It’s report season! - 10 Facts That All Parents Must Know Before Reading Their Child’s Report

Welcome back to Creating A Learning Environment. I can not believe that it is nearly the end of Term 2. Where have the last 6 months gone? The end of a Semester, means a very busy time for teachers. This is the time where teachers use all their observations and assessments to provide a formal document about each child in their class, to reflect on what that child has learnt and developed over the two terms.

This blog will look into the world of “grading” for reports and give parents information about what they need to know before they even open their child’s report.

New South Wales Primary schools send student reports home twice a year. The first one being at the end of Semester 1 (End of Term 2) and the second one at the end of Semester 2 (End of Term 4). The report’s aim is to give parents information about their child and give the parent an understanding of whether their child is meeting benchmarks for their age.

Reports can cause a lot of mixed emotions for many households. It can be a time of celebration of a child’s achievement or a realisation that your child is struggling to meet the expected level of a particular grade. With all situations, reports need to be used as a conversation starter between you and your child and between you and your child’s teacher.

Below is a list of 10 facts that all parents need to know before they read their child’s report.

1. The Board Of Studies - What is a KLA?

BoS%20Logo[1]The Board of Studies is the governing body for the implementation of teaching and assessing of students in NSW. They are responsible for setting the core curriculum that is being taught in schools and regulates how much time is allocated to the teaching of each KLA (Key Learning Area). A Key Learning Area is a term used to name a particular area of study.  There are 6 KLA’s in Primary School. They are English, Mathematics, Human Society and Its Environment (History), Science, Creative Arts and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. Some schools may have the addition of Religious Education as their seventh KLA. All these KLA’s need to be assessed by a child’s teacher and a child is given a grade for each of these KLA’s on their reports.

2. Time allocation for each KLA

KLAsSchools are restricted to how much time they can allocate to the teaching of each KLA. Teachers must assess each child for each KLA in the allocated time per week. In Primary school the time allocations are; English (25%-35%), Mathematics (20%), Science (6%-10%), HSIE (6%-10%), Creative Arts (6%-10%), PDHPE (6%-10%) and additional time for Religious Education, assemblies etc (up to 20%). As a general guide 6%-10% is usually 1.5 - 2.5hrs in a typical teaching week. Many infant classes use combined units to incorporate a few KLA’s in the one learning experience.

3. Stages in Primary Education

children readingThere are 4 stages in Primary Education. Early Stage 1 is Kindergarten, Stage 1 is Years 1-2, Stage 2 is Years 3-4 and Stage 3 is Years 5-6. There are many different types of schools within NSW. Some schools operate in year groups and some schools operate in stage groups. Some schools operate in single classrooms while others have open learning (a few classes work in their own space in a large room). All students are different and they thrive differently in different environments. All schools are bound by the same curriculum, time allocation for teaching each KLA and grading responsibilities, however, schools can chose the best way to deliver the teaching and learning experiences to their students.

4. Outcomes

teacher assessingEach KLA has outcomes that address a particular concept in the area of study that is related to what stage level the child is at. Teachers assess whether a child has not achieved, achieved or has gone beyond each outcome at the particular stage of each KLA. A teacher must look at the child’s achievement across all the outcomes in a KLA that have been taught and then communicate that to the parent and child in the form of a grade for that KLA. An example of a Kindergarten outcome in Mathematics is “Counts to 30, and orders, reads and represents numbers in the range 0 to 20″

5. Kindergarten grading

reading 1Kindergarten is the only grade in Primary school that does not have “Grades”. Teachers generally communicate a child’s achievement in relation to them achieving an outcome or working towards an outcome. This is their first year at “formal schooling” and being it is its own stage, grading does not commence until the children move into Stage 1.

6. What does a “C” mean?

Grade AThis is an area that causes the most stress to parents as the meanings of grades have changed a lot since they went to school. Most parents want their child to receive an “A” but many parents do not realise how difficult it really is to receive an “A”. A “C” is given to a student who is meeting all the requirements of that stage level. They are able to work efficiently in the classroom and achieve all benchmarks at that stage. Most students, as a result, will receive a “C”. Even though some parents are not happy with their child’s “C” for a KLA, it actually informs them that their child is doing exactly what they are meant to be doing.

