Well it’s reporting season once again in schools across Australia. The mandated twice a year written reports are being prepared for distribution in the middle of the year. It’s one of those things that has become entrenched as an expectation in our schools. It’s just the way we’ve done things for so long without much consideration as to whether it’s actually an effective model. Should we keep doing something just because that’s how we’ve always done it? I think not. I see written reports as playing a minor role in communicating with parents about their child’s progress at school.
At my school we have shifted the focus away from detailed, twice yearly, written reports and begun to focus on more authentic and ongoing opportunities to share learning progress with parents. We are mandated to provide written reports twice a year to parents and we still do this but it’s a brief (one page) report that provides a snapshot about a child’s learning progress. The main reason for this change from what was an extensive, complicated and long written report to our current format was that we believed it wasn’t meeting it’s purpose. The language used by teachers was often technical, pedagogical and difficult for parents to understand. Another issue was that teachers were spending hour after hour slogging away to produce a written report which parents not only couldn’t understand but was not providing them with a clear picture of their child’s learning progress. As a staff we decided that this simply had to change as after all parents are the intended audience and we felt the effort being exerted by teachers wasn’t having the desired impact. Teachers were burning the candle at both ends to write reports to the detriment of their health and ability to be effective in the classroom during work time. In addition the workload for executive in proof reading lengthy reports was a drain on their time.
So what should we do instead? This is something which needs to be considered in order to ensure parents are informed about their child’s learning. Our whole school approach to formative assessment meant that we had to consider how we would keep parents up to date with their child’s learning. We were monitoring student progress every day so why wait until the end of term 2 or 4 to let parents know how they’re going? We make it clear to parents that they don’t have to wait until they receive school reports to see if their children were making progress. Here is a list which describes just some of the things we do to inform parents about their kids learning:
– We connect with parents before and after school on a daily basis
– Learning Journeys are held to share student progress
– A focus on learning portfolios to demonstrate growth in student learning over time
– Phone calls to parents on a regular basis
– We use our Facebook page like a billboard of student achievements
– Our newsletter describes both our approach to student learning and progress being made
– Student led learning expos
– Twice a year brief written reports
– Our school app is used to communicate messages about school events to ensure parents don’t miss opportunities to see student learning in action
– Student led school assemblies focus on learning
Although the above list is not exhaustive it does present an opportunity to consider alternatives to simply relying on written reports.
Parents have embraced our approach and feedback about our modified written reports has been positive. We are working to develop a more intelligent and effective model for informing parents about their child’s learning progress in a timely and authentic way.
I welcome your comments and feedback about our approach.