Don’t get me wrong, I am all for communicating with families about how their child is doing at school, and how they can support their child at home in various subject areas. But I am also for effectiveness and efficiency, neither of which qualities the dreaded report card process, now currently taking over homes and families of public school teachers across Ontario, manifests!!!
Case in point: This morning, after 45 minutes working on my Language comments, I realised that somewhere along the way I had scrolled down not – as I had thought while doing it – in the comment box, but rather, down past the student whose comment I had been working on, and into the report card field of another student!!!
Later this evening, when I was working on crafting some “next steps” comments for a small group of students with similar learning profiles, I tried to cut and paste a base comment to start from, but the darned thing wouldn’t paste!
After 19 + hours already (unpaid labour, done at home after work, after my own kids are in bed; don’t get me started on “report writing day”, the “PD day” on which our entire board is released to write report cards – you can imagine the technological issues when all the Board’s teachers attempt to log into the system at the same time—and which we pay for in the end, because now there is no longer a PD day at the end of the year, and so elementary students are in school until the very end of June in our Board, being – let’s be honest – babysat for that last week while we scramble around to find creative ways to spell one another off internally so we can get OSRs signed, rooms packed and all the rest of the closing procedures that did not suddenly disappear when our end-of-year PD days did done before we get kicked out and the doors locked by the custodians who are eager to begin the mammoth summer clean out without kids and teachers in their hair!!!!!!) Sorry, where was I? Ah yes, after too many hours of “slogging” over the past several weeks, I am about halfway through my report cards.
I only have 21 students, but each one is so unique.
I want to ensure (and the Ministry demands) that each report card is individualized, and reflects the personal achievements of and goals for each student.
But we are bound to the curriculum for the language that forms the basis of our comments. And we have to use specific classroom examples to illustrate strengths and needs. And it all has to sound palatable – these are, after all, someone’s children!!!
And all this in little isolated boxes, even though we are encouraged to teach cross-curricularly and integrate our planning and instruction across curriculum areas.
The report card does not match philosophically or practically the direction of public education, nor does it reflect the current research on assessment.
To make matters worse, silly little technological issues are numerous – the system is not at all intuitive, and quite frankly, I find it a complete waste of time!!!
12 lines have I to tell you, dear parent, how your child is doing holistically in reading, writing, oral language and media, and to suggest next steps for improvement. And that’s only if your kid is “normal” – children whose learning needs are addressed on an IEP (“Individual Education Plan”, yet more paper) have only 9 lines, as the first three are taken up by a mandatory statement that appears in the Language section of the report card automatically when I click the “IEP” box for that subject.
Math, happily, has 14 lines. The Arts, of course, have far fewer. (Who cares about drama, dance, music or visual art, right?!)
It takes so long to complete report cards that by the time the sheets of paper arrive in a parent’s hands, the data is already weeks or months old. Furthermore, the process is so stressful that for the weeks preceding the deadline, classroom programs take a turn for the worse, and teachers are largely cranky with students and each other. (I heard two teachers who NEVER yell at their students just lose it on kids last week at my school – and I must confess, I was not a delightful teacher myself this past week; just ask my students!) Illness increases dramatically, prompted by stress and sleepless nights as teachers struggle to get the darned things done on time and still keep up with the unrealistic demands of the day-to-day job.
WHAT A STUPID SYSTEM!!!!
Here's an Idea:
Why not meet periodically with families throughout the year to have an in-person conference about how their child is doing at school? I would far rather spend a solid half hour with ALL my parents (I already spend far more than this communicating with some of the higher needs ones anyway) on a regular basis and/or have a phone call several times a year in addition to the monthly report/curriculum update I already send home, than spend innumerable hours spread over weeks of stress and frustration writing report cards that neither reflect the breadth and depth of a student’s learning nor communicate accurately the potential complexity of a child’s situation within the school system or specific classroom scenario.
Given the fact that I work in a school where many of my families struggle with English and/or literacy in general, and most of them either can’t or don’t read/understand the documents I have so painstakingly prepared for them, I suspect they would prefer an in-person meeting to a bunch of “useless paper”, too.
I’m all for accountability: Just like report cards, such meetings would ensure that we have our assessment data lined up, so that we can clearly articulate student progress and suggest practical next steps to families, with the aid of an interpreter, if needed. Even better, such in-person meetings would allow families to ask questions on the spot about specific concerns, and it would allow us and/or our students to share specific examples of work that demonstrates progress or difficulty.
Okay, back to the meaningless make-work project… about 8 more hours should do it…. I know I’ll be done, even if the report cards aren’t!!!