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Report cards to become parent-friendly

Lori Penner
The province hopes the new report cards will be less confusing for students, parents and teachers.

The province hopes the new report cards will be less confusing for students, parents and teachers.

Trying to figure out how your child is doing in school is about to get a little easier.

Schools across Manitoba will be soon be using new report cards that will state students' progress in plain language.

The new report cards will be used province-wide by September, 2013, though about 70 per cent of schools will start using them voluntarily this fall, according to Education Minister Nancy Allan.

The goal is to streamline educational assessment across the province, into a more manageable, understandable system.

Currently, report cards differ from school division to school division, which has caused some confusion among administrators and parents.

"We definitely heard from parents that there was a concern about the report card," Allan said. "If it's going to be an educational tool, we need parents to be able to understand it."

Allan said the new report cards will do away with educational jargon such as "meeting expectations" or "not meeting expectations." Instead, they will use three standard templates, with grade scales that are already being used in many schools:

Students in Grades 1 to 6 will be marked on a four-point numeric scale for each subject category.

Students in Grades 7 to 12 will have marks expressed in percentages.

In Grades 9 to 12, report cards will also have a chart showing how many graduation requirements the student has fulfilled. The report cards will also feature a section in which teachers can note a student's behaviour, separate from his or her academic grade.

Allan began the process of changing the cards in 2010, recruiting teachers, superintendents, school trustees, and parents. The new card was pilot tested by some schools in the 2011-2012 school year, with changes based on feedback from parents and teachers.

According to Manitoba Teachers' Society president Paul Olson, the new cards will be more comprehensible and will also take some of the workload off of teachers.

Comments on Facebook revealed differing schools of thought. Altona mom, Susan Yakabowich said report cards are meant to give students something to strive for.

"They need to stick to percentages or the alphabet," she said. "In Parkside School they switched (to a) marking system that was not quantifiable but rather based on teachers' perspectives. Even the students protested against the marking system. Students need to be able to identify where their marks are at and then they are able to set goals to work towards. Soft fuzzy marking might work in elementary school but by the time students are in Grade 6 it should begin to reflect the real world."

Curt Neustaeter of Altona said marking kids on a curve is wrong. "All you are doing with that is telling the students that they are going to win no matter if they try or not! Grades are important, but only if they actually mean something!"

But Lowe Farm dad Blaine Reimer said he thinks the old marking system was meaningless.

"The higher a child scores on any scale is merely an indication of how well that child is able to repeat back that which they've been instructed, which makes testing more a measure of memory and discipline than intelligence."