My district switched to Standards Based Report Cards this year and at first I felt happy; after all, we were stepping away from letter grades and toward feedback based narratives, right? Wrong. After having sent out my first set in December, I once again realize the failure of report cards, even if they are standards based. So while there may be some positives; they are supposed to be broader skills, narrative missives rather than just percentages, and we finally all have the same report card, I still see some massive red flags:
- You have to speak educationalese to understand them. Phrases such as, “Uses decoding skills, uses comprehension strategies, and recognizes and uses different genre and text features while reading” now abound on our report card without any proper explanation of what they mean. I felt compelled to write an explanation letter with each report card so that parents and students may actually have an idea of what it is they are being graded on. If I am doing a narrative letter, then why in the world am I also doing a report card?
- Numbers get converted to letter grades. We may urge parents to not think of a “4” as an “A+” but let’s face it, they do. My students did it the first day they got them and they will continue to do so no matter how many times I tell them not to. The only difference is that now everybody wants 4’s rather than A +’s.
- We are still quantifying some learning, even though you really can’t. I have to break down whether my students ask appropriate questions or follow multi-step directions into a grade, are they truly two grade levels above in their direction following or are they just at a 5th grade level? My head was spinning by the end of it.
- Learning that is supposed to be differentiated is not graded differently. So a child with special needs is graded the same way as a child without. That way we can ensure that all kids that struggle know that although they have worked very hard and have progressed, they will never be where their peers are. Take that you struggling learner!
- We don’t offer learning opportunities where children can prove they are accomplished. I have to follow a scripted math, science, social studies, and writing program. This is all crammed into very short amounts of time. Within that time I have to get through the lesson and then somehow leave time for enrichment so that my students can show me just how “accomplished” they are to get a 4. That doesn’t always happen. So although I strive to do project-based learning, I still have to get through my curriculum, and that does not allow for deeper exploration You may be accomplished in science, but I will probably never find out if I just follow the curriculum.
- We expect kids to learn at the same pace so we can evaluate at the same time. We forget that children gravitate toward different subjects, learn at different paces, and learn in different ways, and yet we grade them the same. What is our obsession with numbers and data? We test them just so we know what they supposedly know and if they do poorly then we have to teach them how to test better. That is sheer insanity to me. To have a single standard you have to decide that there is only one way to learn, and we know that to be false. When we don’t provide students with multiple opportunities to show us that they know we are not doing our job. Or at least I am not.
- It is still not narrative. Standards based report cards offer us four grading options; 1, 2, 3, and 4, and yet still leaves the recipient wondering what they need to work on. Sure they may have received a “2” in summarizing but that “2” does not tell them what they need to work on; the teacher does hopefully through goal setting with the student. I itched to add comments to every single box to explain exactly what the child should work on, but I didn’t, because it defeats the purpose of a quick way to show learning. I will always feel that report cards are obsolete in a classroom where feedback is continually given and goals are set along with te student. Having moved to standards based report cards only solidifies that opinion.
What do you think? Are standards based report cards better than traditional report cards? Am I missing the point of them or being too harsh? Are they just lipstick on a pig?I would love to have a discussion regarding this.