“Comments for Dummy’s” for Ontario’s new “progress” report card

Update Monday, October 31, 2011: I put up a post today on the problem with first year university students dropping out as a result of poor results on their mid-term exams. Essentially, universities are having to come with programs and strategies to stop that dropping out because the public system has abrogated its responsibility for proper testing and reporting. I mean, how come it is that universities an give letter and percentage grades in October and early November of a student’s first year and yet public schools can’t? Moreover, there are no prepared, warm and fuzzy comments in university either. Meaning, if public school educators really want to help a student’s self-esteem, they would prepare them for real life.  

Update Friday, October 21st, 2011: Visitors to this post may find my latest follow-up on this topic interesting.

Original post November 12, 2010: This post is for all Ontario parents. Take a good look at this link. It is a “collection” of possible comments that teachers can copy and paste when they complete their students’ November 2010 progress report — you know the “new” and “improved” report card that the McGuinty government is trying to “sell” the Ontario public. The tragedy is that parents don’t seem to realize that it is nothing but a sham.

For example, last night, on Global TV news, I listened to a well-meaning parent saying how helpful this new progress report was because it was personalized and told her exactly how her son was doing.  Unfortunately, that is simply not true when you look at the comment collection. Need more proof? Then, check out all the links on this Google page where readers will note that the issue of developing a dictionary of “comments” was being discussed as early as when the progress report was first announced.

What on earth has happened to professionalism? First the elementary teachers’ union (ETFO) manages to get the McGuinty government to reduce the number of report cards. Then, they both try to pull the wool over parents’ eyes by writing comments that are certainly not  individualized — unless you assume the teacher said “now which packaged comments fit this child?” But, you know what? I am not going to blame the teachers. I think they are being told to use these comments so as not to cause any flack in the year before there is an Ontario election.

Well, I hope the Ontario PCs, under its leader Tim Hudak, take a good look at this “collection of comments” and promise the parents of Ontario that, if elected, they will bring about a report card that actually does reflect how each child is performing.

Anyway, when you go to the above link, scroll down a bit for this sample. The comment collection, which could also be called “Comments for Dummy’s” seems to include various subjects for both the secular public and Catholic public systems (since under values there is a reference to liturgies).

Endnote: Last night on Global, I listened as an educator suggested that a low letter grade can have an adverse affect on a child’s self esteem. I am so fed up with that line of reasoning. I ran a reading clinic and the adults I worked with had a lot more problems with self esteem when, as adults, they couldn’t read properly — even after graduating from the public system.

Children need to learn about their learning strengths and weaknesses. They also need to deal with reality.  In other words, the latest Ontario progress report is just another example of a current so-called “Success Strategy” that is nothing more than a “no-fail” and “social promotion” policy — a policy that does not prepare students for the real world.

40 thoughts on ““Comments for Dummy’s” for Ontario’s new “progress” report card

  1. Actually, I tend towards Hudak on this one. Dalton is upsetting people needlessly.

    I cant see why he could not have come up with a resonable compromise that would be similar to this.

    Progressing very well A
    Progressing well B
    Progressing with difficult C
    Not progressing and required rate D

    Especially immigrant parents have a lot of trouble with gobbly gook but grades ring a bell with them.

    The anglo middle class has too much to say on these issues, too much influence and is too concerned about self steem. Not that it is not real but you CAN take it too far. I think he just went a bridge too far.

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  2. Phantom — I hear you. The system doesn’t want to deal with the concept of “fail” which is a shame because it is through messing up that we learn to do better next time. I mean, the opposite of fail is succeed. And, to truly understand what succees means, we need to have opportunities to fail. Yet, the school system is sending the message that failure is bad, that it will destroy self-esteen. The result? When young people are faced with not succeeding, they don’t know how to deal with it.

    In other words, we have a problem in our public schools, not only in Ontario, but clear across the country, with the fear of competition and risk taking — which are exactly what entrepreneurs are faced with — daring to succeed at the expense of someone else (all the while knowing that not being able to compete always carries the risk of failure).

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  3. I guess this is why McKinty wants to fund foreign students as bringing in “the brightest and the best” The way our education system is going, you certainly won’t find the “brightest and the best” in our schools.

