Slice of Life Day 9: Report Cards Meets the Power of Yet

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h“When do we get our report cards?” B asks.

“At the end of the day,” I tell him.


“If I get more 4s than 3s I get to go to a movie,” A says to B.

They are so excited, you’d think it was Christmas. They can’t wait.

I can.

I agonize over report cards. And I don’t mean just the tremendously long time it takes to input them. I mean giving a student a number (4 being the highest) that measures them as a reader and most upsettingly as a writer, is painful.

In the Before Common Core period we were to assign grades based on what we thought the student would score on the state standards test. In other words, if their report card said “3” the prediction was that the student would score as “proficient” on the test.  Over years of collecting state testing and reading assessment data, we had a fairly predicable correlation. Now with the new and improved testing, all bets are off. .We know itis a lot harder. We know our students have had no real experience in this kind of testing environment. We know, based on other state’s experiences (think New York), the scores will be lower. Add this into my grading angst.

Back to my classroom.

At the end of the day, I pass out the report cards. Every year I tell them to wait to open it till they get home with their parent. And every year they open them as soon as they get them, like Christmas presents, count the 2s, 3s, and 4s, and share with their neighbors.

One student has totaled the numbers up. She’s smiling. She likes the ratio.

“I love reading the comments one student says, look what I got, ‘Shows growth in reading.’ ”

These are the students I don’t worry about too much. They are the ones that love school. Generally they are pretty good at it.

My worry is for the student who got 2s in reading and writing. They are readers and writers, they just haven’t met the level of expectation yet. This is the nature of learning. Do they know that? Is the power of yet present in a student’s mind? Or is another “2” another confirmation that says- I’m not good enough, or I’m not a good reader, or worst of all I don’t like reading.

The facts are this: report cards aren’t going away and we teachers value assessment in the light of next steps. So here is my pie-in-the-sky wish: a report card that shows a progression of growth and expectation.. When a student opens up their report card, their conversation becomes:

 Here I am.
Here is my goal.
I’m getting there (or) I’m not there yet,
Where do I need to work?

This could be done. It has been done with the writing checklists from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Units of Study. Why couldn’t we do this same thing for the Common Core Standards, at least in elementary school. Maybe I’m crazy, and I know it wouldn’t be easy, but it might make report cards something to get excited about.

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9 thoughts on “Slice of Life Day 9: Report Cards Meets the Power of Yet

  1. Oh, I love this slice and this would be my hope for the world of education…I am retiring and so, I kind of am a ‘lame duck’. I think a checklist is a worthy, practical, and understandable way to do this. The student would feel the power from this kind of system. I’m certain it could be accomplished in writing and you have the beautiful evidence right there before you…and thank goodness today, a snapshot can be taken of the work and digitally saved. xo

  2. I hear you….and agree with you…and want very much to do as you suggest….but instead we assign qualitative numbers that mean so much less. For my RtI students we TRY to write narratives that sum up the intricacies of their emerging reading and writing strategies…..every word I write…what will it mean to the parent? I too want to use the checklists…..someday….maybe we can go back to that model?

  3. This is what we all yearn for:a report card that shows a progression of growth and expectation..
    But, it seems to me that we are moving further away from this with each passing year, each passing standardized test.

  4. Yes, yes, yes. This is what we all want for, dream for, in regards to report cards. I, like Tara, feel like we are moving further and further away from that reality. I hope I’m wrong and I hope I am still teaching when it happens.

  5. Just as no student is a reading letter “x, y, z,” I would hope that we can define learning better for students and parents. I am sure that when you had student-led conferences, B did not say “I am a 2” because he/she had more knowledge of the learning possibilities!

    My biggest frustration is allowing a computer program to define our reporting system. That is just wrong!

  6. Actually taking a “brain break” from progress reports right now! The 2s on our report cards actually mean just what you would like them to mean – “Approaching or Sometimes Meeting Grade Level Expectations.” But, I think often, to the child and the family, the message is… not good enough. You didn’t make it. It is such a difficult line to walk. You must give them feedback about where they are in relationship to a benchmark, but that means that you may need to give some disappointing news. This is where I find parent conferences vital. I have some “2s” I have to give out – students with learning problems, students learning English or students where reading or subtraction with regrouping just hasn’t “clicked” yet. YET! But in a conference, when I pull out a September writing sample and a February writing sample… WOW! The growth is crystal clear! More clear than any “2” would ever describe! So my advice is have a conference. Bring a portfolio of their work. Show the learning journey they have been on. And yeah, it may still be a 2, but celebrate where they have come from and remind them that they just aren’t done with their learning journey… yet! 🙂

  7. We are piloting a new standards-based report card this year, and students have either met the standard (though most haven’t YET), on target to meet the standard by the end of the year, or progressing toward the standard but unlikely to reach it (can’t remember the exact wording of that one). Using the standards makes it very clear what the expectations are, and we are getting used to it. Your emphasis on the word YET is important for us all, isn’t it?

  8. I hear what you’re saying. All too often kids look at their grades, forgetting what it means. It is my hope, too, that the progress reports in the US reflect the way teachers actually assess.

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