Are we prioritizing the tradition of a report card over student learning? 

This week, a scary thing happened. 

Many of the teachers at our school are looking at our assessment calendar and noticing that we are in a definite time crunch before teachers will need to submit their grades for the first trimester reports. 

Traditionally, our teachers have been asked to submit a grade for each student in all four of their subject’s MYP objectives by this reporting date. Needless to say, with a truncated schedule due to holidays and valuable time spent building relationships at the beginning of the year (more on this later), many teachers are feeling short on time. 

“We’ll just give them a quick test to get a grade”. 

“Can we throw in a reflection to get a grade?” 

“This project sounds good, but let’s be honest, we just need to get a grade”. 

“The kids aren’t ready, but we need to get those grades in”. 

These are a few of the things I have heard during collaborative planning sessions this week. Teachers are doing their very best to accommodate our reporting schedule, but perhaps unfairly or inauthentically assessing their students in the name of “getting a grade”. 

It gets worse. I had a concerning enough number of teachers share this thought with me over the past week:

“I know we are encouraged to get to know our students at the beginning of the year and build relationships, and philosophically I support that…but practically, it seems like a waste of time. I wish I had gotten right down to preparing students for assessments instead of getting to know them, because soon I’m going to need to get my grades in”. 

This is not a verbatim quote, but it certainly captures many discussions I have had recently. Building relationships with our students a waste of time? Yikes. 

I know that none of our teachers believe this. I know they are saying this in light of reporting deadlines that are demanding and have them rightfully stressed out, but it’s still concerning. 

So let’s take a big step back: 

In the 21st century, is there a need for any school to still offer a traditional report card? Most schools have a live, online reporting system for student assessment, and even if a school doesn’t, it is quite simple for a teacher to leverage a shared Google Doc that can be updated with feedback, grades and all sorts of quality information to parents, as it happens. We often talk about relevant and timely learning, what about relevant and timely reporting of learning? As a parent, when am I more interested to see feedback on my child’s learning – as the assessment is happening, or at a predetermined “report card” date that may be months down the road? Even further, do I want my child engaging in assessments that have been designed solely with “getting a grade” in mind? 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for all traditional reporting practices to be revamped. On the contrary, I think student-led conferences with parents and teachers are amongst the most wonderful conversations that we, as educators, can have with the families of the children we teach. My concern rests with the seemingly dichotomous relationship between traditional “report card” structures and assessment that is learner-focused. Let’s not put our students in a position where “getting a grade” becomes the driving force behind how they share their learning – not only is it inauthentic, it does not honour the natural process of learning, which often does not fit with a predetermined schedule. 

How does your school handle reporting grades? 

Are report cards obsolete? 

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