Monday, November 7, 2011

Withholding Report Cards

Interesting blog about the concept of witholding report cards during parent-teacher conferences. I am not sure how I feel about this, as evidenced by earlier blogs in which I discuss the entire concept of grades in general. The idea behind this is to focus on student portfolios and growth rather than a letter grade. The author points out that once parents see the letter grades they will not be able to focus on the conference, much like handing papers out to students and then expecting them to listen to directions. One teacher went so far as to not hand out report cards until the parent made an appointment, which resulted in several students not getting their grades for months.

This seems like it is giving grades even more weight. If the most important thing is the portfolio and growth over time, discuss that and hand over the grades at the end; this assumes, of course, that the grades on the report card reflect the growth over time and actually match the items in the portfolio, an art in and of itself. If the most important thing is grades, then the report card should be front and center.

HoneyFern has grades for high school students and does keep a report card for middle school students, but that isn't the story of the school by a long stretch; in fall conferences, several students did not get their report cards simply because they were irrelevant to the discussion of goal-setting and wok analysis that we were having. A parent can access grades at any time simply by requesting a grade update, but I don't generally get a lot of requests. Progress is communicated regularly and feedback to students is timely. I neither highlight nor withhold grades because the goal is not the grade but the learning. Grading is incidental to whether or not your letter to a store manager convinced them to donate to the food pantry or whether or not your chemical testing identified contaminants in our adoped stream or whether or not you can order lunch in French.

I know the report cards I have from my school experience don't tell the story of my education as richly as my illustrated books and other work. Report cards are here to stay, but their longevity does not indicate their actual importance.

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