TEACHER: Why does your geography exam paper have a big zero over it?
Pupil: It's not a zero, the teacher ran out of stars, so she gave me a moon instead!
If only life could be taken in such a humorous vein by the students, things would have been so much easier. Seems to me, these days, school life is all about pressure, pressure and more pressure. Where have those days gone when students actually longed to go to school, had no great fear of getting low marks and student report card comments were not things which stressed out both parents and teachers alike?
The modern student has started to rely heavily on their parents’ reaction to their scores instead of introspecting for themselves. This is because of the big deal parents place on the report card and the teachers’ comments. The stress that they place on it is transferred to the child and the fallout is negative at most times. If parents could just use that moment to get their kids thinking for themselves about how they did, report cards would be a more effective tool for motivating kids to perform better.”
A student’s standard based report card according to Wikipedia is a written report containing the evaluation of a pupil’s scholarship and behaviour, sent periodically to the parent or guardian, usually on a card containing marks and teachers’ comment together with his record of attendance. Usually signed by the parents without much reflection, in the past, it was simply a certificate to be stored up for admission into a higher grade. There were hardly any detailed comments on each aspect of the child’s personality barring whether he has been naughty or disciplined in school, secured good grades and had been punctual or irregular in school attendance. It is not so in the new age schools. Students’ report Card comments nowadays are suggestive of parental expectations to grades that are not only attempts at changing student behaviour but also may be viewed as objective responses in analysing the personal needs and values of the student, and the areas in which he or she can develop.
However, the changing scenario of school education, new criteria’s of admission into schools, new ways of assessment have brought in things to play in a child’s academic life which previously was not considered important. Earlier, solid marks in the report card were enough, period. Nowadays, in the ever increasing world of competetition, the dreaded monster (read Teacher comments) is here to stay, has become a part of any child’s recurring nightmare.
Attending PTM’s, discussing or even arguing the comments and reports made by the teachers on their children’s report cards have become the norm of the day, especially for mothers. One cannot but acknowledge the fact that modern parents are very concerned about each and every aspect of their child’s development in school. Unlike the past, where parents only went once a year to school, rarely if ever interacted with the teachers or tried to discuss the child’s progress, parents of the new age want a detailed feedback about their wards. Hence, for teachers’, writing students report card comments are becoming more and more detailed and complex, these days. The normally accepted “well done”, “keep it up” are passé. Student Report Card comments nowadays not only reflect the academic progress of the child but also their holistic development.
It is quite interesting to see how regular elementary school report cards and IB schools, with their PYP, MYP and the DP programme use the Student Report Card as a reflector of the students’ ability. While in state schools running non IB programme, emphasis is laid a lot on assessing the student on the numerical scale, with solid figures, in the IB programme, student assessment mostly are of the graded kind where the Student Report Card comments made by the teacher more or less justifies the grades.
Normal report cards in Elementary, Middle & High schools are generally given or sent to parents twice a year. They are standard based and indicates students’ progress in meeting the prescribed standards in each subject. The Teacher comments in these report cards are usually very brief and short while describing character development of the child. An example would be: “His/her moral character is good.” “He is excellent in Sports”, “She is terrific in Academics.” These are the benchmarks and rarely, if ever do we find teachers or parents
who request conferences to discuss ways to support students who are experiencing difficulties or who require extension.
In the GCSE/IGCSE or ‘A’ ‘O’ levels and especially the IB, although most of the general criteria’s remain the same, the Students’ report Card comments made by the teacher are more personalised, taking into account, slow, struggling, and average or advanced learners. Allowances are also made to mention individual brilliances, not only in specific subjects but also in sports, Co-curricular activities, team building exercises, and extracurricular activities etc, and assessment is based on their Learner profiles. The Students’ Report Cards, along with the teacher’s comments indicate students’ progress toward meeting standards in each subject area, as well as the students’ character development described in the IB Learner Profile.
Be it in the languages, Units of Enquiry, Mathematics, Social Sciences, Sciences, Visual Art, Performing Art or Personal, Social, Physical, Education, the PYP and MYP report cards are quite detailed and complex. The strands being so varied and taking into account the Transdisciplinary skills, the level acquired, the Teacher’s comments are generally tailored to describe a pupil’s progress in all aspects according to the strand covered. In the Diploma Level, it narrows down a bit to specifics of the subjects. An IB PYP and MYP and DP Student report Card could have various headers like Language Arts, Mathematics, Units of Enquiry, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, personal Social Physical Education, depending on the level and sub level criteria’s.
A typical example of IB Student report card comments could be:
• Needs attention: The student demonstrates a general misconception or lack of understanding
• Developing: The student is developing an understanding and can demonstrate this with assistance
• Mastering: The student is generally able to demonstrate understanding with occasional assistance
• Applying: The student can consistently demonstrate understanding with minimal prompting and can apply it in several contexts
• Independent: The student confidently and consistently demonstrates understanding, regularly and independently applying it in a variety of context.
With a bit of tweaking here and there, these comments are what we generally see from a teacher in an IB report card.
All said and done, however, one very important thing for parents to remember is that report cards are simply a time bound period record of the child’s progress. Progress is the key. It is just a mirror to see what your child is learning and how he is performing in school, not the ultimate on how intelligent or smart he/she is. Admittedly, society lauds brilliance and parents dreams of a scientist, engineer or a doctor in their child but isn’t there a place for a child to pursue his/her dreams without the constant pressure and stress of good marks and good remarks.
The moral of the story should not be this:
What is the Great Depression? When your child gets a bad report card.
When that report card comes home at the end of each term, celebrate his/her academic achievement whatever it may be.