What is a ‘good’ report card? Is it one with a column full of ‘good’ letters? A bunch of “Well done!” comments?
In 1992, a master teacher asked me “How would I know I was doing really well in your class?” and I replied, “Well, you’d have a good grade.” She responded, “OK, what would that mean I could do?”.
Teachers continually ask themselves questions about assessment and evaluation. What information are we trying to find out? Although, many times, those looking at student results do not want to see anything other than a rank. After all, there is only one gold medal; however, are there not many gold medalists?
It is paramount that when looking at an assessment or evaluation you ask whether you are measuring students against one another, measuring students’ ability to do something, or measuring everyone’s capability to do something. Teachers don’t measure students against one another, although, unfortunately, it is done.
Each assignment, quiz, test, project, demonstration, performance and activity could be assessed or evaluated in many different ways depending on what information you are trying to obtain.
Take as an example, the driver’s test. The written portion tests whether you can remember signs and rules; the practical portion demonstrates whether you can operate a vehicle within safe and legal parameters. So, if you passed that set of standardized tests, are you a ‘good’ driver? If you were a passenger in a vehicle for many hours would you be able to tell whether the driver was ‘good’?
Assessment, evaluation and reporting are complex issues in education. To understand a mark you must know what was being counted. A ‘good’ report card may have letters and numbers on it, but we must know what they mean the student can do.
Teachers know that discussing student progress is incredibly important and we invite parents to get in touch.
We are, however, dumbfounded that the deputy minister of education has directed school districts to send home formal report cards even though they are, for the most part, blank. The Labour Relations Board has defined report cards as non-essential during our job action and the ministry has known this since August. Teachers want to discuss progress with students and parents. It seems that someone in government thinks the time and resources that will be wasted on blank report cards is worth it.
If I had received a blank report card when I was in high school, I believe I would have looked at it as an opportunity to self-assess my progress.
I suggest that you and your child talk about the blank report card, and if you or your child want to discuss their progress, please contact your teacher.
PS. If you are disappointed in the government’s decision to waste time and money on blank report cards, perhaps you should mail your child’s blank report to Minister George Abbott, free of charge, a right you have as a citizen.
Kevin Epp, president
Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union