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Progress Reports

A Global View of Elementary Students’ Academic Growth

Second grade teachers Shelby Gregg and Brenda Barnhart confer about their students’ organizational-skills marks. Writing the reports is a collaborative process.

This week and next week, parents of our elementary students will be meeting with their children’s teachers for the first of two parent-teacher conferences held each year. The starting point for their conversations is the students’ written progress reports, which in other schools are usually referred to as report cards.

A collaborative effort involving many hours’ work on the part of teachers, the co-principals, and the school editor, progress reports offer a global view of a student’s progress at that point in the year. (The second conference, an end-of-year overview of the student’s progress, is held in May.) Because teachers may spend an hour or more on each report, the process of writing them is typically spread over several weeks. Each classroom has two (or three) co-teachers, who share the writing.

Comprehensive picture. Subjects included in the first-through-fifth-graders reports are reading, writing, language, listening and speaking, mathematics, and science. Since a student’s progress in a particular area can’t be captured in a single mark (grade), subjects are broken down into strands that yield a more comprehensive picture. In the area of reading, for instance, second graders have marks for fluency (how accurately and quickly they read), literal comprehension, and inferential comprehension.

Progress reports also address students’ behavior and attitudes and organizational skills. These categories include interpersonal skills and character traits that help students achieve their highest potential in the classroom and beyond. Some examples are interacting positively and appropriately with peers, completing work on time, and willingness to use feedback for growth.

Rather than traditional A-B-C-D-F grades, we use marks that reflect a student’s progress toward the end-of-year standard in each area—Needs support or reinforcement, Partial progress toward standard, Satisfactory progress toward standard. For fourth and fifth grades, a fourth category is added, M, for mastery.

In addition to marks, there are sections on the reports for teachers’ comments in the academic and behavior-and-attitudes and organizational-skills areas. These allow teachers to address specific points not reflected in the marks, such as a student’s engagement in the writing process or facility with applying new math strategies. Comments sometimes include input from enrichment teachers (library, P.E., drama, art, and garden).

A collaborative process. Teachers arrive at students’ academic marks by reviewing assessments scores, marks on in-class and homework assignments, and notes they’ve kept. The teacher who teaches a particular subject assigns marks and writes comments related to that subject, which the other teacher reviews. They work together on marks that cross academic subjects, such as organizational skills and behavior.

Once they’ve completed their reports, the teachers pass them along to Co-Principals Ivy Summers and Vince d’Assis, who review each report—180 in all this year. They confer with one another or with the teachers if questions come up.

When Vince and Ivy are done with the reports, the school editor, Scott Wallace, proofreads them, consulting with Vince or Ivy or the teachers about questions he may have. When he’s finished, he prints the report and saves a copy for our permanent files.

Communication tool. Progress reports record a child’s academic growth and are one of the communication tools that keep parents and teachers on the same page about a child’s learning. At the start of a new school year, teachers meet with the previous year’s teachers and may review the students’ reports to learn more about the students they’re welcoming into their classroom. Each child’s progress report is kept in their cumulative file. When a student graduates, their new middle school usually requests this file from the school office.


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