28 November 2009

Public School Fail

Report cards are supposed to show you how your child is developing and provide feedback on how to improve your childs' learning experience. This is done through grading (work, effort and test results) as well as evaluating each child's interpersonal and organizational skills. Some of this can be reported as a grade, but some things are less tangible and require written feedback in order to guide our children in their learning journey.

Yesterday, we received the first term report cards from our kids and I really have to question the Calgary Public School Boards' grading system:

Here's how it is supposed to work: The child is graded on his/her accomplishments and effort for each grade/class and the teacher is to comment on what the child has done right and what the child can improve on.

Here's how they do it: The child is graded, of course, but the teachers do not comment on the child, at least they don't use their own words... their comments are selected from a pre-approved list of comments.

Check out the highlighted areas (click to enlarge):
This is not a criticism of the teachers, it is a criticism of the system. And, I'm not knocking the entire public education system, just the practice of this type of written response reporting - we have had nothing but great teachers to date for all of our kids. So, this is not knocking teachers, unless they have a choice in the response, which I am assuming they don't. I'm sure that the database of programmed responses was devised with good intent: keeping comments politically correct, reassuring and positive. From a liability and risk standpoint alone this is a good idea. But these are our kids were talking about here, and we want actual feedback, not a selected response that is a near match to what they are thinking.

When the educators aren't allowed or choose to not string together their own sentence to evaluate their own students, it's downright offensive. If the system is to blame then the system needs to change and allow for teachers to do their jobs - feedback through reporting is a huge component of teaching and without it, you can't expect improvement or expect average students to achieve any level of advanced learning.

Now, if it's the teachers that are being lazy and operating in default mode, then pick another career... obviously you're not taking your job seriously and don't care much for your students' personal growth. I am hopeful however, that this particular teacher did this on purpose to expose this charade in reporting.

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