For those of you who read the header of this post and immediately imagined fuzzy handcuffs, you're going to be disappointed with the rest of this. Just click the "Back" button on your browser and move on with your day.
The header is taken from a presentation by Rick Stiggins. He used the phrase no less than 11 times in one hour. I was more of a purist in tracking this than the people at the next table---who also included all of his "I suggest to you..." and similar sentence starters and therefore had a much higher count at the end of the speech. Stiggy has not been a fav of mine for a long time (long story), but his keynote yesterday morning really ticked me off.
His basic call to arms was around report cards. In his mind they are hopeless and outdated because they don't communicate the depth and quality of information all possible stakeholders might need. Grades and report cards are dinosaurs.
Okay---I would agree that a single report card is highly unlikely to tell kids, parents, teachers, admins, community members, etc. everything possible about where a student is in terms of achievement. Ricky-baby, they aren't meant to do so. A report card is one out of a myriad of ways schools communicate with stakeholders about student progress. Every time a teacher provides supportive feedback, every time kids peer edit work, every time a teacher calls home to a parent or writes a letter of recommendation---communication happens. There is no need for a report card to be everything to everyone. (I shiver to picture what it would look like if it did.) Maybe the "communication system" Stiggy was wailing about needing (he really does like to yell into the microphone) is already available. We have way more data at our fingertips than what is found simply in report cards.
My second issue with His Stigginsness was his view of motivation. One of his basic assumptions is that every classroom environment is one of performance---and he provided not a single frame of reference to mastery classrooms. Achievement motivation theory has been the preeminent framework for studying student motivation for more than 20 years. Don't stand up there and claim some expertise in assessment and motivation and then give your listeners only half the picture because the other half undermines the point you want to make. Maybe it isn't a question of what report cards do or don't communicate. Maybe the big picture is really on what happens in the classroom environment on a daily basis that supports student learning. "Assessment for Learning" is all well and good---but you have to give it a context.
So, I submit to you that Stiggins' grasp of standards-based environments is rather flawed. Those of us in those environments are going to have to raise our voices.