Message From the Superintendent (January 2012)

Whether your school holiday time was enjoyed at home, at the home of family or friends or in a tropical vacation spot, I hope that you had the opportunity to appreciate the best of the season! As I shared in my Christmas message to our wonderful staff across Parkland School Division, let’s carry the joy and hope of the season into the New Year and throughout 2012!

The beginning of a new calendar year provides the opportunity to refocus and to set goals for continued growth and success in all aspects of life. It offers those same opportunities for students as they return to classes. This is the perfect time to talk about accountability and the emphasis that we place on holding students responsible for their choices and progress relative to both behavior and learning.

I cringe when I occasionally hear parents or our public complain about the lack of accountability in schools today. Our assessment strategies are all about holding students accountable. When we talk about second chances on assessments and about not allowing students to take a zero on an assignment, that does not translate into coddling our youth and accepting less than best effort. In fact, it demands that students do their assignments, that they strive for excellence and that they take additional steps to learn the curriculum before having another chance to demonstrate their learning. It’s not about being lenient, lowering the bar and giving unlimited chances to students who are not working.

School is often compared to “real life”. Parents expect that school will model real life and that students will be prepared for real life. In school, just as in real life, people sometimes get only one chance to perform or to demonstrate their learning (for instance on provincial exams) – however, most often (in schools and in real life) people get the opportunity to improve and to try again – to get assistance and to really learn. How many people do you know who are very thankful that the citizens of Alberta have more than one chance to pass a driver’s test? Giving a second chance does not mean lowering the standard. It means expecting everyone to meet the standard, even if it takes some folks a little longer.

As you likely know we are taking the next two years to implement our new K-9 Division report card. Several schools have begun that implementation this fall, while others are preparing for implementation in the fall of 2012. In either case, there is conversation happening in all corners of the Division as staff, students and parents work together to make the shift to reporting more about how students learn rather than just about what they learn.

In many ways, the written report card represents the “public face” of a decade of work in assessment. Discussions around the new format continue to give parents and staff the chance to have meaningful conversation about student growth. The report card must always been seen as one “snapshot in time” about how a student is learning. It needs to be considered in the context of a much bigger and more comprehensive picture of a student’s development.

If as parents you ever have questions about how your student is achieving, please contact the classroom teacher who will be very interested in sharing her/his perspective, working with your child to show you evidence of learning and to identify areas for growth and strategies for addressing those areas.

So, in your conversations about returning to school please encourage your child to establish some new goals or to recommit to those areas identified earlier in the school year. Let’s unite in our expectation that students must be held accountable – after all, that is how we can increase learning. Happy New Year – here’s to six awesome months of learning!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. You are always welcome to stop by my office, just call ahead and the door will open. Or, if you prefer you can send me a tweet @tmondsPSD70!

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