How Do You Make Report Cards And Communications Of Learning Work In The Time Of A COVID Shutdown?

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about the moments online that make me smile. In this post, I also referred to a recent one by Lisa Corbett, and I mentioned that Doug Peterson highlighted Lisa’s post in his This Week In Ontario Edublogs feature. Among other things, Lisa’s blog post discussed the upcoming report cards that go out at the end of June. When Doug went to read my post, he left a comment about these report cards and some inspiration for a future post. Unfortunately, there was a technology blip, and I did not receive the comment, but a Twitter conversation helped me piece things together.

This is the post that Doug inspired. The more that I thought about his tweets, the more that I realized that there is a lot to say beyond what can be encapsulated in a few tweets.

I know that there will always be some students that participate and attend more online than others, and some that come for less time for a variety of reasons. Pivoting throughout the year is never ideal, and while a remote learning environment can be wonderful for some students — and we do have some that thrive in this environment — it’s not for everyone. A general comment as Lisa suggested would likely be great for most report cards and Communications of Learning — and yes, I am separating these two, as I feel as though they are so very different — but I also believe that there can still be a lot said on these report cards and Communications of Learning, even in the strangest of circumstances. Here’s my thinking around how we could make these reporting requirements work β€” in no particular order, even though there are numbers.

1.Begin with the overall expectations. While I’ve taught kindergarten for most of my 20 year teaching career, I did spend about six years in other grades, and this is a message that spans all grades. It’s even part of Growing Success. The specific expectations provide proof for the overall ones. Considering our pivot, I would think that by looking closely at the key areas of learning in each subject area or frame (in kindergarten), we can then find entry points given possibly some very different material access and spaces at home. This would maybe help address Doug’s comment about tennis. Tennis might not be possible at home, but what is the key learning here, and what could be done to support this learning?

2.Look to families for support. I realize that with our shutdown right now, many parents are working at home alongside their kids. Not all parents are able to sit beside their child for each class and/or spend hours uploading proof of learning outside of classroom time. I wouldn’t expect this either. In fact, I love the independence that even our youngest kindergarten students demonstrate online, and both my teaching partner, Paula, and I want to continue to support this independence.

All of this being said, if ever there was a time that “parents as partners” is key, I think that it’s now. I keep thinking about this photograph and these videos that a mom shared with us on MS Teams the other day (permission granted to share publicly).

While the video clips are short, the discussion that she has with her son not only provides us with insight about his thinking and learning, but also about her support. We can then suggest next steps accordingly. This is also evidence of learning that we can reflect on in the Communication of Learning. While I realize that this will not look the same in all grades, my step-dad is also a teacher. He mentioned that many of his parents email him with student assignments. Through the email discussions, he’s able to ascertain independent student work, parent support, and next step possibilities. Now he also has this information for report cards.

3.Personalize. While expectations need to guide assessment regardless of grade, there’s nothing to say that comments need to be the same for each student. Different specific expectations that match up to the same overall ones might align better for various students and given various circumstances. Maybe COVID becomes the call to personalize reports even more regardless of grade. (This is already key when it comes to the Communications of Learning, which is one of many things that I love about them!) I wonder if considering these different pieces of evidence might also reduce some teacher stress around needing to collect the same assignment from each child.

4.Consider the triangulation of data, maybe more than ever before. The triangulation of data is highlighted in Growing Success, and even present with slightly different wording in Growing Success — The Kindergarten Addendum. Sometimes collecting work products and seeing demonstrations of learning are harder online, but what about conversations with students? What about observing students as they work? In kindergarten, this observing part is often easier with cameras on, but I know that cameras are frequently off in older grades. I wonder if a breakout room discussion might work though or even a discussion in the chat. Collecting data in these different ways might still provide wonderful evidence of student achievement.

5.Contemplate different activity options. The teacher librarian at our school, Karen Wilkins, has me thinking about this point. At home, students don’t always have access to the same materials that they do at school, which can make certain subject areas more challenging than other ones. Lisa even addressed this in her blog post. We are still responsible for assessing all of these subject areas, so how do we make this work? Kindergarten has very open-ended expectations and an amalgamation of subject areas in each frame, which makes things easier at times, but this is not true for the other grades. Through Karen’s tweets, she shows how being online might be the perfect time to reconsider some material choices and use ones that might not be as accessible in the classroom. Check out this student work: it’s exciting, engaging, and meets expectations!

6.There’s no need to work in a bubble. I know that being at home makes it even harder to see and communicate with others, but this is where the ideas shared through Twitter and Instagram can be fantastic! Looking at how others are meeting expectations, and even exploring professional resources like OPHEA, might provide options for those expectations that educators still need to meet. For kindergarten teachers, connecting and reflecting with your classroom teaching partners is key. Often this leads to sharing different perspectives and considering examples of learning that might have otherwise been overlooked. I think it’s important to remember too that there are numerous educators that have been remote all year long. Maybe they can help with suggesting ways to collect data, teach different concepts virtually, and access resources remotely when the classroom is not an option.

7.Remember that the term began well before April. I know that there’s so much learning and growth that happens in these last few months of school, but I also know that we all have data from before we went online. Maybe these strange circumstances give us additional permission to weigh more heavily on some of this evidence than others. We can still provide the asterisk of when this learning occurred, and maybe sometimes, this asterisk isn’t necessary.

8.Soft eyes for all. Susan Hopkins regularly uses the phrase, “soft eyes,” and I think that it applies to reporting this year.

There are different stressors at play right now, and everyone is responding to remote teaching and learning differently. At times, I think this might mean more frequently giving children the benefit of the doubt, and forgiving ourselves if our teaching might not be at the same par as it would be in a normal year. Maybe this means that some specific expectations are not addressed as well as others or certain grades are based more on one expectation than another. The Communication of Learning allows for this to happen with greater ease than reporting in other grades, but I think that we all need to be more forgiving of ourselves and others in pandemic times.

We are all doing the best that we can, and while I do believe that there’s always more learning to do, I also think that it’s valuable to embrace and own these words given our current reality. How do you plan on making report cards and/or Communications of Learning work in the time of a COVID shutdown? Crowdsourcing ideas could be fantastic as June — and reporting season — quickly approaches! Good luck to all educators as the end nears. We’ve got this!


2 thoughts on “How Do You Make Report Cards And Communications Of Learning Work In The Time Of A COVID Shutdown?

  1. There’s a great deal of good thinking in this post, Aviva. Thanks for sharing it. Also, for noting that I schedule everything.

    Our backgrounds in education are different with me coming from the secondary school panel. At the end of a course, there is a number that is typically assigned to accomplishment. My original thought was that does a 79 a few years ago equate to a 79 in 2021. Universities and Colleges use these things for their admission letters. I would imagine that this is an extension of my thinking when I saw Grade 13 trending last week.

    If it’s not underway at present, I suspect it will be the source for much research on achievements comparing successes for those students entering higher education this fall.

    Fingers crossed as I post this that it doesn’t go missing again.

    • Thanks for your comment and your inspiration, Doug! This comment did end up in the Trash again β€” so, so strange β€” but I knew to look for it there this time. πŸ™‚

      As I was writing the post, I thought, I haven’t addressed high school and I’m not sure how to do that. There was an online component to all high school courses this year, so I wonder about the impact to a full pivot online. How might grades compare? My thought is that some students will excel and others will not, but does grading vary slightly because of these strange circumstances? I’m hopeful that high school teachers might weigh in here with their experiences.

      Thanks for always pushing my thinking!

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