Written at Educon, January 27, 2013
Definition: An object for communicating performance, typically from school to parent, based on five letters of the alphabet. Traditionally delivered by mail and then intercepted by crafty and wiley students.
For me, the report card joins the rank of those things I consider to be legacy elements of education, such things as the worksheet, the unit, the focus on instruction rather than learning, the classroom, and professional development. These are things we just do as educators, and accept as the normal, they’re almost absolutes. But the first step in school improvement is accepting that there are no absolutes, and that everything can indeed be part of a new normal.
Unfortunately, these things are normal for students and parents as well. Most students want the A, so do parents-they want A’s on that report card. In many ways, a transcript of letters assembled by years and by courses becomes a passport to the next step in life. How relevant that passport is today is a question that should be a consideration for all educators.
But the legacy report card is simply an outward expression of a deeper need, a need to rethink how we measure students, and how that measurement informs us on how to help them grow as a learner, but more importantly as a person. That need also includes how and when we make performance transparent, as well as to whom.
In 2013 and beyond, performance, what a person knows, and what a person can do, who a person truly is, is reflective of a much more complex mix beyond a simple letter grade. The online world now provides the venue for students to demonstrate who they are and what they know. The online world now provides students with an opportunity to create themselves into existence, by standing up and saying this is who I am, this is what I have accomplished, and this is what I believe. No report card will ever do that.
In the end, and looking back over successes and accomplishments, failures overcome, a first love even, the transition from childhood to adulthood will be remembered not by a series of letters on a paper, but my the rich memories of that formative time in life that ultimately contribute to who and what that person is. Those are the experiences of school.
And those are the things that matter, those are the things we should help students understand and value, and how me measure those experiences, or at least try to understand them, is a worthy goal of all of us and what we do.
Watch me read it here. Thanks to Megan Howard and Jill Gough for the opportunity.