Archive for the ‘Reporting’ Category

Report Writing That Says a Lot Without Saying Anything

November 25, 2011

It’s report time again, which means the long nights and deep frustrations have arrived.  Many will think I’m strange, but when I first started in  teaching, I was looking forward to writing reports. I saw it as an opportunity to inform the parents about how well I know their child. Communication with parents has always been very high up my priority list, and I saw reports as the centrepiece of good quality communication.

But since I became a teacher the rules for report writing has changed, and we are all worse of as a result.

The Government has legislated that reports all feature the same grading system and the same essential sections.  Two such mandatory inclusions include a list of skills in every area that the students need improvement in and what the school will do to address these needs.

Sounds good, right?

Wrong. Schools across Australia are so terrified that if the teacher doesn’t end up addressing the needs of the students as promised in the reports, then it will open them up to litigation. So schools have quickly searched for a loophole, a strategy designed to be seen to guarantee things to parents without actually guaranteed anything.

And out of that think tank came every teachers new buzz word – ‘encourage’.

“The school will encourage Max to underline key words when reading worded questions.”

“The school will encourage Rita to use rubrics before planning a piece of writing.”

So in the end, the school is offering no actual response to the child’s needs, just some “airy fairy” words that don’t actually mean anything.

And then there’s the “education” words that don’t make any sense to most parents.  Because many teachers are expected to leave out hard truths like, “Max doesn’t behave in class” and “Rita doesn’t apply enough effort”, teachers have employed words that the average parent wouldn’t understand.

For example, teachers love using words that start with “meta” like “metacognitive”, “metalanguage” and “metabolic steroids” (OK, maybe not the last one).  As the custom is to spare the school of angry or dissatisfied parents, teachers have become great at writing reports high on words and low on substance.

It’s actually harder and more tiresome than it sounds.

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Report Writing Can Be So Dispiriting

June 14, 2011

Remember the day when teachers actually got to speak their mind?  When they were able to put an evaluation of a child in writing without fear of a lawsuit?  I’m afraid those days are long gone.

Report writing is as bigger chore now as it has ever been.  Required to complete at least 2 a year, I stay up nights on end in the lead up to my report writing deadline, typing away, without any idea why reports need to be so long and arduous.

The following are 5 frustrating features of a modern-day school report:

1.  It is often written in technical language that makes no sense at all to parents.  This is a ploy by the teacher to use up as much space as possible, make themselves look extra professional and write in such a way that parents have no idea what they are talking about (so they wont have what to complain about).  I feel sorry for parents that genuinely try to read their child’s report, only to be left totally confused by the experience.

2.  The Government is scared that put in the hands of teachers, reports would be too short and wouldn’t include enough detail.  That is why they have directed teachers to write about every detail about the child, down to how neat his/her desk is and how clearly he/she speaks in public.  That means Primary school teachers must write over 1000 characters each in four sections (General Comment, Maths, English and Unit of Inquiry).  Added to that the teachers need to isolate skills yet learnt and pinpoint how they are going to help the students catch up in these areas.  It’s just too long!

3. Similarly, the Government wanted students to be graded according to an insane scale.  The letter grade “B” means the child is a semester ahead, “C” refers to where the child should be, and “D” means the child is a semester behind.  There is “A” and “E”, but teachers are advised not to go there because it makes the school look bad.  In other words, if your student is going well, you give them a “C” – go figure!

4.  The report tell you nothing of real substance!  The threat of lawsuit is too great.  It’s designed to say a lot without saying anything at all!

5.  Teachers are so exhausted from writing these blasted reports that they come to school tired and emotionally drained.  Their planning time has been compromised, so often their lessons are less engaging.

I am as happy with my reports as the constraints lets me be.  I feel as though I’ve written in “plain speak”, demonstrated that I know my students and have shown an understanding of where they are at academically and socially.

But I am so drained!

Why does it have to be like this?


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