While report cards are one way that teachers report to parents, they cannot provide all the information that parents need about students’ ongoing learning. Teachers communicate information about students to parents in a number of other ways as well – conferences, telephone conversations, agenda books, and e-mail. These alternate forms of communication can provide additional rich information, and also allow for dialogue.
Report cards provide a legal written record that summarizes information that should have already been shared in other ways. There should be no surprises on the report card for either the parent or the student.
It should be noted that the School Act does not define the number of formal reporting periods required. Decisions as to what constitutes regular evaluation and periodic reporting are left to the discretion of the jurisdiction.
Helping Parents Understand the Relationship between Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning
For most parents, the concept of assessment for learning is not well understood. Parents may not have experienced these strategies as students themselves. As such, they may require support to understand the principles and practices associated with assessment for learning such as second chances, peer feedback, self-reflection, and so forth. It is critical to work with parents to enhance their understanding of why these research-based practices support enhanced student learning.
Helping Parents Understand the Language Used to Communicate Learning
Teachers need to be cautious about using education jargon when communicating with parents. This does not necessarily mean oversimplifying what is communicated to parents, but rather ensuring that the message is straightforward and clear.
Ensuring that Parents Receive Ongoing InformationStudent agendas, e-mails, phone calls and interviews are all effective mechanisms for sharing information with parents. At report card time parents should already know about areas where their child is experiencing success, and where additional support may be required.
Timing of Formal Communication
Relying on current research, teachers now know that more formative and less summative assessment is in the best interests of student learning. According to Dylan Wiliam (2011), “…attention to minute-by-minute and day-to-day formative assessment is likely to have the biggest impact on student outcomes.”
Creating report cards is a time consuming exercise for teachers. With other effective communication structures in place, there may be an argument for fewer formal reporting periods. What is important, however, is that communication be ongoing and effective. In support of this, many schools have adopted the practice of conducting parent/student/teacher conferences prior to report cards being issued.