EDITORIAL: Changes are needed to B.C. students’ report cards

Many cling to the idea of a piece of paper with grades and comments but it may be time to take another look at this standardized approach.

Paper report cards could become a thing of the past and the teachers’ job action is showing us how.

While many people still cling to the idea of children bringing home a piece of paper with grades and comments at the end of term, it may be time to take another look at this standardized approach.

For generations, the industrial-style education system has been fixated on producing graduates like widgets and report cards have mirrored this model with an overly simplistic analysis of students’ strengths and weaknesses. Admittedly, report cards have been upgraded over the years, with more comments and a reduced emphasis on grades at the primary level, but overall, they haven’t changed much.

What educators now know — and B.C.’s new personalized learning agenda aims to address, at least in principle — is that students have different learning styles and require assessments that are measurable, flexible, adaptable and motivating. Students need a plan that more closely reflects their learning styles, interests and goals instead of a standardized set of outcomes and report cards to match.

So far, the province has done a poor job in defining personalized learning and conveying exactly what and how it will change B.C.’s education system — and under the current model of labour relations in education, it’s hard to know how this will be achieved.

Still, the teachers’ contract dispute has shown there are many ways to assess and report on student learning. Liberated from many administrative duties, teachers are communicating with parents and students by email and telephone, posting information online, sending home records of individual assignments and outlining specific problems that need to be addressed.

What’s more, parents are being encouraged to seek out information about their child’s learning. There may be some gaps if parents don’t know how or are unable to communicate with their child’s teacher. In this event, it would have to be up to teachers to reach out.

There will always be a need for some standardized assessment and recording, especially for those headed for university, but a piece of paper at the end of term is not now and never has been a fully meaningful record of success for all students.

 

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