Report Card Jargon and Teacher/Parent communication

Even though I was already on maternity leave 2 months before our first report cards (note that a ‘progress’ report was issued in November) were sent home I graded and wrote comments for my students based on the first part of the year and gave those marks/comments to the teacher who replaced me who could then use them as a baseline for her own assessments.

Last June was my first experience with writing report cards in Ontario and I was struck with how jargony we can get as teachers. In Ontario, Jargonese is mandated by the government who guides teachers in the language that is used on report cards in an effort to maintain consistency across schools and school boards. The idea is a good one – when a child moves from one school to another it is helpful if we can understand where the child is coming from so we can most effectively (and quickly) help him or her. The problem is that not only are the comments filled with educational jargon that parents need help with decoding (and to be honest, some teachers need help with getting what they really mean at times as well!) but the creation of the comments, as well as the process of inputting them into the report card system, is laborious to say the least.

In Quebec (at least at the secondary level. I haven’t taught at the elementary level in Quebec since before new report cards have been used) we were at the opposite pole – instead of teacher-written lengthy comments filled with jargon we could only use canned comments like satisfactory or absence hinders progress.

In both cases the effectiveness of parent/teacher communication is, er, limited, don’t you think? If reporting is meant to be a way of communicating with parents then what can we really say about teacher-parent communication? And if we want to argue that it isn’t… then why are we still using report cards? I’ve always found that the most effective form of communication between families and teachers is through conversation. And many teachers DO talk to parents on a regular basis so that everyone is on the same page.

I don’t know. It all seems to be extra work for the teacher when we could better spend our time planning, reflecting, thinking about active engagement with students. There’s GOT to be a better way!

What do you think?

A colleague pointed me towards this Xtranormal video on the ‘effectiveness’ of Report Card lingo for communicating with parents.

Why do we put so many layers between teachers and parents? sigh…


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