Report Card Translation, Please!

Apr 02

It’s report card time again.¬† Unfortunately, I’ve come to dread reading my boys’ reports as much¬†as the mutual fund statements¬†I get from the bank.¬† It’s not the marks that are the problem.¬† It’s the commentary.¬† I could spend thirty minutes¬†reading every sentence provided by the teacher along the right column of the page, but I’d be no further ahead in understanding what exactly my son needs to do to earn a higher mark.¬†

That’s why I keep it simple.¬† In five minutes I can review his marks and determine if he deserves accolades or a lecture.¬† Did he get A’s or B’s (and better not be C’s.)¬† Did his marks go up or down?¬† I can easily determine how well he has behaved in class by reviewing the bottom one-quarter of the report that lists his progress in Learning Skills (Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, or Needs Improvement.)¬†

No comments are necessary.¬† That’s not to say I wouldn’t appreciate knowing more specifics about why¬†one son¬†went down in Social Studies¬†and another went down in Science and Technology, but the comments listed provide no such indication.¬†

Here are examples of what was provided on my kids’ report cards:

“He investigates mechanisms that include simple machines and enable movement with considerable accuracy.¬† He should continue to assess the impact of simple machines and mechanisms, on people and the world around them.”¬† — Okay.¬† I’ll get right on that!

Other comments border on comical, such as this one on Physical Education:

“He is encouraged to practise jumping and landing safely, using takeoff combinations of one or two feet.”¬† — Perhaps I should have him jump off his bed more often?

That report card listed 51 lines of similar comments.  Besides the fact that they about are as reader-friendly as a manual on how to assemble a cell phone with one hand, they are typed in a miniscule font size.  It makes one wonder whether the school boards even believe we bother to read them. 

I realize teachers spend copious hours doing¬†students’ report cards and are, themselves, shackled by the Ontario boards’ guidelines.¬† They have little flexibility and, I believe, are truly doing their best.¬† Lamented one teacher recently on¬†the comments:

We MUST print them this way in our board. They will never get signed by the principal if they are done without the ministry expectations. We are told year after year. DON’T MAKE THEM PERSONAL. USE THE MINISTRY EXPECTATIONS. We slave over those comments, which I agree, make absolutely no sense to someone who isn’t familiar with outcomes. All teachers know that parents look at 2 things on reports which are, the actual grades and the learning skills comments at the bottom. That’s the way reports should be. Grades and then a small blurb about how they are doing. There is a high rate of teacher absences surrounding every reporting period. Why? Teachers get really stressed about these reports, get sick and end up off work. Make them manageable and you’ll see teachers at school during reporting periods. Come on ministry.

There is hope in sight for baffled parents.¬† Globe and Mail reported recently that the Ontario Ministry of Education plans to allow teachers the option of writing their own comments¬†or continuing to use the prefabricated ones provided.¬† The question remains, however, as to how much liberty teachers will¬†be given¬†in their wording selection?¬† If they will continue to be forced to write specific examples of academic achievement, such as how high one needs to jump in phys.ed., it seems quite plausible that teachers will likely continue to do what’s easier – slot in a ready-made comment.

But if teachers are given a fair amount of autonomy, then parents may find reading report cards a lot more enjoyable and informative.¬† Somehow, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

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One comment

  1. Kelly /

    Excellent post Danielle and I completely agree-but is there anything worse than the kindergarten reports? I think not…I barely even read them this year…I did however zip down to the comments and get instantly offended by the only comment that was clear- ‘Your daughter should be encouraged to be more considerate of others!!!’ WTF?????
    She’s five years old and the youngest of five children, if she’s any more considerate she may never eat again..in our house its every man for himself…
    Its truly the only comment that I am deliberating about responding to..

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