I’m not particularly fond of the new report cards the girls brought home this term. The school division invested a whole truckload of money in a new reporting system, and in my humble opinion, they could have left their money in the bank.

When I look over Nikki and Julie’s report cards (that came home in fancy expensive folders with high-end brochures to explain them), you could swear they are almost identical girls. Anyone who knows them can vouch for the fact that they are NOT. Yet, the report cards reveal so little real information, I’m sure 95% of the students in the school come out looking like cookie cutter models of each other.

One of the reasons for the change is to separate their academic achievement from their social skills. On the front of the report card, there are about 10 boxes related to their social/interpersonal levels. These boxes are marked with an “M” for “meets expectations” or a “D” for “developing”. I suppose they were trying to move away from levels (excellent, good, fair, etc.), so that young students won’t feel overly judged or categorized, but to me, it just means that all students come out homogenous. Where is the motivation to work hard, if you come out looking like every other student? It’s not working for me.

On the back, where they focus on academics, they have no quantitative marking system whatsoever. Instead, they just have comment boxes, that include so much rhetoric, my head began to spin. “Nicole has a grasp on mathematical concepts.” “Julie can process information successfully.” What does that MEAN?

I don’t know much about child psychology or educational models or formative or summative marking systems (Marcel used those last words – apparently he’s learning something in all those university classes he’s taking!), but I do know that both Nikki and Julie were disappointed with their report cards. It was clear that neither of them feel motivated to work harder if there isn’t some indication that their efforts are worth it. Are we encouraging our kids to strive for mediocrity?

Nikki was particularly disappointed. She said to me a few weeks ago, “Mom, you know how my first report card of the year is always a little lower than the ones later in the year? Well, this year, I think it will be better, because I’m doing really well this year.” She has a new-found confidence about school, (which makes me so happy, because I’ve wiped away too many tears in the past) but I wouldn’t say that these report cards did anything to feed that confidence.

Julie, on the other hand, is a gifted student who told me the other day that she has never made a spelling mistake on a test (she’s in grade 4). It’s probably true, though I can’t verify it. This is the kid who devours books – reads one almost every night from cover to cover. Few things challenge her academically. Yet, if you read her report card, you’d think she was an average student.

Anyone care to comment? I know there are some educators who read this – perhaps you have some insight that I’m missing. Perhaps report cards really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. Who knows?

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