What’s a report card for? I’ve always wondered that. After all, no student should have to rely on a yearly or twice yearly report to tell them where they’re at. And no parent should have to wait for a report card to find out what’s what, either. Dialogue between the school and home should, surely, be such that nothing on a report card is ever news.
However, that’s the ideal, and I know many parents do indeed get their only view on how their child is doing from the report they receive from school. Which makes the importance of having clear, useful and accurate report cards vital.
Unfortunately, as Kirsty Johnston’s article in today’s NZ Herald highlights, some report cards are hard to understand, some focus too narrowly on literacy and numeracy, and some are too vague to be useful.
As educators, it’s an important part of our job to help students identify where they are at with their learning and set goals accordingly. It’s also important that we convey information to parents clearly and honestly. And I know, as a profession, we can do these things well when we put our minds to it. So sorting out report cards is well within our capability. Now, how do we do it?
One issue is, not all parents want the same kinds of information. For example, as a teacher, I am bound to pass on National Standards information to parents, but as a parent I do not receive that information regarding my own child. Some are most concerned with information on the “three Rs”, others zoom in on the information about behaviour, or perhaps socialisation is what matters to you. It differs. In the same way that all of our children are unique, parents are, too. And communities differ.
For our part, schools can canvas honest feedback from our communities about the reports we send out, and then work to improve them.
Parents (and students), you need to ensure your schools are giving you what you need by letting them know what it is you want to see. If something is tricky to understand, say so. We teachers can be quite wild and woolly with our terms and acronyms – enough to baffle the best of folk. When we start to speak in tongues, tell us – remind us you want to hear from us in plain language.
In the scheme of issues facing schools, this is an easy one to work on. Let’s get this sorted.