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Lost Opportunity?

July 14, 2011

Last week my son brought home his last report card for elementary school. Next year he moves on to the big leagues and enters middle school. I am  looking forward to the transition and so is he. While this transition may be the end of one phase of his education it is by no means the end of his education.

When he came home on his last day of elementary his report card accompanied him. Perhaps it is the year, perhaps it is the transition to middle school, perhaps it is something else but I really felt that this report card was a lost opportunity. Overall our son had a great report card and did well but there were some areas he could have improved on. There were parts of the report card which left me wanting to talk to the teacher to get more information. While the report was a summative assessment for the year it is certainly a formative assessment for my son’s learning. I wish I would have known some of the contents of this document earlier and I wish I could have talked to our son’s teachers. Now that the school year is over it seems that it is too late to engage in a dialogue about how we can help our son continue his learning through out the summer.

This leaves me wondering how to better engage parents prior to the end of the year so that these summative assessments become more formative and learning can continue over the summer. It seems to me that handing out a report card the last hour of school creates a missed opportunity to engage families in student learning.  Are there other options being practiced in schools which work better? Is there a role for technology in providing information? How can information be provided and protect privacy? Can information be provided in a way that is meaningful to students and not cumbersome to teachers? All great questions I will be considering for next year as I go back to the classroom.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2011 7:52 am

    I really like your point that even the report card at the end of the year is a formative assessment. As you point out, it helps inform you and your son to guide his future learning. I really hope we find a better way to share those reports and make them more useful in guiding future inquiry.

  2. July 14, 2011 7:59 am

    Hi Richard,

    I teach high school math in Alberta. We use “Power School”, a web-based marks program which students and parents can access at any time throughout the school year. As results of periodic summative evaluations are entered into this program, each student’s overall standing in the course is updated immediately. Checking in with this throughout the school year will alert parents to any “negative” results that may cause concern; these can then be addressed in a timely fashion. As far as results of a final exam go, that’s a different story I suppose.

    Earl

  3. July 14, 2011 8:00 am

    Richard, I agree. Report cards in many ways are flawed documents – how to encapsulate learning in a one page document? Difficult indeed. I barely read my my kids report cards, I just didn’t feel that it was telling me anything I didn’t already know. It is frustrating because I know the time and effort that was put into the document, not just by their teacher, but teachers all across our province.

  4. July 14, 2011 8:21 am

    Hi Richard,

    I teach high school math in Alberta. We use “Power School”, a web-based marks program which students and parents can access at any time throughout the school year. As results of periodic summative evaluations are entered into this program, each student’s overall standing in the course is updated immediately. Checking in with this throughout the school year will alert parents to any “negative” results that may cause concern; these can then be addressed in a timely fashion. As far as results of a final exam go, that’s a different story I suppose. The final exam can be interpreted as a review of all material that has already been subject to summative/formative evaluation in the form of quizzes/unit exams/projects that have already been administered. I never include material on a final exam that hasn’t already been evaluated on previously. As such, students will have had time and opportunity to address outstanding issues prior to that final exam.

    Earl

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