7. How a teacher grades

assessmentsGrading is not an easy task. Many students can be on the border line of two grades. Two students could receive a “C” for a KLA but one could actually be a high C (nearly a B) and the other could be a low C (just higher than a D). Even though each grade could have such a big spectrum this is not written on the report. A teacher must use all the assessments completed, written evidence in work books and their own observations to give one grade for an entire KLA. They must look at everything that has been taught during the Semester and the contribution that the child has made to group tasks, individual tasks, projects and class discussions to get an overall achievement level.

8. Student’s strengths

littleboyParents may find a grade unjust for their child if their child may be particularly gifted in an area of that KLA. For example, If a child is a particularly gifted skier and they receive a “C” for PDHPE, their parent may believe that this grade is not a reflection of their child. What the parent does not realise, is that within each KLA there are many strands that need to be taught. In PDHPE there are several strands. All health modules, Dance, Gymnastics, Games and Sports, and Active Lifestyle. This child may be gifted in Skiing but that is only one sport out of many that may or may not be taught within the school. They may achieve at a “normal” level with all other sports and their understanding of the theory component associated to PDHPE, so their average grade for all areas of PDHPE is a “C”. This is reflected in all KLA’s.

9. Report Comments

ParentsreadingReport comments can be particularly difficult for a teacher. They are restricted by how many characters they can write and also how they are allowed to describe different learning attributes of a student. The best advice I have for parents is LISTEN in your parent-teacher interviews. This is a time where teachers can go into more detail about your child and show you examples of your child’s work. They can suggest specific activities you could do at home with your child that targets your child’s area of weakness. Always attend the parent-teacher interviews as they usually offer so much more information than a grade on a paper.

10. Working out a plan

parentteacherPrior to reading a child’s report, a parent generally has a good idea of their child’s academic ability. If you have concerns about your child’s rate of development and reading their report supports your thoughts, speak to the child’s class teacher about it. Just because a child is struggling it does not always mean that they will struggle for the rest of their educational journey. Work out a plan with your child’s teacher about the next steps that you or the school will undertake to identify what your child’s additional learning needs may be. This could include going to a GP, having a speech or hearing assessment or having an observation survey completed by an OT or specialised teacher. Early intervention is the key, so the earlier you identify the extra needs of your child, the more success your child will have. Always book a date for the next meeting with the teacher in order to discuss what has been completed since the previous meeting.

Grades of an A,B,C, D or E enables parents to have a small insight into the academic abilities of their child. Teachers encourage parents to not use grades as the only way to judge their child’s success at school. They need to also think about their child’s social and emotional development as a factor in assessing a child’s “success” at school.

If your child has special needs and you and their teacher believes that “no benefit” will come from your child reading all “E’s” in their report, you can request to have a report with no grades and just comments. The special need’s teacher at your school can offer more information about this idea.

Reports cause a lot of stress for children, parents and teachers. Always remember to use reports as a way of starting communication with your child about their strengths and weaknesses at school. Try not to compare their grades with their peers or with other siblings. Use it to get your child to set some academic goals they want to achieve before the end of next Semester.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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10 Facts About Primary School Homework That All Parents Should Know.

Welcome to my next blog in my new series “Current issues a primary school teacher faces”. In this blog I focus on homework from the perspective of a teacher and convey 10 of my concerns with homework which many parents may not be aware of.

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Homework tasks are varied a lot between schools. Some schools have policies regarding how much homework is given while others are dependent on the classroom teacher. There may be set tasks for the week or fortnight for all classes in the grade or each class might operate quite separately. Whatever the set up, most teachers share the same concerns regarding it. Below is a list of 10 concerns that I have as a teacher that I would like to share with you all.

1. Homework is given to satisfy parents

Most parents still believe that the education system is the same as what it was when they went to school. They are happy with what they learnt at school and hope that their child gets the same type of education that they did. With anything, as time goes on, things change as we begin to know more about that subject. We know so much more about the optimum learning environments and how children learn compared to ten years ago. I do not believe that traditional homework fits into our new understanding about children’s learning. Some parents however, still want homework as they believe it is an important aspect of education.

