Tuesday, June 28, 2005
WHAT WE WANT: PLAIN AND SIMPLE REPORT CARDS
There’s a virus going around that makes educators pop out in hives when they even think about evaluating children’s academic progress on traditional report cards. Imagine that: and you thought assessment was a basic task of K-12 education!
But nooooooo. It’s not Politically Correct to evaluate and compare students any more, and so we have the Warm, Fuzzy Report Card. You learn that your child is “growing” in math class – but if that’s “code” for “growing so far behind his peers he needs remedial help this summer, bigtime,” you’d never know it. Instead, you’re supposed to bust your buttons that your child is “growing.” Ahem.
If that’s the kind of report card your child received this past semester, it’s time to photocopy a report card from your childhood – with the letter grades, plain and simple -- and photocopy what your child received – they’re often wordy, hard to understand, full of educational jargon, and as subjective as can be – and mail these to school officials and your elected school board, asking for what we want:
It’s as easy as ABCDF – we want plain and simple report cards!
Grading Report Cards
Q. I don’t like these new report cards with smiley faces and cheerful little messages that my child is “growing” in a certain subject. I want letter grades! Why have schools abandoned the clear communication of A-B-C-D-F?
Educators have veered away from simple, objective report cards because they want the focus to be on the process of learning, rather than the classic purpose of grades: evaluation of the child’s academic progress. Schools’ focus now is on how the child fits in to the small group of his or her peers, rather than how the child compares to the schoolwork being done by large numbers of other children nationwide.
The focus in K-12 education has been taken off demonstrated knowledge and performance, per se, and put more onto the child’s attitude and behavior. That’s why you’re seeing cheesy little sayings, like “Junior works well with others,” or “Mimi really liked the photosynthesis project,” rather than straightforward communication about how well your child is doing on tests, assignments and homework.
This doesn’t set too well with most parents, who recognize that there is great value and accountability in a traditional, honest report card. A lot of good can come out of the shakeup of receiving a bad grade.
The truth: parents need it, the child needs it, and even the educators need it.
Among other things, letter grades tell the teacher that there is such a thing as good and bad performance. They also signify that there is an established academic standard expectation, and that part of a teacher’s job is assessing where the child stands in relation to that standard.
According to educators in Britain, where letter grades were abandoned long ago, school reports have now become something of a nightmare for teachers, who spend ages writing them and choosing which stock platitude seems most apt. This kind of report tells parents nothing, and tells kids that they can do anything they want, and it doesn't much matter.
Especially in the early grades, parents want to know how well their child is performing against the set, established and objective standard. One parent put it this way: “Can my child perform a particular set of mathematics calculations in a given time, can my child write a coherent paragraph using proper grammar and conventions, can my child read a particular passage and then be able to answer a given set of questions relating to that passage?”
Parents have a right to know those answers, and schools have a duty to give them to them.
Homework: Write letters to school officials and your elected school board, asking for a return to traditional letter-grade report cards.
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