Thursday, May 17, 2012

On A Scale of 1-4....

I did an interview for CBC Radio One yesterday- a segment about the proposed/ impending changes to the way Kindergarten to Grade 6 student report cards are written.

Under the new standard, the children will no longer be marked on the old "A, B, C, D, and F" or any other of the myriad ways each catchment and district have been using. Instead, they are going to forge ahead with the 1-4 scale.

The reason I was interviewed is that this 'new' system is the system my childrens' school uses. I've been trying to figure out when to high five and when to lecture for the last 7 years.

Because giving a kid an "A" is generally assumed to be 85% or better. Not much to whine about there. "B" meant 70-84% which again isn't terrible (but isn't really very good either), "C" was 60-69% and "D" was 50-59%. An "F" meant, "Don't go home tonight."

So, the first time I saw this 1-4 system, when Bugs was in Kindergarten, I remember thinking, "Okay, so 4 is an A? Wait... No... 4 is 80% or better? So, 3 is 60% or better? 2 is 40% or better? 1 is straight up fail?" Then when I saw some 1's... HOLY my head almost fell off. I mean, my son was reading, doing math, counting, how could he be failing anything at all (okay, I totally understood the 'Doesn't listen or follow instructions= 1').

How? Oh, because the 1-4 system DOES NOT correspond to a particular grade. It's arbitrary. Not based on marks at all. I call 'baloney'. Teachers work damned hard to put a curriculum together, to learn each students' particular learning curve and needs. So, why are they putting teachers and parents over a barrel like this?

"Better self esteem" I saw from one woman interviewed for the trash mag that passes as a paper here in town. Geez lady, if your kid can only get self esteem from not hearing that they aren't doing well in a particular subject, then you have larger problems than a kid who isn't doing so well in school. I didn't always get A's. Or even only B's. There was some subjects I just didn't do so well in (Calculus and I go WAY back; but that bitch and I don't talk anymore).

So my point was this, "Sure, change the ratings, make them whatever the heck you like. Letters, numbers, symbols. It comes down to the same damned thing. We are going to push our kids to do their best, to try their hardest and support them when they don't do as well as they'd hoped. But, for Heaven's sake, don't hog tie teachers and parents with a scale that has NO VALUE. If it is completely subjective then a teacher who gives 3+'s instead of 4's is asking her kids to work harder than someone who gives out 4's. And that's not fair to the teachers, the students or the parents."

This is the first year that Bugs has received both a numerical value (percentages) along with his 1-4 rating. This is the first year his report card has actually mattered. Up until now, the report cards have just been props I took with me when I talked to the teacher at the parent/ teacher interview. That interview is the important part, that's the part where the teacher can tell you exactly what your child needs to work on, and what they are doing fantastic in.

That is what compels me, as a parent, to say to Bugs, "Listen Mr. B says you've been having trouble handing things in? What can we do to fix that? Is it your organization, or are you having trouble with the work?" And he says, "Yeah, I lost the papers in my locker." So I look in the locker, and am so appalled I just shut the door again, and say, "Clean that crap out of there and you wouldn't lose your homework in it."

But, now I can evaluate- with actual effectiveness- how my child has done each semester in school. And I can rake him over the coals if I need to, or tell him how awesome he is and what a good job he's doing (which is all I've ever had to do anyways- lucky me).


  1. I'm copy and pasting a comment here from a friend who read this post via facebook:

    "Give it a few years and it'll be just like the performance ratings system at every company I've ever worked at. All based on a scale of 1 to 4, and *everyone* gets a 3." Pete.

    And my response:

    Oh, Pete you are so right. I read an article where one woman claimed getting ABC marks caused her daughter stress, and to have low self esteem. Soon, not only will they stop marking kids fairly, they'll stop marking them at all, and it will be a system even worse- kids who can't read or count or do math will be pushed through "to preserve self esteem" or some such nonsense. Why even make the teachers go through the motion of marking, when they are given a proscribed list of words they can not use in order to make sure parents don't get offended? Because parents these days feel 'entitled', and they don't WANT to hear that their kid is stupid, or bratty or ill prepared for the next grade. They don't want to hear that because they were so busy 'preserving self esteem' they neglected to instill reality- when you don't work at it, you don't pass. That's something kids don't learn anymore. Pass/ fail systems may not be the answer, but surely marks based on empirical evaluation is a better option than 2's and 3's (where it's completely arbitrary).

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