2. Marking homework takes precious time away from the learning.

If homework is set, the expectation is that it should be marked. If children have spent time working on something that the teacher has given, it is only right that the teacher sights it. When does the teacher do this? There are two ways that this usually is done. Either as a whole class or after school has finished. I see a problem with both, to be honest. If it is marked during class time, it cuts into the precious learning time of the students. If it is done after school, it cuts into precious planning time of the teacher. Teachers need this valuable time to ensure that the next learning experiences in their classrooms are meaningful and targeted to their students’ needs.

3. Homework can not be targeted to each child

Teachers can not be expected to set homework tasks that are specific to each child. The learning experiences that are specific to each child are done in the classroom under the instruction of the teacher. Many homework tasks are quite pointless to some children as they find the tasks too easy or too difficult. What is the point of homework in the model of “one size suits all”?

4. Parents requesting more homework

Children in today’s primary school work harder than ever before. Every minute needs to be accounted for. I find it hard to fathom that parents request more homework when their child is already working a 6 hour day, completing many after school activities and completing set homework tasks. When do the children have time to play outside in an unstructured format or help with the family chores?

5. Homework can turn into busy work

Homework tasks tend to be revision of learnt concepts. Revision is important if it has a purpose. EG Need to know multiplication facts to answer a mathematics problem. If children are churning through pages and pages of information for no real meaningful purpose they will forget the information as quick as they have learnt it.

5. The relationship with the learning inside the classroom

Many parents believe that homework gives an insight into what is happening in the classroom. This may be true in some cases but most tasks are set due to them being easy to mark, the child can complete it independently and the tasks can be completed within 30 minutes. I believe parents can support the learning that is happening in the classroom through better, more meaningful ways. Borrow a novel that you can read with your child, that has content related to what they are learning about or take them on your own excursion on the weekend to a place that will support the topic they are learning about. Most teachers give out a term overview so you will know ahead of time what they will be focusing on.

6. Homework for the whole family

I have heard of many parents expressing their hatred when it comes to homework. The main reason is because it causes so much stress in their family due to the child not wanting to do it or the child getting frustrated with a parent because they cant understand what to do or the lack of time to complete homework. Is this really the atmosphere we want in our homes at night after not seeing each other all day? What benefit is homework really bringing to the families of our students?

 7. What is important for homework

Children need to be encouraged to read and have a love of learning. If your child is particularly interested in a topic, they will develop more skills by conducting their own research into it then completing set tasks that are not linked with anything else. If your child is having difficulty with a concept, consider how to make the learning experience meaningful and your child will develop quickly. Your child needs to have a variety of experiences. This is what should be important.

8. Question the amount of homework

As a teacher I would LOVE parents to come and negotiate the amount of homework given to their child. Schools generally have a basic format per grade that satisfies parents and teachers. Discussing the amount of homework in Primary school gives you more control about how your child will be set up for the year. I believe reading every night and working on a personal project should be enough for all 5 - 12 year olds.

9. Preparing for Highschool

Many parents want their child to have a lot of homework in the upper grades in order to prepare them for high school. We need to think about what is the purpose of education. Is it to always be preparing for the next stage of education or developing children’s concepts in the present? We need to give children plenty of opportunities to develop their own skills and understanding of the world and I do not believe that a large amount of homework supports this notion.

10. Let the teachers do the teaching

Time and time again I hear parents complaining about not knowing how to teach a particular concept to their child that has come up in their homework, as the method that they have been taught at school is no longer focused on in the 21st century classroom. Although homework should be revision, many children still need parents to help answer tasks. As a teacher, I would prefer to set reading tasks and a special project that the child is interested in for homework and leave the teaching to me in the classroom.

Many teachers view homework differently. I believe it is time that parents take a stand against ridiculously large amounts of homework that does not benefit their child. As a teacher and parent I worry about the busyness of our lives and I want children to be able to be children. They have their whole lives to be adults so why are we pushing so much onto them at a young age. Let us focus on giving our children meaningful learning experiences and not piles and piles of busy work.

I would love everyone to share my blog to encourage parents and teachers to ensure that our children have time to be children.

Please leave your comments as I would love to hear your thoughts on homework in primary school.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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