alfie kohn, being a teacher, grades, questions

Is the Report Card Obsolete?

Today I was asked what I have against report cards and as I stood there explaining my stance on grades something dawned on me; if we keep parents informed throughout the semester or trimester, do we really need report cards?  After all, I continuously meet with my students and offer them feedback and we set and work on their goals.  I send home more detailed feedback for parents to peruse so then doesn’t the purpose of the report card become obsolete?  In fact, the report card may work against our philosophy of students as developing learners since we chunk their development and their learning into artificial calendar dates as determined by the district.   Something unnecessary and just a tad bit redundant.

So I leave with this thought; could we abolish report cards altogether?  Or are they a necessary component of our reporting to students and parents?  Are they simply an overview or a snapshot rather than the entry ticket into college and free pizza?

9 thoughts on “Is the Report Card Obsolete?”

  1. Yes, I think we should. Report cards and "having grades due" are often tied to benchmark tests for standardized exams, which makes teachers squeeze things in so they'll "fit" onto the report card. Or they cause teachers to give extra assignments so they'll have "enough grades" in the gradebook. It perpetuates ours and our students' neediness for grades, and I honestly am tired of this crap.

  2. I especially think report cards are inappropriate for little ones. It's challenging to give them an accurate mark on content subjects when they are not reading and writing yet. I also hate giving them marks for reading when their reading ability at the age of six often has more to do with maturity than any real level of ability.

  3. The more I see people agreeing that grades and report cards are obsolete, I wonder why more administrators aren't looking at changing this archaic system. Thanks, Pernille, for keeping the debate going.

  4. @Mark: the answer to your question, and most questions regarding why administrators still do certain things is (say it with me, everyone): "We've always done it this way."

  5. In our province teachers are in job action and not writing report cards. As an administrator I think this is a fantastic opportunity to stop "the way we've always done it". I truly hope teachers use this freedom to find a better way to communicate true learning to parents. If you could create your own report card, what would it look like?

  6. Create our own report card … what a super idea! Maybe we could ask our learners what they would like on their report card? what is important to them? Involve them in all aspects of assessment and reporting – change it to be about learners sharing their strengths and stretches with support from teachers and family. Collaboratively this team, several times, during the school year meets to document and set goals for the learner's journey.

  7. I tried to diminish the importance of my students' grades at conferences last week because, as students with disabilities, their grades are all pretty low (given they are held to grade level standards). Some parents were still extremely concerned that the grades meant their child was doing poorly in school. If I can try to make a better effort of keeping them informed of the progress that is occurring, perhaps I won't need to work so hard come the March conferences.

  8. I love this discussion and I particularly love the idea of having students create their own report cards. What would they like to report to their parents? To me it just seems like overkill after all of the progress monitoring i already do. I also wonder if rather than paper report cards we old accomplish the same thing with a shared google doc? Parents could then access the notes and conversations? I understand the need to communicate progress, I just do wonder how many parents actually see the report. And as the end all?

  9. Our staff was just discussing grading projects (we're a project based charter in Wisconsin Rapids), report cards, and rubrics. This would be a great discussion topic for the upcoming EdCamp in Madison. So much to discuss and not enough time! 🙂

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