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Standards-Based Report Cards

The New York Times Opinion Page had a piece (which I seem to have misplaced) describing new report cards featuring state mandated standards from a parents perspective. They found the several page document bewildering, and this is coming from a member of the New York Times Editorial Staff. Imagine how the average mom and pop might feel with a report card that reads:

2.1 Understand negative whole-number exponents. Multiply and divide expressions involving exponents with a common base.

Most of the problems in education come from terrible feedback mechanisms. Teachers don’t have the time to give substantial feedback in person, nor do they have time to write intensive analysis on a per student basis. Parents are completely in the dark, even if they try to follow along (and most don’t even try because the information they get isn’t good enough). And students delude themselves into thinking whatever they want to think about their performance. The need is great for better, real-time, actionable reporting to all stakeholders in a kid’s life. The Truth Will Set You Free, or in this case The Truth Will Give You Power Over Your Students.

Standards based reporting is coming. The question is whether or not it can be presented in a fashion that means something and promotes the action necessary to increase student learning and performance.

4 Responses to “Standards-Based Report Cards”

  1. stephen lyle February 16, 2008 at 5:01 pm #

    I’m actually working with a few different districts who are implementing standards-based report cards, and I completely agree that some (though certainly not all) learning objectives are written so that only someone with an MA in curriculum and instruction is able to grasp what his/her kid is supposed to be demonstrating, not to mention how the standard is supposed to advance the student in learning and/or life. But I think this will change over time. The first step is to get parents more information than just an Excellent, Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. The second step will be to make that information more accessible, and it will come when parents object to the arcane vocabulary of today’s halls of departments of education, and the states respond in the usual measured manner. Still, it’s better than nothing.

  2. mpstaton February 16, 2008 at 5:44 pm #


    I totally agree that any step towards more information is better. And I am not one to halt progress for want of perfection. I’m just pointing out that an easy mistake to make in standards-based report cards will be to give information in a manner that is either difficult to interpret or does not promote “interventions” to help the child succeed.

    I applaud your work to this end!

  3. Cheryl June 19, 2008 at 12:30 pm #

    I, too, am currently working on developing standards based report cards with a group of school leaders. I feel like I’m inventing then wheel! But I would disagree with Stephen’s first step. I think the first step is to have a very clear vision on what we hope to achieve. Realistically, this is always a balancing act between keeping the state happy and having a valuable resource tool for teachers, students and parents. Second, I don’t think we should wait until parents object. Regardless of whether you are district admin, principle, curriculum and instruction person or a teacher, we can take responsibility in leading the way for this to occur in ways that ultimately benefit the students. The person above is right on in that the language must be accessible and in some way shape or form address interventions for struggling students.

  4. kathi August 22, 2008 at 4:35 am #

    My school has been doing standards based report cards for several years. This spring a survey went out to parents. Parents are unhappy that they do not see a number (85%, 98%, etc.) They feel if their child receives an M in a standard the first trimester and an M the second trimester they don’t know if the child made progress. They also want to know if their child is closer to P or E when receiving that M. So, our school board now wants us to give a dual report card. They want us to give an overall number grade for the subject, but E,M, P or N for the standard under the subject. I have no idea how to do this. Any ideas??

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