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  4. I had a friend in high school that coasted until he failed grade 11. ( I’m old enough to remember when kids actually failed). This was exactly what he needed. He went on to be an electrical engineer. If not for the wake-up call, who knows where he’d be.

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  5. I am a retired Ont elementary teacher and I remember coping and pasting similar comments 12 years ago. No child failed, they were placed into the next grade. The high school system looked after the failures.

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  6. Except Cal, the high school didn’t look after the failures. Twelve years ago I ended up with them at the university level and that’s when they really felt the consequences. Worrying about self-esteem is fine but if you don’t teach kids to pick themselves up and move on, they are devastated when real life kicks them in the shins.

    I can remember young people in their early twenties crying in my office saying “but I worked hard. ” I had to explain to them that they weren’t getting marked on how hard they worked but on how well they did their essay, how valid their thesis statement was, whether they proved their argument and how good their sources were. It was a rude awakening sometimes.

    But, because I had been both an elementary and high school teacher, I always gave them breaks by letting them redo their work (unless it was an exam). But, kids have to learn their skills somewhere and they have to learn what it takes to do acceptable or excellent work. Meaning, that if not at the post-secondary level, they learn the hard way on the job. How much worse to be fired and fail then?

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  7. Syntely — I didn’t approve your comment because it didn’t make any sense. Mike Harris has nothing to do with this unacceptable policy, so why the Harris bashing I have no idea.

    Moreover, you obviously know nothing about doctoral studies. It is quite unlike any other level of study — mostly they work alone, under the direction of a faculty advisor. When it comes to courses, sure students are friendly towards one another, but language barriers mean only a basic hello, how are you. Canadian and Ontario university’s benefit from diversity, that is for sure. But, international students should pay their own way, albeit allowing some assistantships, where they do work for professors, with financial sponsorships only going to Ontario students.

    In other words, because I am against financial sponsorship has nothing whatsoever to do with inviting and being accepting of international students. They are not one and the same even if McGuinty is trying to make this a culture war. Foreign students do add a unique dimension to university life and they should be made to feel welcome — which they are and always have been — a completely separate issue from them getting money that should go towards Ontario students.

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  8. An ombudsman would be a wonderful idea. The only issue would be what philosophy would he or she have towards special education. You mentioned earlier that you support having self-contained classes which is opposed by many parents with special needs students.

    In terms of self-esteem for students, the question is what came first, the chicken or the egg. Did schools first promote this attitude of self-esteem over failure to parents or did parents promote this attitude to schools? There is also the reality that parents have the final say in many decisions made about their children at school, especially in regards to self-esteem and the question of failure.

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  9. Good questions Matt. Parents have a big impact on marks — right up to the university level as you and I have discussed on more than one occasion. But, the self-esteem issue originally came out of the Hall Dennis Report in 1968. That’s when everything changed and I was part of that first “child-centred” philosophical wave — completing teachers’ college in June ’72.

    And, so, we are back dealing with the issue: What do teachers do when parents won’t accept the fact that their children received one of more low grades or is actually failing? Guess who gets blamed? Certainly not the kids.

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  10. On the issue of self-contained special education classes, I am in favour of some since some children need them. However, I also favour integration if that is at all possible. In other words, placement decisions should depend on the learning needs and capabilities of the students, not on some ideology of inclusion.

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  11. Going back to the progress report. Although there are critics, it was a necessary next step. Anyone who has been in education recently knows that more and more content is being asked to be delivered by teachers. By my estimation, an elementary teachers needs to assess and evaluate students and produce at least 15-20 marks for a child per report card. Many subjects have been split into multiple parts and teachers must report on each part, as opposed to the past where different parts in one subject where combined to produce one mark. There are also parts that did not exist 10 years ago.

    Perhaps look at providing marks for some subjects like Language and Math, while commenting on progress in other areas .

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  12. Let me say this. I have no patience for anyone making fun of another commenter. So, Doug, know that I will not approve anything that smacks of that again. It is what I hate the most — ridicule and minimizing another’s position. That is not what this blog is all about.

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  13. Actually Matt — You’re onto something. Some subjects like phys ed., music and art could have progress comments while the core subjects get letter grades “and” progress comments. My point is that this cut and paste is not very professional. Yes, there are only so many ways a teacher can describe a behaviour. But, surely, they can do that. It reminds me of years ago when we wrote out our behavioural objectives cutting and pasting Bloom’s taxonomy — verbs to choose from instead of comments — like identify, list, understand, write, copy, discuss, compare, contrast, and so on.

