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Throw it out October 4, 2009

Filed under: Year One — Ms.M @ 10:12 am

I’ve written before about the tricky double-edged sword that is school progress reports, and I still struggle with their usefulness. On the one hand they are a  great way for parents to stay informed about student progress, at least in a limited way. You can argue that the uber-scheduled family just doesn’t have the time or energy to stay up to date on how their child is doing in school or what they are actually learning about on a weekly basis. On the other hand, if it takes a sheet of paper with a list of grades to inform a parent that their child is already close to failing in the first month of the school year, than who has dropped the ball: the student, the teacher, the parent?

The focus is also too strongly placed on student grades rather than on what a child has gained or not gained from their journey thus far in 6th grade. A student could walk home with a list of A grades having learned close to nothing. The parent is informed about little more than the fact that their child has handed/or not handed in valid work, that he/she has participated (or not participated) in some designated way in classes, and that he/she has either passed or failed tests, quizzes, projects, or written assessments.

My struggle with progress reports is this focus. The information it provides is so limited that it is almost useless, and yet I know there are parents who will take it very seriously. I cringe to think of any student who will come home with B’s and C’s, if not lower grades, on their progress reports only to be haggled by parents about their lack of effort, or lectured about what privileges will be removed until they can raise their standing.

When did “progress” ever start at the top?  When did learning ever come without mistakes and uncertainties?

I encourage parents to use progress reports as the roughest of guides: if their child is failing they should of course find out why (if they haven’t already), but otherwise they should set it aside, throw it out even. The greatest indicator of a child’s progress won’t be found there. They will undoubtedly gain more from a few solid conversations with their child about what they are learning, what they’re having trouble with–academically or socially, and what they wish they could learn more about or do this year in any or all of their subjects.

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3 Responses to “Throw it out”

  1. Heh, you could do what Keith did. “I’m just gonna give you all A’s because these grades mean NOTHING and make ZERO difference to how your final grades will turn out. If the school wants me to give you something, I will.”

    But that of course was college. 6th grade is probably a little stricter about grades 😉

  2. Ms.M Says:

    I don’t even think that would be helpful, I wish I could give them all an “incomplete” which is where all of them are right now. Their learning is incomplete…

    Grades are a big deal for parents in 6th grade…this is the first year their kids are getting letter grades in each subject area. I don’t necessarily blame them, this is the mentality/culture around school. Successful school learning=high grades=honors classes/high grades=selective college admission/high grades.

    Until that changes there will always be progress reports that are a list of grades.

  3. GirlWednesday Says:

    Yeah, it’s sad that people see letters as evidence of learning and retention. Too bad you can’t be a radical and just give ’em all INC.

    But really? First time for letter grades in your town is 6th grade? I think we started around 3rd or 4th…but I don’t know for sure…


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