Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fails...to wear required uniform.

My district, like many districts, use an electronic gradebook that automatically feeds the grades, work ethic rating (H,S,N,W), and "Teacher Comments", to which I refer with air quotes because there are few comments from which to choose in the pre-determined comments that I would actually use. (I once added "Fails to Wear Required Uniform" for a student with 100% in my class.  Accidentally.  I swear.)  While this is a great system when you're grading a hundred kids, it does make the entire grading process rather numerical or impersonal.

Having said that, I understand that this current system is the one that makes the most sense for all of the teachers involved in the educational process.  One of my dearest friends is a librarian, and has to generate a work ethic and comment for every single child in her school.  The same would apply to the other specialists as well in art, music, and physical education.


Today's Te@chthougt Blog prompt comes from my PLN friend, Michelle Edwards:

How would you choose to report progress out to children and parents? How often?

In addition to the technological advantages and challenges provided to teachers by Powerschool, it also allows instant access to parents and students.  The residents of Giftedland have alerts set to their smartphones, knowing and instantly monitoring, their GPAs.  The same can not be said for the average and below average bears, most of whom choose to live in blissful ignorance of what is due, what is overdue, and what may have been a dismal failure.  Sadly, the students who choose the ostrich posture (and don't write to me -- I know that ostriches don't really bury their heads in the sand, but you get the point...), often have parents who are not as involved in the monitoring process.

In reality, we don't really need reportcards any longer with this constant real time access to classroom performance.  If there were a definitive way to communicate clear and sensible comments to parents through this current system, and know that the parents were actually reading and comprehending the success or failure of their learner, we could save a whole lot of trees.  It would also guarantee that the progress reports that I print and hand to every kid halfway through the marking period is actually delivered instead of turning into crumpled filler in the bottom of the black hole of the backpack.

As far as the "how often", it really depends on the learners involved.  There are some students who will only speak to me after failing an assignment, and they have only one question:  "Can I do that over?"  Our district directs us to answer yes to this question, which has resulted in some students who failed, miserably, to hit the original target, going through some remediation review and then attempting the assessment or assignment again.  (Which is wonderful.)  Unfortunately, it has also resulted in students who fail to ever prepare for exams and tests, figuring they can get a first look at what the tests contain, fail, and then prepare based on the content.  OR students who score 95% or higher requesting another shot at perfection. 

While the first example may seem abhorrent and the second seem obsessive, both result in teachers having to design yet another version of a test, taking time away from the rest of their defined duties, for students who, in my opinion, don't need to be taking the exam for a second time.  (After all, how many of these kids are headed off to college or jobs where they will be automatically given a second chance on every single project or assessment?)


As a TOG (Teacher of the Gifted), my reporting of progress also involves monitoring the progress of my gifted students on their GIEP annual goals and outcomes.  The same data is also gathered several times a marking period by the Special Education teachers, who inquire about performance beyond the average scores.  Is the kid prepared for class?  Is he on time?  Is he focused, or does he need prompting to stay on task?  We share that data on rubrics provided, and the special ed teachers glean and report a comprehensive picture to parents.

I wish I had more time, and the universal latitude, to share more of what my learners produce.  I'd love to update parents on a blog, with pictures and specific examples, of student work.  Privacy restrictions make that a difficult thing to accomplish.  I have taken pictures or videos of student work that was exemplary and shared same with (otherwise unknowing) parents.

Meanwhile, I get to tell parents "Pleasure to have student in class", "Pleasure to work with student", "Fails to complete homework", "Congratulations", "Outstanding", "Right on Track, Keep it Up!", and the never popular "Fails to Wear Required Uniform"Sure there are others, but your eyes are glazing over.  Just like the parents squinting at that right hand column on the report card at the  6 point type.