    Anyway, progress reports should clearly identify progress and cutting and pasting comments won’t do that. Having taught elementary and secondary, there is a difference. Kids in elementary are progressing according to cognitive-developmental stages (and yes there are neo-Piagetian stages, something I taught teachers in graduate education until just a few years ago). For example, in Grades 4-6, some kids are still very much in concrete operations while others are moving into abstract thinking. So, in my opinion, comments should reflect more the idea of where they are at on that developmental continuum, something parents can clearly understand and a method that is based on theory, not just some bureaucrat somewhere who thought up all the comment variations.

    Theoretically all young people in high school should be able to think both concretely and abstractly, unless they have learning or intellectual disabilities. And, therein lies a major problem I have always had when parents push to send young people with intellectual disabilities to college or university. The very essence of their disability is that they cannot think abstractly and that is a skill that is absolutely essential for post-secondary. In other words, when people insist on that type of equality of opportunity, they are not thinking about the notion of equality of condition and are setting students up for failure in the name of inclusion. Ten years ago, I did contract work with students like that in a local community college — once a week — for a couple of years. I taught them learning strategies and how to use technical aids. But, they would come to me in tears because they just couldn’t do what was expected of them. The pressure was coming from parents and the powers that be in the college who were being pressured by parent advocacy groups. It was very tragic. I tried to explain that the pressure that was being put on this group of students was similar to child abuse. Unfortunate that those in elementary and secondary worry about a student’s self-esteem only to have it crash in post-secondary because of differing expectations of “success” by those who do not have special needs. As such, I have fought for segregated classes or integration based on what the student needs and what the student can accomplish, not on what their caregivers think they should be able to accomplish. But, that is a subject for another day — and a battle I have fought for years with college and university special needs departments.

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  14. When talking about professionalism and report cards, please remember Sandy that all comments on report cards must be approved by principals as their signature on a report card is more important than that of the classroom teacher according to the Education Act. Many principals like the cookie cutter approach as it makes their job easier to read the report cards. The principal also determines the language that will be used to describe a behaviour on the report card and they often have to follow rules and procedures determined by their employers. Teachers’ professionalism is often undermined by other issues.

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  15. First of all, read the “Growing Success” document. As a teacher, before we assess anything, the class and I create success criteria. Even for learning skills – so as for Responsibility, we come up with how exactly to get a level four. You must do this, this, this. etc. So when I assess them, after they have self assessed, we are all talking about the same thing. So on their report card, I can certainly group children who have not met the four expectations, sometimes meet the four expectations or always meet the four expectations. IT ABSOLUTELY is professional because I am judging them by the same standard (one they came up with) and I have anecdotal notes to prove it. Where the report becomes personalized is in the concrete examples I can give specifically of how the child met the expectations.
    Also, you need to read the research on failing students. Studies show that failing students will significantly increase their risk to drop out. This, of course, is a huge drain on the system. I have students working in my grade 8 class at a grade four level….are we just passing him through – no – he must met his own set of expectations. We must meet students where they are, not just fail them and hope it “wakes them up”. He is kept with his age appropriate peer group, completion work at his level.
    98% of teachers are working their faces off. We now have to feed the students, teach them, coach them, make sure they exercise and now on the new report card we must spell out how you can help at home. We love it, but certainly not the flack we get at every step of the way from people with little info and big opinions.

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  16. AvaAnne — I am sorry but I have read much of the research you are talking about. In fact, I did doctoral research on failure and self-esteem, as well as post-doctoral work. What you need, and most of your colleagues need, is to talk to adults who have gone through your system and don’t experience failure until they are adults. I operated a psycho-educational practice and private reading clinic. I have had to help high school students and adult students who are suddenly faced with failure and don’t know how to deal with it.

    Frankly, I find your tone part of the problem. Yes, by all means, do whatever you can to keep students in school but when they are not doing well, they need to know that because when they get to college or university, assuming they do, it is not enough to “work hard.” They have to do what is expected of them — period. For example, passing a grade 8 student on the basis of “his own set of expectations” is absolutely crazy. Post secondary institutions and employers have very specific expectations and he will have to meet them. Which means, you are going to send him on to secondary school where high school teachers are going to have to deal with very specific expectations in order for him to earn credits.

