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A Better Way to Report Learning

Can we all agree that secondary or post-secondary school report cards fail to achieve the only objective they have?

If report cards are supposed to communicate how a child is doing in his/her classes, and each class gets only one line item (a grade of A+ through F or 100-0), with maybe three comment codes and a slot for number of absences (that doesn't even get filled in by the teacher), how can that adequately communicate learning?

What if we rebranded report cards?

What if we changed the way we communicated learning with students and parents to a year-round, up to date specific feedback loop rather than a 2-3 time snapshot of insufficient information?

What if we had constant conversations in connection with a regular loop of feedback, authentic to each child through an ever-evolving portfolio that even encouraged parental involvement and questions?

With the amount of time wasted grading tests that don't amount to any added growth or progress for most students, why not forgo the test, and generate projects with specific skills or expectations of learning for each child and then report accordingly and regularly on those specific elements.

Students can work on a few specific goals at one time instead of all of them and will remain on those goals until mastered or at least proficient, where they can level up to a new set of goals decided upon by the student, teacher, and parents together.

Or with each goal mastered, a new one developed, much the same way electronic applications and other digital games mark progress.

For teachers who insist on reporting on behaviors and compliance in lieu of achievement, if we reported learning this way, there could be a separate area dedicated to anecdotal feedback about specific compliance, behavioral or production-related goals that can easily be tracked but not included within other achievement-related goals.

In this way, soft skill goals could be set as well and worked on with students of all levels and needs. We already create IEPs (Individual Educational Programs) for students with special needs, but don't all kids have special needs? Why not give something akin to an IEP to all students and report that way?

Now I can already hear the naysayers telling me this could never happen. Middle school and high school teachers have too many students. There isn't enough time. What will the community think if we change how we've always done it?

What if instead of complaining, we try something new because what we are doing now doesn't work.

Perhaps the first iteration of this new loop won't be perfect, but change takes time, but we have to start somewhere. Why not start here?

Let's start developing digital portfolios for all students the first year they enter formal school. These ever-evolving documents (or whatever they look like... maybe a Google site or a blog) can follow students throughout their educational journeys. They can reflect regularly and compare work from the beginning of each year to the end and then keep adding as they go.

Teachers, students, and parents can continually add feedback as they go and it can all be saved in one place so teachers who came before and after can get a full learning profile of his/her students.

Imagine how this could improve learning in every space. This is possible. It's time.

What steps can be taken to change traditional reporting methods? What challenges do you think we'd face? What possible solutions are there to overcome those challenges? Please share.

*This post originally ran on my Education Week blog in Feb 2015

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