Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Progress Report Format To Change For Term 2

In an effort to provide more useful feedback on student progress, Burlington High will try a new progress report during term two (Click on the link to see a copy of the term two progress report). The new model is actually a student self-assessment which will allow students to reflect on their progress in each course. Teachers will check the student self-assessments in individual courses and then students will bring a progress report home from each class to share with their parents. We are hopeful that this new format will give parents a better insight into their child's progress and promote a more substantial discussion between parents, students, and school staff.

The first batch of progress reports will be coming home on Friday and parents should see one per day through Monday, December 22. We would like feedback from both parents and students on this alternative format for progress reports as we decide what model to utilize for future progress reporting. I thank the BHS staff for their willingness to try this very different approach to completing progress reports.


  1. This idea will not work to the benefit of anyone in the school. More work for the teachers, inaccurate responses from students, etc. Four report cards a year are PLENTY for a high school student to handle and personally I think the interim reports are a little much already. If anything, the students who are failing specific courses should have their parents notified. Other than that, the students are pressured enough with constant testing, essay writing, and ridiculous amounts of homework. Having their opinion sent home to the parents (who most have already heard the opinion of their child...) will serve no good. Plus - 7 sheets of paper per student is a huge waste of paper.

  2. The only issue I agree with is that the use of paper is excessive. Asking students to reflect on their progress is not a bad thing, but I also do not think that this format would need to be used for four terms.

    In addition, like it or not, technology will allow for much better home-school communication.

    Finally, be careful not to overstate things (i.e. "this will not benefit anyone"). It takes away from some credible points you may make.

  3. As expected, students were put off by something new, but as we discussed the page and how we would use it, students are warming to the idea. One of my most challenging students even ended the class with a smiling, seeing how this could work for him. The opportunity for one-on-one interaction with students is always welcomed, and having students consider their own strengths and weaknesses will allow them a level of self-awareness and direction that a coded-comment never could. This format allows student and teacher the opportunity to plan how the student can improve and advance learning. Additionally, the parent is allowed in on this vital conversation. I can only see how this will be a win all around, if we put to use in the best possible manner.

  4. I like the idea of students evaluating themselves. I believe that they are actually pretty honest about their effort most of the time. That doesn't mean they won't avoid doing work sometimes. I'm interested to see what comes of this exercise.

    I think that the use of technology will simplify all of this. I've started posting grades on my web page. It is a pretty simple cut and paste exercise. Right now the students can see them because they are coded. It is unlikely that the students will tell their parents where to look. I need to figure out an efficient way to inform the parents.

  5. Pros
    - More accountability/responsibility on the student
    - Should be less work for teachers
    - Provides more accurate information to parents
    - Saves postage

    - Too much paper (7 sheets per student)
    - Doesn't utilize technology

  6. I think the new interims are an intereting way of students to be more accountable. However, the new programs was rolled out too quickly without faculty input and with little concern for confidentiality and use of resources namely and excessive use of paper.

  7. The level of concern about use of paper is off-track, considering what it is being used FOR. The forms I received are filled with questions that provoke reflection and help students take ownership of their own progress. Reading the completed forms, I will surely understand & be able to help my students that much better, and so will their parents. How is the benefit of that not worth five or six pieces of paper a few times a year? A few minutes spent reducing the margins or font size on a test or other handout easily compensate for those pages until an online system is in place.

  8. Some thoughts:

    I use Teacherease, a web-based grading program, to print out grade reports for each student. They use the data from these forms to fill out the progress report.

    I walk through each question and advise students about what to look for on the grade report, so they can spot strengths, weaknesses and trends.

    I then collected the forms and will add my own comments before sending the forms home.

    This is a positive change:
    -more substantive
    -involves students in their own progress more.
    -creates greater transparency.
    -investment in extra time (not much) pays off with better student awareness.

  9. As a parent, I think the new forms will be much more beneficial and informative to the parents at home. The old format was too subjective and did not provide enough information on the students grades. Comments such as 'Your child is making satisfactory progress' do not provide enough information -- is satisfactory progress a B average or a C average? Having this information at the mid-point of the term gives parents the ability to take action and work with their child on improvements so that they can improve their grade for the current term and not the next one. The new form also makes the students reflect on their work and what they need to do to improve. This will prepare them for the future as well when they have to prepare for performance reviews for their jobs. The new form may not be using current technology, but it is providing valuable information that the old reports didn't.

  10. I think that many teachers have the concerns of signing off on a document and then having the student take it home. How do we know that the grade isn't going to be changed before giving it to the parent? How do we know that the comments are not changed or altered by the student? How do we know that the parent even got the progress reports? What happens when the students lose the progress reports? There is no way (except photocopying every report) of having a copy of what was written for your own records - to show what you originally signed off on.