    Appalling attitude to say the least. I am a former researcher. Every study comes with it certain limitations and assumptions. Don’t buy everything you read without knowing those assumptions and limitations. For the sake of the kids and their parents and their later lives.

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  17. Oh yes, one more thing AvaAnne — Anecdotal or authentic evaluation is fine if you are talking about formative methods only. But, summative is also needed to show the level of academic achievement reached — performance based assessment, problem solving based assessment, quantitative methods and so on. Just a quick Google search will show you that kind of assessment you are doing for this progress report really is “comments for dummy’s.” It’s just too simplistic.

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  18. Sandy,……I was going to reply to your last comment, but when I was typing I could not believe what I was trying to justify, so perhaps there is a miscommunication…..just to clarify….
    Do you not believe in modified IEPs?
    Have you read the Growing Success Document?
    Do you disagree with all the current research supported Student Success Initiatives?

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  19. AvaAnne — Yes, I believe in modified IEP’s. Yes, I have read the Growing Success Document and while there are many good ideas, it is what convinced me that it is primarily a “no-fail” direction. And Yes, I disagree with much, although not all, of the “research” supported Student success Initiatives.

    If I wasn’t retired, I would do research to prove why the strategy can’t succeed if fudging success is what it is all about — like differentiating between so-called “negative behaviours” and academic achievement. I listened to one teacher, for example, on a TVO show, saying that handing in an assignment late, or not at all, were simply negative behaviours and shouldn’t result in a failing grade. Well, let students try that one with a university prof! You don’t hand an assignment in on time, zero percent. That’s life! Don’t do the project at work on time? You are fired. That too is life. Success is the opposite of failure. Students can’t truly understand success without knowing the other — even if you would prefer to refer to failure as “needs improvement.”

    Truth is, if you have been around education as long as I have, you realize that the success strategy is not new. It has just been repackaged differently and included new edubabble like inclusive and equity. It all started back in the early 1970’s when I went to teacher’s college. Then it was based on the Hall Dennis Report “Living and Learning” — but that was the time when the entire education system changed from teacher-directed methods and desks in rows, to individualization, child-centered, student-centered, holistic, authentic, transformative, and so on.

    But, if you have followed this blog, you will see why I am critical of no-fail and social promotion policies that supposedly improve self-esteem. It may while the children are in school, but it is all for naught because they are not prepared for a very competitive results-based world of work.

    In my practice, I was horrified daily on how few skills, particularly reading and writing skills, kids were actually learning. Oh yes, the smart kids were learning but those that struggled were helped to pass but were not helped to acquire the skills they lacked.

    On a personal level, in my graduate courses, of course I used some peer and self-evaluation methods. But, I was teaching teachers. In my undergrad courses, however, as I said in my previous comment, I had to teach the students that marks were based on what they actually did, not what they thought they did or how hard they worked. “But I worked really hard” was heard constantly. Students need to know that teachers have no way of knowing how hard they work, only what they hand in and whether they followed instructions. Ask any university prof and he or she will tell you how often first year students fail exams simply because they didn’t actually answer the essay questions.

    I suspect that you are so immersed in the school and MOE culture that you can’t see what I am talking about. So, I am never going to change your mind. Yes, I have no doubt you work your butt off. Yes, you really care about your students. But, do not take everything the research says as gospel. Talk to employers. Talk to university professors. Talk to parents. Believe me, all is not well.

    That said, regular reader here Matt, is right. A lot of the demands are coming from parents. Parents insist that their children pass. So, I guess, teachers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. I’m just a lighting rod for debate. So, don’t take things too seriously. Just keep on keeping on. One day, you too will retire and be able to stand back and see all that is wrong with the system. I simply don’t trust anything the McGuinty gov’t does because the success strategy was put in place for one reason and one reason alone, to decrease the drop out rates and increase the graduation rates — no matter what it took to do that — and which we will no doubt hear all about during next years provincial election campaign.

