The days of waiting for a quarterly report card to track your student’s academic progress will soon be a thing of the past in School District 69.
The SD69 school board was treated to a presentation by teachers and students beta-testing two new reporting programs during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday at the school board office in Parksville. Both systems feature ongoing input from teachers, students and parents, including work samples, photos, videos and audio files to chart each student’s progress.
“(We)’re looking at shifting from the traditional reporting system to now communicating student learning,” said teacher Sarah Hung. “So we’re not just waiting for report cards to come. We’re taking communication to parents, and to the students as well.”
The Fresh Grade reporting system, and the Scholantis program being used by fellow teacher Janice Proctor, are both based on the idea that frequent teacher-family communication increases student engagement. The systems are being tried this year under a larger Ministry of Education mandate, adopted by SD69, to reform the communication of student learning.
Unlike the traditional quarterly report cards with letter grades, the online reporting systems used by Hung and Proctor feature regularly updated online portfolios for each student, which can be accessed by the teacher, the student and the parents with custom log-in passwords.
Rather than the teacher simply loading material into each portfolio, the students themselves are encouraged to take a hands-on role in contributing to the system.
“A big component of it is the student’s voice,” said Proctor. “We’re really wanting students to be able to see their own learning and find ways to move their own learning forward, almost on a continuum.”
The student role extends to teaching their own parents to navigate the system.
“It’s nice to be able to go in, but it’s a matter of wrapping our head around getting ourselves used to checking it,” said one parent who was in the gallery. “If (my daughter) doesn’t log on, I haven’t done it myself. So she’s showing me rather than me going on myself, as of right now.”
“I think because it’s so new, that’s probably expected,” Proctor answered. “What I want to do, ideally, is look for ways that it’s incorporated into some kind of activity that I do that kids have to show their parents, so that the kids are teaching their parents how to use it, as well.”
Trustee Elaine Young asked the teachers if the system takes up more of their time than the traditional filling out of grade reports. Hung replied that the Fresh Grade system did present a learning curve that required more of her time for the first couple of months, but said it offers the advantage of being able to update the portfolios anywhere and any time she’s connected online, rather than hauling a pile of paperwork home on evenings or weekends.
Trustee Jacob Gair asked if the student portfolios are deleted at the completion of the school year, or whether they may be passed on to the student’s next teacher.
“It’s archived at the end of the year, and the teacher that may come in after me that’s using Fresh Grade as their platform can access that archive. The final report card that I will do will also have documentation that will go into their file, so they will have that hard copy.”
Proctor said the Scholantis portfolios will also be archived. Both teachers admitted one advantage to using a single system would be universal access throughout the student’s school career, and said feedback from parents who currently have students in both systems will prove valuable in making that decision. “Ideally, if a kindergarten teacher is using it, by the time the (student) gets to me in Grade 7 they could actually look back to their kindergarten year, if they want to.”