Reporting on student progress to parents and primary caregivers is of critical importance. It is an element of the educational partnersghip that includes the student, home and school.
Reporting to parents and caregivers in most primary schools, is a task undertaken each term. Toward the end of terms one and three, teachers report orally. Oral reports allow for conversations with parents on student progress. They enable teachers and parents to discuss progress including student strengths and the challenges they face.
Written reports are provided toward the end of terms two and four. These documents are looked forward to by many parents. They are at times photocopied and sent to grandparents or other relatives living at distance.
For teachers, report writing is a task not to be taken lightly. The importance of reports to parents in large part influences the way in which these documents are regarded by our department and school principals. They are valued and valuable documents.
There are a couple of things that need to be understood. The first is that with teaching being increasingly a collaborative effort, a number of teachers may need to contribute to the preparation of student reports. Secondly, the steps leading to final report documents, mean that reports have to be started many weeks before the end of each term. Allowing time to prepare them reasonably is something that can be easily overlooked.
Consider the following:
* Reports as a statement from teachers to parents need to be honest and
* Spelling and grammar need to be correct as they reflect teacher standards.
* Reports should be factually correct.
* Preparation is helped if teachers have a critical colleague read through their
documents before sending them to senior staff for vetting and approval.
* What is written needs to be substantiated by background facts supporting
statements of progress. Inaccuracy can be embarrassing to teachers if report
comments are challenged by parents and cannot be refuted.
* Language needs to be carefully chosen, reporting on facts and not supposition.
* Avoid words like ‘will’ and choose words like ‘may’ when talking about potential
for improvement. Absolute words throw the onus on teachers to make things
happen; it is up to the student to achieve his or her potential.
I have always favoured the idea of teachers discussing reports with children and students about whom they are prepared, on a one-to-one basis. Commendation and recommendation for improvement might be part of these conversations. Post report discussion with parents can also have positive spin offs, particularly if the approach is one of offering encouragement.
Reports reflect outcomes based on effort. That, together with character traits that contribute to good citizenship deserve recognition. While academic success is important, the social, emotional and moral/spiritual aspects of development are also worthy of mention. That is not always possible because these criterion have been expunged from many reporting templates.