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Blog: Thursday, March 12th, 2020

How Well Do You Understand Your Child’s Report Card?

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

A few years ago when we were updating our strategic plan (in much the same way we are now), we reached out to parents, staff and community members to ask about the things we needed to consider so as to better prepare our students for the future. The feedback was fascinating; parents told us that they wanted kids to develop skills in the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical thinking/problem solving
  • Self-esteem and confidence
  • Academic skills

As I reviewed the results, I was pleasantly surprised by what parents were saying and how remarkably consistent it was with what leaders at the World Economic Forum had recently suggested for our future workforce:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration/teamwork
  • Emotional intelligence

I was also struck by how closely these skills aligned with the core competencies currently in our provincial curriculum:

  • Communication
  • Creative Thinking
  • Critical Thinking
  • Positive Personal and Cultural Identity
  • Social Responsibility

Would you not agree that there is remarkable convergence between the three lists? Is it safe to say that most of the skills that parents value and tomorrow’s workforce will likely require are embedded in our provincial curriculum?  Would you also agree that if these are truly important skills that, by extension, our system of reporting progress to parents about how well their kids are doing in school ought to include these very skills?

This brings me to the primary purpose for this post. I frequently ask teachers how parents are responding to our new report cards, and have gotten avariety of responses.  It seems that while most teachers recognize the need to paint a clear picture of what students know, understand and are able to do, parents sometimes struggle with the language we use to do so. The fact is that the vast majority of parents (like me) grew up with a very different language of learning. The report cards we used tried to capture student knowledge and skills with single measures. That is, teachers typically captured their judgments of student performance with a letter grade (A, B, C+, etc.), a rating for work habits (G, S, W) and a few comments related to areas for improvement. Of course, the problem with this is that no single measure can reasonably describe something as complex as a child’s learning especially if we try to include all the important skills students need to demonstrate. Think for a minute how you would feel if your family physician completed an extensive work up your health, only to tell you that you were a C+!

Instead, we have come to realize that we must be more descriptive about the various dimensions of a child’s learning. Think for minute about the challenge of communicating critical thinking in mathematics versus critical thinking in social studies. There are nuanced differences between these two disciplines that require the teacher to collect and evaluate a variety of pieces of evidence before making a judgment and communicating it to the parent.  In the same way that your physician would need to report on multiple factors of your health (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on), the teacher needs to report on multiple components of the child’s development. No single measure can do it justice!

It makes sense, then, that some parents would experience difficulty deciphering the new language of learning in our report cards, which speaks much more to the various competencies mentioned above. In truth, we did not grow up with these terms, so it will take some time to understand them. In the same way that we ask our physician to break technical information down for us, I encourage parents to do the same with their teachers (and kids).  Take some time with your child and talk with them about what they think their report card says, and about the ways they demonstrate acquisition and application of these skills.  It’s report card season, so talk to your child’s teacher about it. Seek out examples of these competencies in the various subject areas.  In time this language of learning will become more familiar as we seek to prepare our children to be tomorrow’s citizens. But we need to take the time to do so.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.