We frequently talk about all of the changes in education and the “messy” work that is involved in transforming a good school system into a great one. Some days it seems like we are taking baby steps as it takes commitment, time and lots of work to make effective change happen across a diverse school division with 9500 students and 1000 staff. We have a century of good practice that has served us well. However, we now have decades of effective schools research, and studies in teaching, learning and assessment that provide such a powerful basis to ensure we move from good to great!
Parkland School Division (PSD) has been focused on student assessment for over a decade. Our schools have been working hard to ensure that students have multiple ways to demonstrate learning and that they receive meaningful and timely feedback. Students need to be at the centre of the assessment process so that they can take responsibility for their learning.
Back in the day, a student may have received a zero for a missed assignment. Today, we would expect that a student is not permitted to take a zero. Learning is not optional. Today there is an expectation that the assignment would be completed and handed in – choosing to skip the assignment is typically not an option. And when a student does not achieve an acceptable mark on a test or paper, he/she is likely expected to do some further learning and then redo the assessment. Back in the day, we focused on the “teaching”, today we focus on the “learning”. In other words, it is not good enough for a teacher to say “I taught that”. The question is whether EVERY student actually learned what was taught. It is a subtle but very significant shift – moving from ensuring teaching to ensuring learning.
Several years ago, teachers in PSD began asking for an improved report card format – one that more closely aligned with good assessment practice and the expectations of Alberta Education. That request was heard and schools were encouraged to consider alternate reporting formats including report cards, portfolio assessment, student lead conferences, etc.
Following three years of pilot projects and alternative assessment strategies and reporting, our Division created the Assessment Working Committee – staff from various grades, schools, departments, administrators and teachers who have coordinated the development of our new report card.
We are half way through our first year of a two-year implementation plan. Each school community is working at their own pace to transition, recognizing that there is a learning curve for all of us – students, parents and staff.
Parents and teachers are expecting students to strive for excellence and to that end we are holding students more accountable than ever! We know the importance of having high expectations and continue to set the “learning bar” high. One of the concerns about our new report card is the question of how we report excellence.
We have heard this comment and will be sure to address this as we make this and other adjustments to the report card for next fall.
We appreciate the conversation, question and debate about reporting student growth. The introduction of our new report card has encouraged some terrific interest in assessment and it has generated great conversation between home and school. Thank you to the parents who have offered feedback. Every comment is being considered as we work to improve the report card – always mindful of the goal to increase parent understanding and to improve learning.
Transitioning to the new report card will take time. We recognize the shift to a curriculum-based report card will require conversation between home and school. We invite you to visit our websitehere to find out more about the report card. In the very near future, you will find details about improvements that will be made for the upcoming school year.
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!