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Evaluating your child's progress at school

Author: Canadian Living

Family

Evaluating your child's progress at school

Evaluating student progress
Most elementary schools in Canada issue report cards on student progress three times a year. Your child's report card is meant to give you a good understanding of your child's achievements. If the report card doesn't enlighten you about how your child is doing in each subject evaluated, it may be because of an overdose of educational terminology: outcomes, benchmarks, indicators, standards, and pat phrases may be confusing.

Here's how to "assess" the report and interview your child's teacher so that you have a clear picture of your child's progress.

Teachers have a variety of techniques to evaluate student progress at different ages. They may include the following:

Ages five and six: Kindergarten and grade one
Observation
The primary means of evaluation at this age. The classroom teacher notes her observations daily or weekly on your child's work and contribution in class.

Performance
Students perform a task to show how well they can apply the knowledge and skills they've developed during each term.

Ages seven to nine: Grades two and three
Portfolios
The teacher and the student put a selection of the student's best work in a folder. Its contents may include book reports, tests, drawings, or videotapes. Students help choose the samples of work collected in the portfolio over the school year. The range makes the student's progress over the year more obvious for the student, the teacher, and the parents. At parent-teacher meetings, parents can discuss with the classroom teacher how their child's level of ability and understanding is demonstrated in the work.

Tests or quizzes
Teachers usually develop tests or quizzes to assess what students have learned in each unit of study throughout the school year.

Curriculum-based tests
These tests are based on the provincial or board curriculum and measure the students' mastery of the curriculum. These tests usually are undertaken during grade three (nine-year-olds), grade six, and grade ten.

Standardized tests
In some boards or provinces, students may participate in a board-wide or province-wide test, like the Canadian Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), which measures their general skills and knowledge. The results are analyzed (often by computer) and reported in different printouts that allow educators and parents to compare each student's achievement with other students of the same age and grade.


Page 1 of 3 – Discover how to appropriately analyze a report card on page 2.

Ages 10 to 12: Grades four, five, and six
Projects
These take on greater significance. Students are assessed on their ability to work independently or in a group on a project with a specific deadline for completion.

Journals
Students are encouraged to express their ideas and feelings, ask questions, and respond to open-ended questions in their own journal of learning. Their classroom teacher gains insight into the students' learning processes, as well as their social and personal growth and intellectual development.

Tests and quizzes
Teacher-developed quizzes and tests assess what students have learned throughout each unit of study in the curriculum. The results in each subject area contribute to the year-end marks.

Observation, performance and portfolios
These continue to be important parts of the teacher's evaluation.

Reading a report card

The results of these varied evaluations appear on a report card issued at the end of each term. Recent trends in report cards indicate that ministries of education are listening to and acting on parent complaints that report cards had become difficult to understand and were filled with education jargon. Most boards issue report cards that use levels of grading: A, B, C, and D or 1, 2, 3, and 4. Be sure you understand what the levels mean.

What's in a child's report card shouldn't come as a surprise to her parents. If she had been having serious difficulty with mathematics or the language arts, the teacher should have contacted you as soon as she became aware of the problem. However, on a report card, teachers do avoid being blunt in what they write, and tend to use general comments.

Understanding what the teacher means
A teacher might write "Greater attention in class would bring improved results," which probably means that your child is easily distracted, spends too much time talking to other kids, or doesn't listen.

Teachers are careful to use standard phrases since all comments appear on a child's Student Record Card (SRC) which follows her throughout her school years in any province or from province to province. Also, teachers do not want to arouse emotional responses from parents that will not help the child improve her performance.


Page 2 of 3 – Find out the types of questions you should ask your child's teacher on page 3.

To get a fuller picture of your child's performance, use the report card commentary in subsequent discussions with the classroom teacher. Ask what "good work" means. Does it mean that it's a personal best for your child or that she's at the top of the class? Can she improve her personal best academic performance, or is there another avenue like music, art, or sports that can help her become a well-rounded student?

When you read "Michael is working to his greatest potential," ask what the teacher thinks Michael's potential is relative to that of his peers. Ask if you can see samples of the work of other students that reflect three or four different levels of achievement. If the teacher believes that your child can improve her skills or her performance, ask what you or your child can do or what the school can provide to achieve that improvement. Here are good questions to ask your child's teacher.

Ages six to nine
• What will my child learn in language arts and mathematics?
• How will she learn it?
• Has she learned it?

Then ask questions that reveal work and study habits, such as:
• Does my child stay on task?
• Can she work independently?
• Will she work with others?

Ages 10 to 12
In addition to the above questions, ask about her attitude and willingness to actively pursue learning.

• Does my child have a positive attitude toward learning?
• Is my child keen to learn?


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