Mondays with Molly: Report Cards

Mondays with Molly-Report Cards

Hi Molly! So it’s June! Are teachers pretty much wrapped up now?

If not, they are close. It is the final mad rush of finishing projects, finalizing reports and celebrating the year.

What makes it such a mad rush as teachers finish up the school year?

Of course the rush is unique for each teacher and depending on the grade levels they teach. However most teachers are wrapping up assignments, reports are finalized or getting close. There are end of year awards to distribute for students, teachers, volunteers, and school leaders. Also last minute field trips and end of year celebrations add to the mayhem of schedules, excitement and pressure on time. It is a rush for everyone. But it’s also some of the most fun times for educators, parents and kids.

How so?

As curriculum is finishing, it can be an opportunity to explore … without the pressure and limitations of assessment and testing. It is also a time to celebrate what has been learned over the year.

Such as…?

Well for me personally, let’s see this week, there was a presentation about first and second graders studying “Is change good or bad?”. In the process, they studied seasons and migration. They decided to build a hummingbird garden and learned about irrigation and how to help animals. They planned a presentation for parents and dedicated the garden to the school. This week, as projects were winding down they explored bubbles and surface tension. My middle school student is wrapping up projects about Octavia and Cuttlefish and going to Blackberry Farm with classmates. This weekend, my freshman had a group at my house practicing their presentation for Romeo and Juliet and preparing for finals. My Senior has been swamped preparing for graduation, beginning with an award ceremony last week, projects and celebrations that are culminating next week. And teachers have to organize everything!

Oh that sounds like so much fun!

It is. I see the energy associated with projects and how much students benefit from being able to manipulate and talk about what they are learning. It would be great to make this possible throughout the year.

What’s stopping it? It sounds like a positive learning environment.

Well, It is. But it is challenging. Understanding new standards, what students should learn and how to facilitate that learning is only one challenge. And it takes time to develop and organize it.

Is this the first year many teachers have used a different set of standards? or Common Core?

Yes. As for Common Core, most states who adopted it have rolled it out via incremental adoptions, but I’d say this year was the first year it is being fully implemented. And for many schools across the country, whether it was Common Core or state standards, there has definitely been an attempt to change the way we grade, assessment has been the focus.

Does this pose problems for teachers?

Understanding what you want students to learn, and how you will evaluate them will drive what happens in the classroom. Changing standards and assessments is stressful as teachers work on how to implement them and communicate them.

What would help with the end of year “rush”?

Well, not to sound simplistic but what I hear the most is “I wish there was an easier way to do report cards!”  Wanting detailed report cards that explain what children understand in a way that is easily managed will help. Although technology can be a cumbersome idea to some teachers, new platforms are attempting to solve this frustration.

What is one solution?

At Novare, report cards were first and foremost on our priority list. That is, finding out how we can take this portfolio driven assessment and connect it toward actual standards, or rubrics, or even learning goals. In fact, I’m excited about this years reports cards because we have implemented a new format.

Can you explain the new format?

If you input information throughout the year… you know, after presentations, projects, lessons, etc., the platform can then compile that information quickly, literally with one click! That’s it! Then you can add notes to personalize how each student is doing.  We are making it easier all the time by listening to teachers about the features they want. It makes it so much easier at the end of the year.

Do other programs have this feature?

Well some platforms may aggregate information over time, but then I see responses that look like “not included in final report” which tells the teacher they have to go back and look through their assessments and then they have to review and select and create another one…

I see…

I know that the features that make ours easier is that it’s one click away and ours allows narratives, which are really important. You can create your reports at a class level, group level, individual level.  You can add narratives both at a group level an personal details under the group narrative, moving easily from one child to the next on the same screen page.

I think you’re on to something! Well, thank you so much Molly. I know our readers love spending their Mondays with you.

Thank you. And I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to all teachers!! I appreciate you so much. And to those who want to learn more about this change, check out organizations like Competency Works and the Buck Institute. Or, if you are interested in what I’m doing, you can talk to me anytime. My email is molly@novareedu.com ping me and we can schedule a chat anytime!

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