The kids got some progress reports a few weeks ago – progress reports, which just indicate whether or not they are “progressing well,” no actual marks, which will instead appear on the report cards that arrive in March and June. They did fine, they were fine, I had my usual rant about the horror of report cards, yadda yadda yadda.
Today my youngest brought home this handy brochure from the board about how to interpret progress and report cards. I got really excited because I have been saying for years that the board needs to do this, because reading a report card is like reading an ancient text originally written in a foreign language, then translated using Google Translate into Latin, then translated a second time into English – you can recognise some of the words, but actually making cognitive sense is a bit of a leap.
And then of course, the disappointment when I read the brochure (a full 8 1/2 x 11 size, glossy, 18 pages) and found it covers a lot of stuff, but not the most annoying and bittermaking part, which is the incomprehensible gibberish that is the comments.
UGH, THE COMMENTS.
Not a word at all about how to interpret them, so I will say this here – after years, YEARS of trying to understand Ontario report cards, here is the key:
It’s all about the adverbs.
There will be, on your kids’ report card, sentences like this: “John sometimes adds two-digit numbers without using his fingers.” And that sounds great, doesn’t it? He sometimes does this hard thing! Maybe he’s even advanced, ahead of his class!
But no, the key word here is “sometimes.” Sometimes means, not all the time. “Often” is better. “Usually” is even better, and “Always” is your gold standard.
So everyone gets the same comment, but it’s the ADVERB that tells you how he is actually doing, relative to the class and the criteria the teacher is using.
You have to comb through every sentence to figure out a) what is the criteria being talked about here, and b) how my kid did at it. That’s IF you can figure it out at all – and there’s no information at all on how your kid could have done better, what they could have done differently, or what kind of things we should be working on at home. Should we drill him now in two digit adding? Should we do worksheets? Or is he doing just fine, just won’t be a research mathematician someday? Should we panic? Should we leave it in the hands of the school?
WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?
I understand that teacher’s hands are somewhat tied, and they have to choose canned comments like this (legal reasons? Maybe?). I also know that report cards are a HUGE amount of work, and the easier we can make them on our poor overworked teachers, the better.
But seriously, there has GOT to be a better way to make these things more readable and more legible. I guess many parents, confronted with a “C” in math, want to know why. But more than saying, “here is what we studied, and your kid only did it some of the time,” what I want to know is:
* how does my kid learn?
* what strategies in the classroom work better for him, than others?
* what subject areas excited him and made him want to learn, rather than others he found dull and a hard slog?
* what are some things we could do at home to help?
So rather than the canned comments, I’d like to read something like “John seems to do well with simple math but has problems with oral word problems. He works best in a quiet environment. He could use some review on two digit adding at home.”
Would that be so hard? I suppose this is what the parent-teacher interviews are for. But in that case, I’d almost rather have a blank report card – just the marks – and then have it all explained to me in person. Either that, or the OCDSB better publish a whole textbook, explaining how to translate comments into meaningful information.