On the latest report card “innovation”

There is a renewed push in BC to remove letter grades from report cards. The front line of this struggle is currently in Squamish. Here is my response to the local newspaper’s story on this issue.

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The push against letter grades is, of course, not new. It’s just the latest salvo from the Romantics who brought you, among other things, open-air classrooms in the 70’s and the Year 2000 initiative in the 90’s. And yes, neither of them lasted.

Two significant problems with anecdotal reporting are jargon and lack of context. We can already see the creeping edubabble from phrases like “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset”. These are not only highly ideological and loaded terms for teachers but also, frankly, the beginning of an impenetrable fog of specialist language that means little to the average parent. Depending on the report card format, parents might also gain little sense of how their children are doing versus other children or against fixed standards. Indeed, part of the philosophical (or, dare I say, political) nature of this bandwagon is the fear that letter grades might harm children. If you hear this argument, ask for the scientifically valid double-blind studies that support this belief. Don’t just accept that educators’ fears are “based on research”. In my experience as an educator, I have seen precious little evidence in this regard.

If I were a parent in Squamish, I would demand letter grades along with all other potential feedback. More is better, and those letter grades might just help you cut through the miasma of so-called innovation.

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