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  20. Acouple of points of clarification:

    (1) Not to carry a torch for the McGuinty regime, but failing grades for K-6 students were eliminated under the Harris government when they brought in the uniform provincial report card. Previous to that, local boards could and did have “F” or an equivalent as an option. Grades 1-6 students can receive an “R” (for “remediation needed”) on their report, but this option is limited to specific situations, such as extended absence due to illness or travel abroad, not for ordinary low achievement.
    (2) The Education Act now requires principals (note use of word required) to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for any student who is consistently unsuccessful, that is, below Level 1. This usually means a modified program — reduced number of expectations or expectations from a different grade level. Parents must be consulted, but their consent is not required.
    (3) There is no “comment bank” on the new provincial progress report. The claim on the link cited that the comments were “scanned from the Provincial Report Card” is not accurate. If there were a provincial “comment bank” the TDSB reports would include it; they do not, nor is there a link to any.
    (4) Comment banks have been around for a long time, preceding word processing software and the introduction of electronic reports. I have one from the early 80’s — in printed form, of course, not computerized. You had to type in the comment manually.
    (5) Many elementary school principals require a comment bank to be developed and approved before report cards are written. The last three schools I have been in all did this, but with some variations: some principals required point-form comments (with a leading dash and two spaces, for example), some require sentence form comments. Comments are usually developed by grade teams or division teachers and submitted to the principal, who makes changes. Some are stylistic changes, others are substance-related. Teachers must adhere to the strictures imposed.
    (4) The MOE requires reporting to be done, not according to percentage averages based on tests and assignments, but according to “levels” (like EQAO — levels 1,2,3,4) explained in the provincial Achievement Charts which can be accessed on the MOE website. This includes using the adverbial modifiers specified by the MOE: consistently or independently or similar for Level 4(A), regularly or with occasional support for Level 3(B), inconsistently or sometimes for Level 2(C), rarely or with intensive support for Level 1(D); there are other adverbs of similar ilk that may be used. If you refer to the achievement charts and check the adverbs, you can infer the grade that would have been given, as the adverbs and the grade must align.
    (5) Due to the complexity of managing the electronic reports, grades and comments must usually be handed in a month before the report cards go home so that multiple merges and corrections can take place. At my school reports had to go in the week of October 18. This is an inadequate length of time to assess 4 strands of literacy and 5 strands of mathematics adequately; attempting to do so leads to much superficial jumping around of topics and skills taught. The problem could be addressed by, for instance, permitting schools to report on two strands of math, one being Number Sense and Numeration and the second determined locally. Thorough review and teaching of NS&N topics for the first month of school would be a good use of instructional time. Similar priorities could be set in other subjects (2 of the 4 strands of Language, for instance).
    (6) The regular Provincial Report Card is a lot like Twitter. It provides almost no room for meaningful comments on a student’s achievement or needs (the limit is something like 72 characters and spaces for particular subjects). The Progress Report provides much more room for commenting in detail (if in a rather formulaic style — subject-verb-modifier) on particular student needs and achievements. This is a good thing, although it means the Progress Report is much more time-consuming to fill out and write).
    (7) It is misleading to call the Progress Report a “sham.” Any report format has its strengths and weaknesses and like any tool is only as good good as its users. It certainly has the potential to be more informative for parents and provide specifics of a student’s areas of strength and need. Focus should be on ways to improve it for next year. It would be helpful to have exemplars of reports that meet the goal of informing parents in clear language (albeit somewhat stilted due to MOE requirements) shared, with names removed, so that parents and school staff alike can have a better understanding of how to use the capabilities of the report effectively.

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  21. Thanks for the clarification TDSB. A lot of what you say is true but doesn’t change the reality that the latest progress report doesn’t tell parents anything meaningful. Modified programs have been around for a long time. High school modified “Basic” for example. Getting rid of that and the “General” category to try to hide the modifications were also a sham, in my opinion. The fact that the electronic report cards, which my husband managed in his school, did not have enough space to write meaningful comments does not excuse their lack of rigor.

    That is what this is all about. As long as people in the system make excuses for what they do, there will not be any meaningful reform. When an IEP needs to be modified, it may seem like a compassionate thing to do but that child grows up and an employer does not modify his or her expectations. That is what we are talking about. Moreover, the list on this link may not be used precisely as it is but my teacher-friends who are not yet retired tell me it is similar to the options they have on the electronic card.

