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Goodbye As, Bs and Cs at North Shore schools?
Kids today lug home nearly the same kind of report card their parents did 30 or 40 years ago. Nothing much has changed.
“Three times a year, a brown envelope goes home with brief comments on a student’s success in prescribed areas; for older students, a series of numbers and letters quantify the most recent term,” writes West Vancouver Supt. Chris Kennedy in his blog post “The Year of the Report Card?”
Parents read and re-read each comment for insight and meaning, he says, while possibly comparing the letters and numbers to their neighbours’ kids as well.
But times are changing.
Maple Ridge no longer requires elementary school teachers to give letter grades.
No more As, Bs, Cs, or Ds for these kids.
The new “student-inclusive conferencing model” will see teachers meet with students and parents to discuss progress and places an emphasis on student self-assessment.
“For many parents, all they see three times a year is a sheet of paper and they have to try to decode exactly what the teacher meant by each of the comments,” Kennedy tells The Outlook.
“There are a lot people wondering if there is a better way to give more meaningful, ongoing feedback.
Letter grades, which start in Grade 4 in B.C., are a hot topic.
While there may be no way around the ranking system for senior high school students due to college and university entrance requirements, there is discussion around the province on whether letter grades are appropriate for elementary students.
“I wonder about letter grades at elementary school,” says Kennedy. “I don’t know if we need to be ranking and sorting kids in Grade 4.
“If we’re moving to more personalized learning, we should have more personalized assessment too.”
Ongoing feedback, parent-teacher conferences and student self-assessment are alternatives for young students so emphasis isn’t placed on just a few letters, he adds. “I think if you tell a young child they are a ‘C’, then they will live up to your expectations and they’ll stay a ‘C’.”
While the Ministry of Education sets rules for grading that school districts must follow, Kennedy says the ministry is open to looking at different models, such as the one Maple Ridge is trying out.
In the next few months, North Vancouver is reviewing Policy 203, a guideline on how students are assessed and how parents are informed on their progress.
“We continuously review [our guidelines], but we end up sticking with the Ministry of Education guidelines for reporting because it’s a complex issue,” says assistant Supt. Mark Jefferson. “There are some neat initiatives… but at the end of the day, your audience has to be receptive to the type of delivery of report cards.
“There are some decisions being made and working groups in Victoria and the Metro area and we’re awaiting what their draft versions are.”
While North Van school district isn’t currently looking at clearing the slate of letter grades, a review of Policy 203 could see changes to the way students are assessed.
Like Kennedy, Jefferson agrees grades are essential for senior high school students.
On the other side of the report card discussion are parents who ask why letter grades should be done away with if they worked well for them as children.
“Just because we wouldn’t have letter grades doesn’t mean we would have lower standards. We have high expectations and high standards,” says Kennedy.
“It’s changing the conversation from competitive versus others to being competitive with yourself.”