    I also feel that the time span this is going to occur over does not give students enough time to "fix" bad grades. Students are taking progress reports home right before winter vacation, with only two weeks when we return before mid-year exams. Is this really enough notice? How many students are going to show these reports to their parents right before the holiday vacation?

  11. I just completed my first class set of progress reports. For a freshmen class of 20 students, it took about an hour. This included my assessment of grades using my rank book, reviewing what students had written, speaking to about 10 students whose self-assessment was far different than mine, checking to see that all had been completed, making note of which students’ guidance counselors need to be notified.

    One student has been out for several days and won’t be back for a few more, and has not yet received the progress report worksheet.

    I had to create a new lesson for a long period, to have the time to do all of the above for one class. I still need to contact guidance and deal with the student who has been out.

    Pros: it was valuable for those students who
    did not have a clear idea where they
    stood, if in fact they were genuinely
    trying to be accurate.

    Cons: loss of instruction time, loss of
    planning time, need to rework my
    previous schedule to complete curriculum
    goals. Previous progress reports took
    about 40 minutes. If this is going to
    be meaningful, I see it taking me about
    5 hours + for 5 classes.


    1)use one or two professional development days
    to do this work.

    2)Please don't create new time-consuming
    responsibilities without advance notice. It
    made this hard-working teacher think that
    there is no respect for how much we do and
    how much pressure we are always under.

  12. I understand the desire to improve the progress report format. The current report communicates information that is far to general and cryptic. I would not find the report very informative or helpful as a parent. I would prefer to see a grade report to offer more specifics regarding student achievement. We all have to have a number or letter grade calculated to base the general comment on anyway, so why not communicate that directly is my question.

    As to the form which students are using for this term, I do have concerns as well as praise.

    On a positive note, I think that student self evaluation is of critical importance and a systemic format for accomplishing that laudable. When I see what students think of their own performance in the class, that can be very enlightening to me as an educator.

    I believe the self reflective nature of the form is evident and the fact that it must be validated by us before students leave for home with it is a good idea.

    There are a few items of concern to me however:

    I agree that the format is wasteful of resources. To dedicate 2 inches of the page to "circle yes or no" questions is not a very efficient format. I believe the reports for all seven classes could have been collapsed onto one page, front and back per student, utilizing a chart, likert scales and a better organized open response and sign-off area.

    Second, I agree that the notice was far too short given the radical change this represents. If perhaps the form was presented at a faculty or department meeting where we could have looked at it together and heard the reasoning of the advisory team which suggested the form, the faculty buy-in would have been greater and our understanding of the expectations clearer and more uniform across the faculty.

    Lastly, Though I believe student self evaluation is invaluable, I am not certain it is the correct format to use as our primary progress reporting to parents. If this approach is kept in some form, It should be as a compliment to more meaningful commentary provided by the faculty for the parents AND the students benefit.

    Finally,I applaud the effort to find a new approach for progress reporting, however, I hope that we are a bit more reflective and less rushed with our future experiments.

  13. I really feel upset about these new forms. Like I mean seriosusly it is just added work for us students. I feel that the new reports can easily be altered. I think that we should either go back to the old form or just abolish it all together. As the captain of the b-ball team I have too much work already. Let's just give up on this idea.

  14. I honestly believe this is one of the dumbest ideas ever. I am a student here and i honestly have no idea how im doing in a class, thats the teachers job to tell us. I don't take these seriously and i don't do them. I think their lame and unneccairy. Don't get me wrong, the old progress reports didn't work either. And what's the point if the parents don't even have to sign them.

  15. I feel this is a bit ridiculous. I've heard it comes from the freshman parents and I think they need to come to realize their children are in high school now and it's time for them to grow up. If they really don't feel like they're being informed then they should take it upon themselves to get in contact with the teacher. It's honestly just a pain to everyone else to go through this long and unnecessary process.

  16. I think these progress reports are a basically a step back from what we had before. Students do not know what they are getting in a class all the time. Some teachers don't pass back assignments. Some teachers grade based on class participation mainly so it is hard to know exactly how you are doing. Also students are always going to give the benefit of the doubt to themselves. Most parents want to know what the teachers think instead of the students. I really don't like these new reports..

  17. I understand that parents might like this better, but the way I see it is different. It is up to us as students to take responsibility for how well we are doing in school. Many parents see it that way as well. They may like the idea of having their kids input, but they can just ask us. These new reports are a hassle, and a waste of time. Students feel akward when talking to a teacher. What if we think we're doing better then we are? Now, the situation becomes embarrasing. I personally don't look forward to this at all. I hate having to go over my "strengths" and "weaknesses" its overwhelming and just a bad idea.