    By the way, it is not necessary to have “F” on a Grade 1-6 report card to know when a child is not ready for the next grade. I operated my own reading clinic. If the first phase of reading “Learning to Read” — phonics, word meaning and sentence integration — is not automatic by the end of Grade 3, they will struggle for years or even their entire lives. By Grade 4, the “Reading to Learn” phase is well underway — with all aspects of comprehension and the higher order of inference, etc. So, if a child does not have automatic fluency skills by the end of Grade 3, they should repeat that grade without calling the reason a failure. They are just not ready to move on. Promoting kids who need more time is the opposite of recognizing readiness. Promoting kids to stay with their peers is also not the right reason to do so because the lack of fluency skills will catch up with them once they are out in the real world.

    Similarly, a modified Grade 8 program will affect the final two grades in the “common curriculum” — grades 9 and 10. Because, once the need for credits starts in Grade 11, modified options are reduced. Moreover, all elementary teachers have done is forward the problem to secondary teachers.

    It’s as though everyone in the current system cannot look ahead and see the implications of continually passing children who do not yet have the skills they need to move ahead, that by modifying their programs, they will be okay. It’s magical thinking and such thinking doesn’t work beyond high school. While I am retired, I still do some consulting with parents on what they can do to help their child. I also still do consulting work with employers — doing job shadowing. And, believe me, it is truly appalling the lack of language skills by those who have a Grade 12 graduation diploma. I have to teach them how to answer the telephone, compose and transcribe a business letter, how to interpret or write a report, as well as sometimes how to do basic calculations. In some businesses, for example, fractions are still used.

    I could go on but you get my drift. Success should mean success. Maybe the problem is political correctness and the notion that we really can be inclusive because that is not how the real world reacts — meaning we have simply gone from one kind of labelling to another.

    I am sitting here thinking what a mess we have all made — me included — of our school system over the past forty years. In our attempt to help children with special needs and all those in large urban centres experiencing poverty, we have screwed up their understanding of success and what it takes to succeed in a job, that effort and working hard are not enough — that effort and working hard must be combined with specific skills and knowledge.

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  22. Money for Afganistan and education and roads and hospitals etc are public tax dollars. If you spend it on one, you don’t have it for the other. I would rather spend Afganistan dollars on schools and hospitals. So would a majority of Canadians who want the troops home. Where is the problem John L. ? Money for private schools comes from parents not from taxes. This is the way it should be.

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  23. I remember many years ago a professor read us the ingredients in a can of Pepsi and a can of Coke. Both cans had the exact same ingredients. He then went on to say that our political parties are just like the cans – different names, same ingredients. My point is that you can blame McGuinty or Harris or Hudak in the future maybe, but nothing is really going to change. As you pointed out Sandy many of the problems with education today were created decades ago and a one or two term government will not make a huge different. Ideally, you would make recommendations and then force the government to step away and let someone else implement them. When recommendations or reforms become connected with political advancement, then the progress is lost. I personally like the progress report in that it allows parents and teachers a greater opportunity to talk about the next step and plan the future progress of the child. Too often, the old report card in the first term turned into looking at the past and asking why the child did not get straight A’s. More time was spent justifying the marks than talking about how the child could improve. I compare it to many high schools where students receive a mid-term mark, parents and teachers meet to discuss the mid-term report card and then the child hopefully improves before receiving their final mark at the end of the semester or year.

    Let’s also not forget that we present our ideas based on our experiences and our current situations. Many die hard Conservatives here have admitted to being Rae supporters in the early 1990s because the NDP represented what was best for them at that time. It’s funny that many parents want more parental choice, but also might admit that parenting is part of the problem in education too. I also like how people want teachers to help reform education, but then complain about unions.

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  24. Luckily for us, and sadly for Doug, he’s not in any position to impose his rather dubious views where it matters. I suspect it comes from decades of having a captive audience where he could lecture and they had no choice but to listen. That may not be good training for LAT (life after teaching) 😉

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  25. On the issue of people wanting input from teachers on reform and complaining about their unions there’s a tendency to equate teacher welfare and student welfare. They’re not always the same thing and the union leadership will always look toward the best interests of the membership, whether teachers or any other union. That’s where the conflict arises.

