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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What does your report card report?

I had a blog entry on report cards half written and ready to publish when the Sydney siege happened. I now feel my thoughts are so trivial in comparison. Life is precious. We should stop complaining. We should embrace gratitude. My heart goes out to all those affected by the actions of one person.

What I had wanted to write about was that end of school year ritual - the report card. I'll still post my thoughts as it is meaningful to me, but I respect that you may be reading this with others concerns/anxieties at the forefront of your minds.

Choosing the school we send our girls to was made so much easier when we were told of their reporting system. Rather than the traditional five point A-E scale used by so many schools, our school goes against the grain to not sum up a child's whole year of learning into single letters. No 'grades' are given from Prep through to Year 9. Instead, we get a comprehensive report sometimes 10 pages or more, one that details in the teacher's words how our child has developed through the year in the areas of:
Character Development
Sense of Responsibility
Self Discipline
Social & Emotional Development
Approach to Learning
Health & Physical Well-being
and of course all the academic subjects

At the last school I worked at I initiated changes to the reporting model so that the level of support a student received would be reflected on the report card. If they were working to a different year level outcome than their class peers that would also be reflected.  I am still so personally and professionally proud of this because I really feel that a 5 point scale that marks against age based criteria doesn't reflect that each child works towards his or her own potential. This is such an important aspect of any special education or learning support/enrichment program.

We chose our daughter's school for many reasons, but we knew straight away that this type of 'report' would tell us so much more about how Imogen is doing at school. It gives us a better idea of her strengths and weaknesses than a single letter on a five point scale can tell. It would be a better marker of Imogen achieving to the best of HER potential. Not a comparison of how she is doing against a set of criteria.

One of the things we have learnt from Imogen is to remove expectations. She will achieve what she will achieve in her own time. She works ridiculously hard to do as well as she does and we are endlessly proud of her efforts. This year it was more difficult than before to read Imogen's end of year report card. This year our middle girl Stella started Prep, so she received her first report card. Though our girls are two very different people with different personalities, interests, likes and dislikes, comparisons are inevitable. Especially when the report card of a younger sibling shows that they are starting to pass their older sibling.

We have known that this would be the case and I don't think we ever put a date on it in our minds of when we thought it would happen. Imogen will sit down and read to Stella and Adele...... and anyone who sits still long enough to listen to her! And I'm so glad that Imogen will always have that, she will always be able to say she helped to teach her sisters to read.

In writing this I think I'm talking myself out of the initial heartache I felt when I first read the report cards.

We have good family friends whose son has just graduated, with honours, from medicine. Our girls adore him and have always been excited about the prospect of his becoming a practicing doctor and were thrilled when he sent them real life scrubs! He has undoubtedly worked hard to achieve what he has - with honours no less! But not for one second do I think that Imogen has not worked as hard as anyone else, just because her report card reads differently to that of her sister's or her class mate's.  Both Stella and Imogen put their very best into whatever it is that they do, though the outcome may be vastly different.

Inspiring our girls to dream big!

Special education, mainstreaming, inclusion - whatever you want to call it - is NOT about the equality of outcome. It IS about he equality of opportunity.

I don't know the origins on the image as there are many versions, but I was blown away by the simplicity of the explanation.

For the time being I am going to enjoy the school holidays and wrap myself up in my three girls. The renovations continue with plans for the new rooms finally coming together. The garden in looking amazing now that summer has brought some rain. Our little town is, as always, the most spectacular and friendly place to live. There is so much to acknowledge and be grateful for in these times of great sadness.

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