by Sarah Michaelis Thursday November 29, 2007

It’s report card time again. And once again, I’m confused.

Why don’t report cards make sense? When I was a kid, report cards were one page, hand-written evaluations listing simple subjects like reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and science. Now our kids are rated on things like numeration, spatial sense and data probability. Huh?

What happened to plain old math? Why are there five different grades under math? Which one is more important than the other and if she fails one, does that mean she’s doing poorly in math as a whole?

It seems I’m not the only confused parent out there. Annie Kidder, President of People for Education, says, “I went to school in Canada, I went to university but I have no idea what those things are. As a parent I really don’t care about the different streams (in math) and then I really don’t understand because my child would get 80% in one of those streams and 40% in the other one. I’d be happy with just a math mark.”

The other problem I have is with the comments. Teachers spend an awful lot of time cutting and pasting comments into the report card. It helps them because they can detail all of the curriculum expectations for the parents but it eliminates the child from the equation. Apparently, my daughter is found “routinely selecting appropriate reading strategies,” but is she a pain in the classroom? Does she get along with her friends? Does she ask questions in class? I wouldn’t know.

Why did this happen? Around a decade ago, report cards weren’t consistent from school board to school board. If you went to school in Durham, your report card would look and read differently than one from Windsor. So it was decided that all report cards should be the same no matter where you lived.

Annie Kidder says that’s just one of the reasons for the change. “I think it got changed because there’s flavor of the month thing that happens in education,” she says. “Suddenly we have a new idea so we have to pull everything apart. People forgot when they were making (report cards) that the most important thing was that parents understand them—that’s who they’re written for.”

Kidder says that the most important thing for parents to do is go to the parent/teacher interview offered with each report card. People for Education offers some tips on handling the interview in several different languages.

So I’m going to choose some appropriate reading strategies while preparing for my parent/teacher interview and then I’m going to successfully organize that information to convey a central idea using appropriate vocabulary for my audience. Do I pass?