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  26. Agree Matt. These changes have been slowly creeping up on us all for decades. The question, “who is responsible for reforming education” is not new. Certainly teachers do not reform. They do as they are directed and according to Ministry guidelines, within the confines of their classroom. It’s complicated. Researchers write. Government bureaucrats read. Then, the politicians hear parent complaints and changes comes about, a bit at a time — with input from board administrators, union officials, minister’s, deputy ministers, professional consortiums and so on. I’ve actually been on a couple “scholarly” consortiums re language arts curriculum and special education methods.

    In other words, there is no one source that brings about change. And, therein lies the problem. At the moment, some parents want tougher academic standards and more empirical evaluation methods. At the very same time, some parents want only to see positive outcomes on progress or report cards. In other words, the latter want to see only good grades and they don’t care how their children get them.

    So, what does a society and government do? Well, the McGuinty gov’t listened primarily to the urban parents in downtown Toronto who were blaming the “system” when their kids dropped out and we got the “success” strategy initiative — also known here as the “no-fail” policy.

    So, although it is hard to get all the regulars and visitors to agree on anything, its amazing that, from time to time, we actually do. 😉

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  27. To everyone who may not have seen update # 2 on my most recent post about the NDP PMB to increase the powers of the Ombudsman, I will be busy the rest of this week with family responsibilities. So, approving or responding to comments will be slower than usual.

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  28. True, Sandy, but you do it with a certain amount of decorum and gravitas, as befits the successful LAT type. Others just get cranky 🙂

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  29. I appear to be in the minority, but I prefer the new progress report card. My son’s teacher did not use the “cut and pste” comments, but made up his own and they were far more insightful than a letter. An “A” tells me he is doing well, but tells me nothing more. THe progress report card combined with a teacher interview let me know that he was very strong in math, but could use a little more work in division as that seems be the only area in math where he struggles a little. That was in the comment section. An “A” doesn’t tell me to work on division at home, the comment did.

    I fail to see how a single letter tells me anything much about my child…….I guess I must be a “dummy”

    Cheers

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  30. Darren — A good report card contains both a letter grade AND comments that are not cut and paste. Yes, an “A” tells you that your son is doing well. I would think that would be helpful. Comments alone don’t tell you much either in terms of how he is doing in relation to his peers, which is what it is all about. At the college and university level, they have what is called a bell-curve — most students at the “C” level and a few above and below that. So, a report card that got parents used to what a “C” really means would be a first step. A “C” is supposed to mean doing what is expected of him or her, average work. A “B” is better than what is expected and an “A” is above average, could not do anything more. In other words, if letter grades are to mean anything, they need to reflect reality and, as such, your son getting an “A” by itself should indeed tell you something. The problem is that an “A” no longer means what it should mean and is given in the place of what should be a “C.”

    However, you are entitled to your opinion. The word “dummy” is a play on all those yellow manuals “Dummy’s for this or that.” I have one in front of me on the shelf that says “Blogging for Dummy’s” so you are not alone. LOL

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  31. Here is a good Google search link on letter grades and what they mean. I know what a problem a “C” grade can be, even though it is supposed to suggest “average.”

    When I was teaching an undergraduate curriculum course, most of my students were in the middle of their four year B.A./B.Ed concurrent program. To stay in that program, they had to maintain a 75% average. So, they worked very hard and if they did badly on an assignment, I would allow them to do a make up. So, naturally I didn’t have a typical bell curve. Yet, every single year I would get a memo from the Registrar’s Office asking me why my marks were so high. And, every single year I fired off a reply that my class was a select group of students that had to be a B or better. That was usually enough but my point is that if the elementary and secondary systems are not teaching kids and their parents what letter grades mean, it will be a rude awakening once they get there.

    However, Ivory Tower Blues has run a series of articles about how the university system is now being affected as well and marks are aiming upwards because its about survival. Students need good marks to go on to graduate work or get a job. So, they will only enrol in universities or courses where they know they can get high marks. Its a vicious circle.

    Anyway, a progress report with only comments is not dealing with reality. Let’s hope the other two report cards each year do.

