I have been pondering the concept of a new report card for some time, now. It seems a natural progression from Assessment for/of/as Learning and differentiation in the classroom to the reporting or sharing of that learning to the parents and students. There has been a lot of debate in our districts in British Columbia around the removal of letter grades in K-4 classes (which is just a small part of the discussion on report cards that is needed). I understand the reluctance to move away from a style of reporting that is already understood by parents and students, despite being a unrealistic reflection of the student learning. A “B” in math or 75% makes sense to a student or parent. They do not see this as a qualitative assessment of the student’s learning: a number must be quantitative, and a 75% must mean the student knows the concepts better than a student with 74%. There has been a myth perpetuated by educators for over 200 years that assessments are accurate and reflect precisely the content and conceptual knowledge a student has.
I remember starting out teaching, using a programme that calculated student percentages to the hundredths place. Did I really believe, back then, that I could accurately distinguish a student with 91.23% from a student with 91.24%? Either I was completely mad, naive, or ignorant on assessment practices. Although, now, I believe that assessment and reporting are two completely different parts to teaching. Assessment helps me inform my own teaching and the students’ learning, while reporting is the on-going communication to both students and parents (and administrators) around the successes, improvements and struggles a student might be having.
With all the discussion around 21st Century Learning, Personalised Learning and seeing where technology can improve student learning, the report cards (well, report papers) seem an historical document that has not kept up with the times. Percentages, canned comments do not accurately reflect a student’s growth and learning in a particular subject. The reports also do not show the outstanding extra curricular/volunteer activities/citizenship building that a student has done in the school.
To this end, I would like to see reports cards that show:
1. Where a student is in learning the curriculum (as in a standard based grading model, perhaps)
2. How a student can improve (specific, individualised comment….)
3. What type of behaviours the student has in class (work habits……)
4. The type of extra-curricular activities the student is doing (sports, theatre, arts, volunteering, etc)
I would hope that one day, this type of report would accurately reflect the students’ successes in school, areas of strength and weaknesses, and how the students are developing their citizenship and skills for life after school.
Just some thoughts, but some type of improvement in reporting would be amazing. A parent, student or other teacher should be able to look at the report as an opportunity to engage in the student learning.