School District 20 pilot report card project proves popular

“We have been collecting feedback and by and large, the feedback has been positive.” - Assistant Superintendant Bill Ford

New report cards are rolling out at elementary schools across School District 20 (SD20), garnering positive reactions from teachers, parents and students.

Assistant Superintendent Bill Ford shared news of the successful pilot report card project with the SD20 trustees at their latest board meeting on Monday night.

“This is a good news story and one that I didn’t expect to take off the way it did,” he said. “There was a lot of buzz about this.”

Grading students is no longer about assigning an A or a B, but, as Ford put it, about providing a “holistic report.”

The new format started with two teachers in Rossland in the 2013-2014 school year and now, has snowballed to every elementary school in the district, but in varying degrees. The report follows a grid outline with different possible evaluations already listed, allowing the reader to see where a student currently is, and what they need to do to improve to the next level up. There is also space for personalized comments about the students’ progress.

Ford says he has heard almost exclusively good things about the pilot report cards.

“We have been collecting feedback and by and large, the feedback has been positive,” he said, adding that any complaints he has heard surround the length of the reports, not the effectiveness. “The one challenge that has been put forth is how much paper it consumes, but we are trying to figure out a way to email the report cards home using the same kind of system the secondary schools use.”

Teachers have told Ford about their experiences with the new system, as well.

“They know their students and they are able to paint a picture of the child,” he said. “One teacher told me that with previous report cards, she would carve out two weekends to do the work, and she finished this in one day and felt better about the job she had done reporting on the kids. That was really encouraging.”

The project exploded in popularity so quickly that Ford says there is still some reviewing to do before a final system is put in place.

“Report cards are never a perfect beast,” he said. “It is still a pilot, so we are going to have to back up the train a little bit and make sure that everyone has all the information. It kind of got away from us.”

Board chair, Darrel Ganzert was curious as to how the students were rating the new report card template.

“There was a lot of conversation between the older students and teachers at RSS,” said Ford in response to Ganzert’s question. “They did a lot of self assessment before the development of this and they have embraced it.”

Rossland trustee Gord Smith took an opportunity to share his personal experiences with the pilot report cards. The trustee has children in the SD20 system.

“As a parent that was the recipient of one of those report cards, to me it is learning process for the parents as well to get to know the format,” he said. “The thing that I can say, is that the report sparked a discussion within the home with the student about how the student felt and where they were going. The student didn’t necessarily agree with everything on it, but it generated a discussion. There were also lots of individualized comments, which I love to see.”

Parents, students and teachers are happy with the change, but it is up to the board of trustees to approve the final version before the new report cards can become standard.

Report card formatting is something that is up to individual school boards. As long as the template touches on the standards set by the Ministry of Education, every school board could have a different version.

“What makes me feel good about this is that is meets the requirements of what the ministry wishes,” said Ganzert. “It is just a format that we believe works well for us. The ministry has regulations on what we have to cover, just not how it has to look.”

Ford ended the discussion by promising to keep the board informed on where the pilot project is heading and the issue will be revisited at a later board meeting where it could be motioned into permanent practice.