Returning to an Intermediate classroom this year has brought many interesting challenges and opportunities, and as assessment is always a hot topic amongst parents and teachers alike, I thought I'd share some practical resources and information on the eve of report card writing season this term.
One change in reporting as students move from Grade 6 to Grade 7 in Ontario is the move from Levels 1-4 (or letter grades D-A) to percentages. To complicate matters further, the ministry and Board have developed "anchor marks" in an attempt to align good assessment practice and the reality of reporting. (The research -- see paragraph on Feedback and Grading near the bottom -- shows that holistic assessment grounded in descriptive feedback is a far more effective way to move student thinking forward than marks on a page, and yet, teachers are required to plug in marks on a report card that compartmentalizes learning and academic skills. So we are asked to still assess holistically and provide descriptive feedback, but then have the challenge of turning our proverbial gold into straw three times a year in order to fulfil the requirements of an archaic reporting system!)
Anyway, even for those who never got more holistic, and continued to happily plod along with an endless parade of paper and pencil tasks they could "grade" and then average out into a neat and tidy percentage... GONE are the days of 99% -- each "level" or letter grade now translates to a specific percentage (for example, an A- is equivalent to an 84%, according to the anchor marks, and a good, solid B, or Level 3, is noted as 75% on the report card).
But for those teachers who have been reading and implementing the research, and have been recording anecdotals and/or more holistic marks, how do we translate these comments and levels into the required percents for reporting purposes? And for families reading the number on the page next to each subject level, what does that number really MEAN?
I am hopeful that the one-page chart below will be helpful to both parents and teachers alike: Colleagues, print it off and post it next to your computer or stick it in your marks binder. Families, post it on your fridge or somewhere near where your child does her homework each night. Learn the language, so that you can understand that a 68% means your child's work demonstrates adequate but inconsistent skills for that grade level expectation, but that she is moving towards provincial standard, or Level 3. Know that comments like "solves problems with considerable accuracy" means level 3, or 75%, and that "communicates with a high degree of clarity and precision" means Level 4, or 91%, depending on how much clarity and with what consistency it's happening.
(Got an issue with downloading the doc above? It's here, to the right, too, in editable WORD format.)
Regardless of when marks are plugged into a program or when a 4-page report is printed and the time elapsed before it is signed by the office and sent home, it's the RELATIONSHIPS between you and your child, and between your child and her teacher, and between your family and the school that are going to be major influencers on the level of personal and academic success she experiences. So after a reasonable amount of time and attention spent on the report card, put the sucker away, and go read a book or do a fun math challenge or go to a show with your kids. And then take a few minutes to thank your child's teacher for his time and efforts with your most precious commodity.
That goes for you, too, teachers -- no matter how many hours you spend on these novellas, they are going to be imperfect literary works picked apart by your colleagues, supervisors and families. Let it go and presume positive intentions. And then go take a nap or walk or go out for dinner with someone you love.
Happy Report Card Writing Season, Y'all!