No grades on new report cards

ANTONELLA ARTUSO, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:55 AM ET

TORONTO - Parents across Ontario are opening up a new style of report card that assesses students on how well they're getting along with their school pals, but provides no actual grades.

In a dramatic move away from the traditional fall report card with grades, the new "Progress" report looks at learning skills and work habits like responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative and self-regulation.

The report will judge children up to Grade 8 on how well they manage their own behaviour, approach tasks with a positive attitude, work on their own and build "healthy peer-to-peer relationships through personal and media-assisted interactions" such as e-mail, Twitter and FaceBook.

Teachers give these learning skills and work habits an E for excellent, G for good, S for satisfactory or N for needs improvement.

For individual subjects, teachers will check a box that indicates whether the student is "progressing with difficulty, progressing well or progressing very well."

There is an area for teachers to write out "strengths/next steps for improvement."

The Ontario Ministry of Education changed the fall report card at the urging of teachers who were concerned that there was inadequate time to properly assess grades six weeks into a school year.

Now students are judged on how they learn and behave, and on how they're progressing generally, rather than on what they've actually learned.

The spring and June report cards will follow the traditional format with grades.

"We consulted extensively on the Progress Report Card with parents, teachers and other stakeholders, who told us that this is what they wanted," Frank Clarke, a spokesman for Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky said.

"Parents want and deserve clear and understandable information about how their child is doing early in the school year. Teachers told us that they often don't have enough information in the first six-to-eight weeks of school to fairly evaluate a student's work.

"We know that it is important for our students to learn transferable skills -- such as how to work constructively in teams -- in addition to learning traditional subjects and curriculum for which they receive grades," he said.

"The Progress Report Card complements provincial report cards by highlighting these skills and lets students know the areas they need to work on."

One parent on a school council, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it appeared to him as if the report cards allow teachers to judge parents on how well they've socialized their children, instead of parents judging teachers on how well they've taught their kids.

Tory MPP Christine Elliott said she suspects parents won't be happy.

"It still doesn't give parents the information that they really need to have ... I think parents need to know the marking and where their student stands vis-a-vis the rest of the class, and they need to know whether intervention is required," she said.

"So I really think this is really a very watered down version of the provincial report card."

NDP MPP Rosario Marchese said he believes that two report cards with grades are sufficient, as long as there is good communication between parents and teachers so that problems are being addressed as they arise.

Marchese also supports the decision to raise issues around how well children get along with others.

"I think that's an important part of social development," he said. "If kids are not relating well to other kids, that's something that needs to be addressed by teachers and parents alike. I'm not sure a teacher alone can solve that particular issue."

antonella.artuso@sunmedia.ca


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