10 July 2007


It's hot here, campers. It's not as hot as the area where I grew up---where 110 degrees (Fahrenheit) was a common summer afternoon temperature. It's "only" 91 here at the moment...and it's expected that temps will rise tomorrow. I'm trying to keep a cool tool, as my Sweetie says, but I actually have a different sort of meltdown in mind at the moment.

Toward the end of the school year, I had a teacher melt down in front of me about a standards-based report card. Not the one in our district---this teacher was looking at it from a parent's perspective. The children in the family attend school in another area district which uses them...and this teacher was hopping mad. "I hate them! It doesn't tell me anything!"


I tried to ask some questions and find out what was missing. I truly wanted to know. Considering that we are implementing this type of reporting system in this district---ostensibly as a better communication tool with parents---what might not be working from a parent's perspective. Unfortunately, this teacher was so upset that there wasn't much of anything coherent to share. The idea of the standards-based report card touched that sort of nerve. The only thing I managed to get is that the parent was positive the daughter could do a certain kind of work, but there was a "1" on the report card for that area.

It wasn't the right situation to pursue this line of thinking, but I had to wonder what this teacher expected the daughter's teacher to do. I know the teacher is someone who often gives zeros to students for missing work...and setting aside the argument of whether or not zeros are appropriate...why would another teacher not be expected to do the same thing? If anything, the daughter's teacher was communicating that s/he hadn't seen the skill demonstrated...that they had no evidence. Maybe the kid could do it, as the parents attest, but how would the teacher know since the child didn't turn in her work (even when given an additional opportunity)?

I hope to continue this conversation at some point next year. I think it's worth pursuing...but I have to wait until this parent is no longer in a meltdown frame of mind.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

The principal of one of our elementary schools had me come in to do some (free) consultation with his 3-6th grade teachers because, although our elementary schools have a standards-based report card, many teachers still calculate their grades the way they always have, then "translate" them to fit the new report card.

He wanted me to acquaint them with the advantages of linking grades to standards combined with good classroom assessment, so he could make the report card valid and reliable for parents.

The "1" you are speaking of could have been arrived at the same way. If the teacher who awarded that "1" is still doing her grades the "old way" and transferring her benighted data to the new form, the parent is learning exactly nothing about her daughter's achievement levels.

We've learned that unless we can make the shift to grading for learning, the standards-based report card is just as worthless as the traditional report card was.

Hugh O'Donnell said...

I reread you second-to-the-last paragraph. It seems like there is an ambiguity that could be solved by a notation printed on the report card that "sufficient evidence was not presented" rather than a bold statement that the child hadn't an inkling of the knowledge or skill.

Those of us that are wrestling with these inconsistencies are serving a valuable purpose for future educators! ;-)