  18. It sounds like there are a lot of mixed feelings on the new progress report idea. Maybe try it for the second term and see how it goes. If it doesn't work out then be open for a new way or go back to the old way. I do think it will require a lot more time for the teachers and the students.

  19. I just went through the 1st round with the new progress report format. I reviewed the sheets with all my classes on the whiteboard on Thursday. Gave the sheets(period 5 only) to the kids asked them to complete as part of their homework assignment. Gave a quiz and then met with each student.

    Part of their responsibility was to estimate their grade. I then put what I felt was appropriate. Most were very accurate but a couple downed their grade a little bit. Their comments about strengths and weakness were very honest. I congratulated them for their honesty and told them they had to get their parents signature and return to me on Monday.

    Part of this was a reminder that should their parents contact me about their progress and I ask them if they saw the progress report that would not go over well with their parents.

    There are some flaws to make the process better but the first go around went extremely well.

  20. This new format is better than the previous. The Marshal Simonds midterm report is more comprehensive. Not only are you given your childs scores but there is also room for teacher comments. Is it possible to adopt their format

  21. I agree that this is not a good idea at all. Students are bogged down with so much homework, many with college applications and so many more stresses.It should not be of their responsibilities to have them fill this out themselves. And for people saying less work for the teachers, it is the teachers JOBS to teach and notify how they're students are doing, so they should be filling these out, not the students. I agree that the middle school's system is run in an orderly manner, as grades are not GUESSED (as many teachers have told my son) and it is not how the student FEELS they are doing, its the the teacher KNOWS they are doing.

  22. Observation: some teachers have said they dislike the "loss" of instructional time. One student above said talking to a teacher can be "awkward" and the conversation about his/her progress can be "embarrassing." Maybe this time spent checking in with students/teachers one-on-one is something that doesn't happen enough. Maybe these conversations are as valuable as anything else that comes out of this process, helping build relationships that motivate students, reward teachers, and make school a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

  23. The progress report has caused a fair share of ill feeling between teachers and
    administration, teachers and other teachers, and teachers and students. There are some good ideas in here, but this has caused more problems than it solved.

  24. It is simple really - an online gradebook system that all have access too. Thousands of other school districts have this program in place. Parents have access to their children's grades at all times and teacher are using current technology that requires less time to update unlike the antiquated grade submission system we have now. For parents who do not have internet access - print out reports are readily made available.

  25. I think that this idea is horrible! As a parent I did not find this informative at all. I prefer the old progress report or at least something like MSMS. There are numerous issues that I have with this.

    First of all I was not home at the time that the notification was sent out through the reverse phone call so I never received notification. I am sure that being the time of year that this is taking place I was not the only one. My student told me that this was being done but honestly I thought it was a joke. I am very sorry to see that it isn't. When a child is doing their work, turning it in, and studying they are already being responsible! I prefer to hear directly from the professional as to how they feel my child is doing not an approximate average. That is not that I do not trust my child but there is a reason we have teachers and I feel that they offer a more experienced view of what is happening academically.

    Progress reports are mailed home, ensuring that they arrive home! They are printed and cannot be doctored easily. Let’s face it high school years can be daunting for some parents why add anything to it? I could go on and on why this is a bad idea. If you want to do a better progress report that is fine just adopt the one MSMS uses, or come up with some other solution. There are way too many problems with doing it this way.

  26. BRAVO MR. Hutchison!!! Well put you are a definite asset to BHS!!

  27. After reading the very first blog, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a Parent of an 11th grader during the no drug/alcohol assembly after school being back for over a month. When I asked how her child was enjoying the 11th grade she proceded to tell me that she did not know since she hadn't spoken to her about school yet. This was after at least a month of being back, so the theory that the parents will more than like already know how their student is doing really doesn't always hold true. I think that it's a decent theory, but maybe keep the regular interim reports and ask the children their opinion of their progress at a halfway point in the year so that they don't have to do this every term... thank you.

  28. I applaud your efforts to try something different. Your goal of promoting student reflection is admirable. The format hopefully creates open dialog between students and teachers. As with any new initiative, there are questions raised and challenges to address.

  29. There have been complaints for years about the progress reports offering little substance to parents. A few years ago, teachers were only required to complete a progress report if a student was in danger of failing, and it was left up to the teacher to leave additional comments for any or all of their students. Personally, I started with comments for all of my freshmen, and later started making comments for all of my students. Certainly it is ludicrous that I was using a #2 pencil to bubble in the comments when we have technology already in place to at least use the (also-antiquated) "floppy disk system", but at least I had some control.

