My second grader’s semester recently ended. I was anxious to find out how she was doing in school so I downloaded her report card. Having read it thoroughly I remain anxious to learn how she is doing.
Confused? So am I.
By profession my day job is focused on metrics and effective communication. If I communicated as well as this report, I’d be fired.
The report card was troubling, not because my daughter is struggling, but by virtue of the very manner in which she is being assessed.
The following are her Language Arts grades
Reading Grade: Bridging
Writing Grade: Early Independence
Is it ironic that my child’s grades in a class designed to teach her to communicate effectively, did the exact opposite. What could these possibly mean?
Is she doing well? Where should she focus? How can I help her?
All valid questions. None answered by her report card, which is more of a participation trophy than an assessment report.
As a parent I shouldn’t need a decoder ring to assess my child’s performance. It turns out the full range of “grades” is as follows:
First, an aside. This rant is in no way intended to attack any particular educator or teachers in general. I was raised by an educator who did a great job in helping grow leaders and independent thinkers alike. I greatly respect her and all who choose the field.
My own children, have teachers that (like most) are engaged, effective, underpaid and underappreciated. That is the precise reason why all of this is so troubling. An assessment tool should help those teachers, not hinder them.
Studies consistently indicate that the one factor with the highest correlation to student success is parental involvement. And yet the very metrics my school district uses do their best to confuse those parents. They should be striving to make parental engagement easier, not more difficult.
The question is why are they doing this?
My guess is one of two things:
- This rating scale was created by an administrator who hasn’t been in a classroom in at least 15 years and had very little interest in teaching when they were. They retreated to academia as quickly as possible and have over-engineered this process to prove their sophistication.
- This is yet another attempt to insulate our kids from competition in pursuit of the holy grail of self-esteem. It serves as the latest hare-brained solution to remove the stigma of bad grades and competition. It is a train of thought I fundamentally disagree with on every level. Competition is important and something every one of those kids will confront outside of the classroom every single day. Yet at this rate, they’ll be wholly unprepared to deal with it.
And you know what?
None of this matters for kids like mine. They’ll be fine. They have two engaged parents who are dedicated to delivering a logical and moral framework to help them understand the world and adapt.
But what about kids who don’t have this? What happens to those whose parents are checked out? Parents who won’t even attend conferences? What about those who have English as a second language or other barriers?
What about them?
Is this system helping our hurting?
From the Emergent to the Fluent, I think we all know the correct answer.