Saturday, January 22, 2011

Has Margaret MacDiarmid forgotten about report cards?

I just read Minister of Education Margaret MacDiarmid's article in the Times Colonist.

Here is my response, sent to the editor. Maybe the Times Colonist will publish it.

Margaret MacDiarmid, in her Saturday article for the Times Colonist, writes, "it is important for every parent to know whether their child has the reading, writing and math skills they need to be successful in life."


That is why teachers continuously assess and test children and why we report at least three times per year to parents. Report card grades are based on a variety of assessments, administered on a variety of occasions, which assess the particular learning outcomes for which the children have received instruction. 

Compare this to the FSA, which occurs on a single day, covers much of the grade 4/7 curriculum but occurs half way through the year, contains primarily multiple choice questions, and is known for erratic marking practices with respect to written answer questions (the limited time for paid marking has led to considerable criticism from teachers).

Any particular student may score considerably below their actual ability level on such a test for a variety of reasons. They didn't sleep well. They have test anxiety. They are unfamiliar with the particular question format or a single word in the question. They are hungry. They had a quarrel with their best friend and are distracted. The curriculum for that question has not yet been covered in class. 

Report cards are a far better measure of student ability. They are based on a cumulative collection of assessments. Any one "bad" test will not completely skew the total grade. They use a variety of testing techniques and allow children to express their knowledge and abilities in a variety of ways. All of these factors make them more reliable than a single standardized test. 

Yes, Ms. MacDiarmid, parents deserve information on their child's performance. That is why teachers take reporting three times per year very seriously.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, report cards won't get a government re-elected. Test scores will allow the government (Minister MacDiarmid in this case) to justify the funding for education to those tax-payers who do not have children in the publicly-funded system.

    Never forget the politics involved in education. Not in teaching and learning, just in education as a system.