    Then, the system changed so that every teacher was required to leave at least one comment, and that comment HAD to be "is making _______________ progress." (fill in the blank as necessary). This made it more difficult to give an accurate picture as previously I was able to give more information, even though I only had about 30 comments to choose from. At least then I could choose "does not do homework regularly" along with "performs well on tests" which gives a much clearer view than "is making satisfactory progress" + only one of those other comments. Which way do I lean? Lack of homework or great tests? So I agree that the current system is not as helpful as it could be. To supplement that system, I began printing out reports from my electronic grading system. I require signoff from parents of underclassmen, but I want my seniors to take more responsibility for their own learning, so I simply give them the grade sheet, and encourage them to share the info at home.

    Is the new system that we used this term better? Not really. I always return all student work, so every student should already know where he or she stands in my class. (Please note the use of "should.") In addition, I do contact parents/guardians when a student is in danger of failing or has had a severe change in effort. I also encourage parents (and sometimes the students themselves) to email me on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to get regular updates. I don't mind giving ongoing feedback, as long as the request is generated from the outside. This new process has been very time-consuming in class. I want students to seriously reflect on their work (and most importantly, how they can improve) as I want them to be concerned with learning over grades. I am then happy to meet with them, but it takes a while to discuss each student's work. This process is a lot of time and effort (for both the teachers and the students) in order to be done well, and I am already doing this work elsewhere in my classes.

    The form itself is also confusing. There is a section with Guidance Counselor initials, and that confuses students (they believe they are supposed to get Guidance to sign off on the report... which is not the case, I don't believe).

    After reading through the comments, I see that many parents are asking for the MSMS Interim reports, and I would have to respectfully disagree that that is a better solution. I have over a hundred students, and at any given time, I have a batch of fifty or so essays and fifty tests that I am actively grading (with personalized comments on each essay and test). To add two hundred personalized comments on reports eight times a year when many students & parents don't need or want those comments seems excessive.

    In addition, several comments seem to point fingers at the teachers, by saying that we aren't doing our jobs because we aren't sharing information with our students and their parents. I can only speak for myself when I say that as soon as I have graded an assignment, it is returned to the student. My students know where they stand on each and every assignment, and they could do the math for their class average if they so desired. I do it for them already 8x a year (9x if you count the averages that I did just before parent-teacher conference night + day).

    I think it is an excellent idea to have students reflect on their work & effort... after all, how many of them will be required to reflect on their work & effort when they ask for raises in the future? However, the form & process needs work. Perhaps we could do it as part of an activity block. Students could fill out a form that asks them to reflect on their work at BHS overall, and then a small reflection for each course. They would have time one activity block to complete that (to eliminate the complaints that this is "too much work"). Then, maybe we could take one day to have students conference with teachers, instead of stretching it out over a 7 day period. Then, having the students return the sheets after a parent/guardian signs off, and then maybe the Guidance Counselor could keep the final copy. Then, Guidance Counselors could use those when formulating letters of recommendation. Actually, maybe teachers could even use that as well.

    Finally, as a closing thought, I want parents to know that the BHS teachers are a hard-working group who are actively involved in the students' lives. In the past two days, I have graded 30 essays, 90 writing prep assignments, written three letters of recommendation, created eight handouts to assist students who were struggling with the research and writing process, had conversations about writing assignments with 38 students, checked 42 homework assignments (and gave individualized feedback on those assignments), answered four parent emails and three student emails, had one extra help session, prepared lessons for ten classes and then taught those lessons, differentiating all the while. Those activities do not include the work that I do with clubs after school nor does it include the socializing that I do with students before homeroom, in my study, in the hallways, or in the lunchroom. I am always saddened by the fact that the view from outside seems always to be a negative one of teachers. It is frankly discouraging, and always makes me question whether I want to take the extra time to help a student get to that next level, or whether I would be happier being selfish and taking that time for me. To date, I have always chosen the more difficult (and so far, more rewarding) path, but every time I read about how lazy I must be, that nap looks more inviting.

  30. The new progress reports are pretty lousy, from what I have seen. I have two students at the HS, and out of 10+ classes, only one report was brought to me. They haven't mentioned the rest, and I keep forgetting to ask. There is no place for a parent to sign, and therefore no consequence to the student for hiding a bad report.

    The old reports were pretty bad also, but at least they were mailed and parents had at least a chance to see them.

    How about going back to the old format, but allowing the teachers to write a comment on their own, rather than select from a few "canned" comment?