If you can’t admit you were wrong,

then teaching’s a dangerous profession for you.

Thus, I want to revisit the school report cards issue.

I posted rather quickly upon their release that I liked the ideas of a growth model and of peer group comparisons – and I still do. Because schools should, for fairness’ sake, be compared to similar schools (though also to everyone, at least on an informational level if perhaps not on an evaluative level, because we should all aspire to provide a world class education and world-class achievement for our students regardless of their backgrounds). And because it’s my job, as a teacher, to make sure my students grow at least one grade level each year that I spend with them. Of course, not every kid grows exactly one year academically in every school year – but I do think it’s something to shoot for. At least to have the kids who gain a year outweigh the kids who slide. Wouldn’t you want that for your own kid?

But after reading (belatedly, thanks to the end of the marking period & the holidays) Eduwonkette‘s analysis (primarily), I have to say that while I still support these IDEAS, they do not seem to have been implemented well in this case. And they are just two among other problems that have been pointed out as people with more time available took a close look at the report cards. There are serious questions about the comparability of one year’s test to another, for example, which call into question the accuracy of so-called growth measurements. Oof-yahhh, as they say in Turkey.

Narrative approaches do seem more useful in describing and evaluating schools.

Tangentially: I know someone who works at a school where they do not grade students, but provide narratives for each student they teach. Class sizes are a lot smaller, it being a private school, but it still amounts to a ton of work for the teacher. But it pushes him: he has to get to know each of his kids, as a person and as a student. He has to keep notes and observations throughout the term for each child, to help provide evidence and jog his memory when he sits down to write. There can’t be any of those kids who don’t stand out in any particular way – he has to know them all. Would you want to provide evaluations of this sort in lieu of grades (assuming smaller class sizes necessary to make this possible)? Why or why not? If you’re a parent or have thought about parenting – would you prefer your child to get traditional grades, a mix of narrative and numbers, or all narrative?

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2 Comments

Filed under blogging, education, New York, politics, teaching

2 responses to “If you can’t admit you were wrong,

  1. Miss Teacher

    I would love to do this kind of assessment on each kid. I am a special education teacher, and one of the things I lament is the fact that I do not have the time to goal set with each of my kids like I should for their IEPs.

    Unfortunately, IEPs become a joke because of the way they are compiled. And no one ever really trains teachers on goal setting.

  2. My children attend/attended a K-8 school (my oldest is a freshman in HS this year) that gives narrative reports. They are fantastic. They are a ton of work for the teachers. They have arranged so that each teacher gets a week off in January to write the first term’s reports, and they write the final reports after school ends. I think all the parents and students really appreciate all the work and observation and knowledge of the students that goes into these reports. (It is also an ungraded/multiage school, where a teacher will have students for many years in a row, so they *really* get to know the kids!)

    By comparison, I consider my high school student’s report cards “virtually content free”. We got a progress report after 6 weeks with one or two comments chosen off of a list for each subject, and then a quarter report with a numeric grade and another canned comment. It tells me virtually nothing. (Well, I learned that my son was incorrectly marked absent on the first day of school.) My son’s a good student. His good grades are no surprise to me. But I don’t get to hear anything about what might have excited him, or challenged him, what he might have had to be persistent about, or hear any little anecdotes that illustrate something special about him. I do miss the “real” reports we have gotten used to!

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