Report Cards of the past.

IMG_1970Report cards are due to the office next week, and I’ve been inputting marks and comments like a mad-lady. When I was home for my dad’s birthday party, my sister and I were going through some old pictures and came across his old report cards from elementary school. I both laughed and cried.

Let us first start with the noticeable differences between then and now. The 60s report cards were actual report “cards”. One piece of card stock folded in half kept for all 3 terms. Some marks for penmanship and arithmetic and spelling and a couple of handwritten generic comments. The 2013 Ontario Report Card is 4 pages long each term. The front page is school information, Religion* and Learning Skills marks and comments. Page two is Language (English and French, and Native Language if applicable), Math and Science marks and comments. Page 3 is Social Studies, Phys Ed, Health and the Arts (Drama, Dance, Visual, Music) and student goal-setting. Page 4 is grading information and parent goal-setting. All of that writing and I still feel bad that I left spaces in some comment boxes. We get the report cards sent back to us if they aren’t done “properly”, they need to be personalized and have to include strengths and next steps for the students. There are check boxes for immersion and IEPs, and guidelines as to how many strands you have to report on each term.  You also can’t give less than a D or you get red-flagged by the computer system. You are supposed to comment on what they can do and what they’ve completed, so if a student rarely completes assignments, that can’t really be “counted” against them. If they slack off in math, or don’t put in any effort, you are supposed to comment on that in the Learning Skills section, not the Math section. Heck, there is a whole policy document about how to write them.

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Can you imagine writing reports cards like my dad’s teachers? One small card for all three terms with a sentence or two handwritten general comments? One even says “completed to 18.” What does that even mean?  Seriously, that sort of  report card writing would take no time at all. Talk about stress-free! I wonder if the principals even had to proof-read them? Likely not. One of the report cards we found of my dad’s had a comment that wasn’t at all related to school, it talked about how my dad had terrible taste in hockey teams. What?!

Here are two quotes that were typed on the front of many of the old report cards we found that I liked…

“Our schools are endeavouring to provide an environment where your child may grow naturally in intellect, in social co-operation and in moral responsibility. Parents help by ensuring for the child proper rest, well-balanced diet, prompt and regular attendance at school. Feel free to contact the school on any problem concerning your child’s progress. Calls at 8:45 am or during noon hour disturb the school routine at least. Appointments can be conveniently arranged.”

All children have not the same ability to learn in school. Comparison of reports, therefore, is apt to be unreliable and unfair. The school exacts the same standards of obedience, honesty, cleanliness, application to studies, interest, regularity and punctuality that should be practiced by all citizens as they form the basis of a happy family life at home or school.”

I am not complaining about writing report cards, I’ve become quite efficient, and I nerdily love the curriculum that we get to teach and report upon (so pumped about the new immersion document!). I also appreciate the PD day we are given to write them (well, to at least get a crack at them). These report cards are definitely more packed with details than those of the past, but are they really helpful to parents?

I spend a lot of time deciphering comments on report cards during interviews. For example, a comment reading “With teacher assistance, Benny can add 3-digit numbers with some effectiveness.” really means, “Benny can’t add very well.” – but doesn’t it sound nicer? I also spend a lot of time explaining that a B actually means “meeting grade-level expectations” and is more similar to an A of the past, and a C isn’t the end of the world, it just means that they haven’t solidified the expectation, but they are progressing.

I also wonder how many parents read all of the words that teachers spend hours typing up in “parent-friendly language” (whatever that is supposed to mean) or do they just look at the letter grade? Also, if parents don’t know what the curriculum says in the first place, then they won’t realize that “Shan writes very simple texts using one or two forms. She generates some clear ideas with supporting details and is beginning to use paragraphs in her writing.” is not at grade 5 level, and is much lower than the grade 5 expectations his/her peers are reaching, which are “Penny writes longer and more complex texts using a variety of forms. She identifies and orders main ideas and supporting details and groups them into several developed linked paragraphs. She determines whether her ideas and information are relevant, appropriate, and adequate for her purpose, and does more research if necessary.”

Does anyone care to guess how many page 4s I get back from parents?

On that note, I need to go finish writing my Learning Skills (which in my opinion, are the most important part of the Report Card.)