The report card used to be useful. Before the age of Internet and faster communication with parents, the report card was the communicator of success or lack of it from school. We have all heard the stories of what happened when a bad report card was brought home and can probably remember our own anticipation or dread when it was handed to us. This was it; the ultimate report on how hard we had worked, how much we knew, and how much we cared about school. The was no conversation, no goals, just grades and teachers recited missives which on mine included the usual, “Pernille should really try to apply herself more.”. Whatever in the world that means.
Yet now, faced with the ever-evolving tools for communication and also teachers own increased visibility and feedback giving, it seems it has lost its purpose. That is if its purpose was to report how the child is doing academically. Instead many teachers have running grades online; which I don’t actually think is necessarily progress either, or feedback is given to the students or sent home regularly. In my own classroom, I meet with students regularly setting goals and discussing how they are doing, not even handing them a letter grade but rather feedback and meaningful conversation. This does get communicated to parents as well either through email, phone calls, or even small meetings. Conferences also act as a communicator of progress and goals. I may be in the minority of how I handle progress in my classroom, but I think I am in the growing minority. So why also do a report card? It seems to be a duplication of all of the work we already do although it does provide an easy out for those who choose not to communicate throughout the semester.
So if the report card’s purpose is solely to communicate to parents how their child is doing, there are certainly other alternatives. How about a weekly email or note, penned by the student? Or a shared Google doc where parents and students can add notes and questions? Conversations can be recorded using a Livescribe pen and emailed to parents as well, which also creates another record. In my team we already send home unit math scores breaking down each skill the student has been practicing. Writing assignments are handed back with a rubric attached and comments on them. To me, it seems that we already do all of the reporting that is duplicated for the report card. What about a report card created by students? I often wonder what they would put weight on and choose to report, and also how it would look. Either way I think it is time for a change, do you?
So is it time for the report card to disappear or at the very least lose its formality? Is it time for it to no longer be the final product and instead be a piece of information in a long line of information. Should we hand back the power of goal communication to the students so that they can take more charge of their education? I would love to hear your thoughts.