Report cards stink. Think about it from a parent perspective. What does the 86% or the B tell the parent? Does this mean your son or daughter only knows 86% of the material? If everything is graded reliably, this might mean your son or daughter accumulated 86% of the total points from a period of time. Even if the grading is reliable and valid (which is a far stretch), the information is not worthwhile. How, as a parent, do you help your child improve from an 86%? Traditional report cards tell you nothing. Parents deserve a more robust account of their child’s progress.
Here are my problems with traditional report cards:
- The number or letter grade assumes the grading was reliable and valid. Also, these assessments and grading scheme were similar enough (or the same) as a teacher who teaches another course. I would assert this isn’t true in public education.
- Letter or numeric grades do no inform parents or students how to improve one’s performance to the required skills necessary in a subject or grade level.
- Why are grades reported in quarters? If we have electronic grade reporting, why do we report individual terms at all? Why cannot grades accumulate over the entire year?
My solution to the traditional report card:
- Teachers should only grade SKILLS and CONTENT, not behavior. You should not grade a student on how pretty his or her work is. Grading should be based on clearly defined skills and content, not subjective or ambiguous ideas.
- Grading should last all year, not quarters, trimesters, or semesters. Accumulate a grade for the entire year.
- Grades should not be reported with numeric or alpha characters. These are meaningless. Yes, a conversion is important for colleges. However, let this be a simple 4 (advanced), 3 (proficient), 2 (basic), 1 (below basic), or 0 for each course. This ONLY communicates to colleges a GPA and serves no other purpose.
- Teachers should communicate to parents a robust portfolio of skills and content assessments linked to work turned in throughout the year. This type of assessment should be available throughout the year, with a formal report written at least quarterly.
How can this be accomplished? If teachers create clear assessments with skills to master (i.e., linked to the Common Core standards), then assessments could be tracked based on skills. Each assessment would be graded on a common rubric. Rather than assign a grade, a text summary of a student’s progress for each particular skill would be reported. If connected electronically, this would be quite easy to do. A parent could then map progress on one skill throughout the year, or gain an overall snapshot of an entire child’s skill assessment. At given intervals, teachers could report additional qualitative data (in text or video) to parents about individual student progress.
Impossible? Not at all. If education moves more toward electronic reporting, this would be quite easy. If a database of common rubrics existed, one could merge class lists with the rubrics. Teachers could grade student work with a tablet, marking skills on the rubric. Teachers could upload a picture of the submitted assignment (if it were not electronic), and add other comments to the report if necessary.
If common rubrics were used for assignments, this all works fairly easily. Yes, the structure is important to get right, but an interactive, easy-to-use mobile app would make this very easy.
I think its clear that our current reporting system is not informative for parents or students. An electronic reporting system could improve this process.
Perhaps, if the rubrics were designed and benchmarked, these same classroom assessments and progress reports could replace standardized tests!