It was great to see my former superintendent on the evening news last night although the content might lead you to believe that it was a slow news day.
The standard message, as long as I can remember, has always been that there should be no surprises on report cards. Parents are encouraged to be in contact with teachers early and often if there are difficulties. Similarly, we as teachers, were always told to make that early contact should we think there are or will be problems.
The last report card of the year is always sort of a strange beast. Unlike reports issued earlier in the year, this really is a summary of a year’s efforts and in many cases the last academic contact as a student moves on to a new grade and teacher and the teacher may have changes in their assignment for the fall.
Lest you think that report card season is just another day in the life, turn to social media to read reports about all of the effort that goes into the preparation of these things by teachers. Plus, they need to be done well in advance of the end of the year so that they may be proofread by the administration of the school before being sent home.
Clara’s message is so important and true. Teachers agonize over the creation of the reports and do their absolute best in the comment area to complete the picture partially painted by the grade assigned.
It sure brings back memories of report card support for this former computer consultant. It was a superintendent before Clara who thought that it would be a good idea to get in early on pilots from the Ministry of the Electronic Report Card. As a system, we’d had pretty good success with the Curriculum Planner so I guess we were up for another success! We still meet up for a coffee every now and again and have a good laugh at the challenges this created for us and the system.
My life became consumed with the implementation of this thing. It didn’t go easily for a number of reasons…
- not every teacher had a home computer at the time so often it was the school computer – locked down with data stored on a file server – that was the primary tool
- not every teacher initially had the set of tools necessary at the time to know about these storage locations, the need to import and export data to move to a new computer to complete or submit their efforts
- even those who had home computers might not have had the horse power or reliability to be successful there despite the promises. Plus, the media had to be found at school and then brought home for installation
- Macintosh at home, Windows at school, what could go wrong?
Mental Note: Arial ≠ Helvetica ≠ Arial
- does anyone remember diskettes?! enough said
- well, maybe not quite enough, the really brave would try to work “from diskette” rather than from the fileserver. Again, what could go wrong?
- the program itself wasn’t always reliable – crashes were common
- support was great – you could call Doug at work anytime and at home too – he had no life. Actually, it was my kids who lost their social life with the home phone being tied up all the time. (I even know when it’s report card these days with email and more phone calls!)
- workshops (and there were many) actually went very well because there was only one class to work with – not real life, for example, where the music teacher had to exchange information with the home room teacher
- I had to earn credibility too! After all, I had a secondary school background where we “just entered a grade and picked a comment from 1-10” (Hah!)
And there were probably more things too if I put my mind to remembering them. When all was said and done, the CAITs and I got a system through the pilot and then the formal implementation. A knowledge bank of common tasks turned out to be so helpful.
Once we felt like we’d been successful, we turned to other areas! Early Years’ Report Card (we wrote our own) and then a electronic commercial product for secondary schools.
But, throw all this aside, and lets go back to the comments. The report card had the ability to use comment banks which sounded really appealing at first. The reality was that each teacher was very professional and wanted to live up to the promise of truly personalized comments for students and mostly ignored that feature. This was done despite many not having keyboarding expertise and frequent crashes of the program.
So, I concur completely with Clara’s comments about teachers’ comments being “rich and valuable”. It was always my experience that they were all that. Everyone knows that there is so much work in making report cards a success. In the beginning, success was achieved just by getting them done. (Some ended up being handwritten to make that happen) Now, success is better defined by the communication tool that the report card was always supposed to be. Parents should be encouraged all the time to view it that way.
These days, the actual software has changed and matured from those early days. But that’s just the tool. Teacher use has become more sophisticated and accurate in reporting. By itself, that’s the biggest win.