Are You Grading or Reporting?

October 19, 2013 at 2:34 am Leave a comment

Okay, so I’ve been MIA on this blog for awhile.  Shortly after my last post I went out on maternity leave 6 weeks early to welcome my beautiful little girl into this world!  My summer was spent learning how to be a new mom (which I’m still learning new things EVERYDAY), and about a month ago I dove back into my work as a math coach!  So, here we are, it is almost report card time for the first quarter of our school year in my district.  Report cards, sigh, always seem to be a bone of contention with teachers, and parents since we transitioned from the traditional percentage/letter grade system to a standards based system.  

We have been on this journey for 5 years now and while I understand certain frustrations out there with the standards based report card, (technicalities, not pedagogy) I also firmly believe that it IS a better way!  For one, I came from a place where we used standards based and I see how it benefits students to know what is expected and how they are developing in an area, but I also clearly understand the descriptive feedback that is required for standards based reporting.  Lastly, it’s research-based! I know this isn’t the traditional way the general population has been accustomed to being “graded”, but it just makes sense! Let me give you this analogy;  My daughter was born six weeks premature.  Every time we visited her in the NICU, they would show us important numbers, and in addition to that the doctors and nurses explained what those numbers meant, and what we were looking for to show signs of her improvement.  And that was important for me to understand how close she was to being able to come home with us.  I don’t see teaching and learning as anything different.  With traditional percentage/letter grades and no descriptive feedback, all it is is a number.  This doesn’t describe exactly what a student knows and can do, and it doesn’t provide feedback on how to get better. Students and parents need descriptive, specific feedback so they know not only where they stand, but also how to improve.  Coaching is all about providing feedback for improvement.  Think of sports, the coach doesn’t tell the kids, “We lost today, see you at the next game.” He tells them to show up for practice and what they are going to work on so they can win the next game!

We’ve had A LOT of conversations about how to use a standards based report card, and how to complete it, unfortunately there hasn’t been the shift in thinking yet about looking at teaching and learning for improvement.  This is a process, a journey, and until we begin to think about what the standard requires, what evidence will show that, (rubrics are necessary) and providing feedback for improvement, this report card will continue to be a thorn in teachers’ and parents’ sides. 

So as you are getting ready to complete your report cards as a teacher, I urge you to think about what each of your students CAN DO, and give them some descriptive, specific feedback that will help them improve.  

If you are a parent, as you receive your child’s report card, I urge you to ask these 2 simple questions of your child’s teacher, 

1) What can my child do well?

2) In areas where my child is developing, what can we do to help him/her improve?


We are all in this together!  It’s not about passing and failing, it’s about teaching and learning for a lifetime.  This has always been my passion, and now that I have a precious little girl, rather than just labeling her with numbers and letters, I want her to hear what she is able to do, what she does well, and know what she needs to improve and HOW she can do so!  We all should want that for ALL children!


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Kristen Hahn

October 2013
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