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  32. Obviously you didn’t talk to any teachers before writing this article. I am an elementary school teacher in Ontario, and quite frankly am very disgusted as to what you have said. I spend countless hours writing report cards, specific to each child. Obviously many of the comments sound similar because we have to comment on the Ontario curriculum, which is the same for every school in Ontario. As for the comment that it’s not our fault because we are told to use those generic comments, you must have just pulled that out of the air because there is no such rule, and if the government has given a list of acceptable comment, myself and my colleagues have never seen or heard of it. If there are websites that give comments, teachers probably use them as a guideline, or to get an idea as to how to word the comments. As for the thing about ETFO getting rid of a report card for us, well hey as you said we they replaced it with the progress report, which is almost as tedious as writing a full report card, but it focuses on learning skills. It tells parents exactly what their child needs to work on, rather than how well they know the curriculum. Next time you write an article, I’d advise you to get your facts straight first. Sincerely, an under appreciated teacher.

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  33. Did I talk to any teachers? Well Care Bear, I would suggest you do your research better and read my “About” page. My husband just retired from teaching 35 years and I have close to that in as well. He says the computer report card program his board runs definitely has options on comments. And, I saw such software when I taught at both the pre-service and graduate education level.

    The Comments For Dummies title is a pun on the series of books available at any library or bookstore. Word Perfect for Dummies, Word for Dummies and so on.

    No need to be so paranoid. I am a retired teacher and teacher educator. No one under appreciates teachers but your arrogance — “Next time you write an article, I’d advise you to get your facts straight” — is not going to win any parent supporters that is for sure.

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  34. Sandy
    I came across you blog while I was surfing the net, trying to get some inspiration for writing learning skills comments for our latest greatest version of the Ontario report cards, Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting this! Our board, and specifically my principal has told the staff the we must, we must follow the 3 sentence rule when commenting on the learning skills. This I find very, very limiting, not to admit frustrating!!!! Also, we are supposed to be using ‘parent friendly’ language. The 3 sentence rule really inhibits that. Are there any other teachers out there who feell the same way, or am I missing the boat?? Thanks for letting me vent, Sandy.

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  35. Susan — Ah yes, I remember the three sentence rule but at least you can write what you want. Mind you, I also remember having my comments edited by the principal. At least it’s better than the “comments” software that is the basis for this post.

    Practising teachers are invited to leave comments but not be so hyper sensitive with the “comment for dummies” title. I did that for fun and to get noticed and it sure did that. The reality is that if there are negative views about teachers out there, the only way to change that is to be open and not assume what I am saying is “teacher bashing.” Heck, I would be bashing myself!

    Let’s get outside the “ethics” culture of silence — and practising teachers know exactly what I am talking about. On the net, they can be anonymous. So, let’s hear about other teachers’ experiences and what they think about the “progress” report.

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  36. Hi Sandy
    I have to address your comments about the newly introduced reporting system and teachers. The current “new” system was not introduced by teachers, it was introduced by the Ministry of Education. It was a pilot project a year ago and, quite frankly, it appears to be still on the same “flight”. It was given to teachers about 3 weeks before they were to have completed the progress report. There was minimal guidance as to what was expected, but it seemed, there were certain delineated parameters. All comments must adhere to curriculum based initiatives. All comments must not be negative. All comments must be of a certain number of characters in type written fashion. All comments must be pre-approved by the principal of your school. If you note on the “learning skills” box of your child’s report card, you will see that only about 3 parameters are proffered to teachers upon which to comment. Many of them overlap. Teachers are encouraged to comment based only upon overall expectations as outlined by the Ministry, not on the specific expectations. As you are probably aware, an overall expectation specifies that “the student has achieved over the course of their year” the results stipulated…..how is a teacher supposed to put all of this together in the second month of school? Believe me when I say…..there are more pressing issues to deal with at the classroom level every day than worrying about how to synthesize and report “in a prosaically individual manner” with every student…..yes, teachers do their best to accommodate this….but their hands are truly tied when it comes to what can be said and how to word it. Equity dictates that each child should be evaluated on the same basis. Why get hung up on a sentence that is worded carefully. Read what is said….each sentence pertains to your child and you should be concerned about that and what you can do to enhance their learning at home and what you can do to work in partnership with your child’s teacher. Enough with the vendetta and enough with the sideswipes to professionalism…..work with your kid instead of meting out useless diatribe to quell your own feelings of lack of professionalism in your own career….remember one thing….the whole system seems to have become less about teaching and more about reporting. I’m a parent….I know!

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