? Can we see this followed by the OSSTF?

Doing less but costing taxpayers more seems to be panning out as a theme for the ETFO. What with fewer students, a lightening of curriculum content and now the nixing of what some will say is a measure of skill development I have to wonder when the tipping point will come and the pendulum will swing the other way again...
and it always does.

Funny but the ETFO used to be seen as the more gentler and friendlier teacher union, with the OSSTF the more ruthless and demanding. Interesting profile flip!

Anonymous said...

Less work for more money is the union dream - more money for better results their nightmare...and when boards have had the ability to lock out or take a strike by the "peace at all cost" agenda, it would seem that the union dream is the reality....which will translate into huge support for the Liberals in the next election, since their other nightmare might be the Conservatives and their new 'Harris Lite' leader.