BY ABBY TANEN, CONTRIBUTOR
It’s four weeks into school, you’re getting into the rhythm of your classes, you finally picked your official lunch spot for the year, and then BAM! All of a sudden, your English teacher announces that progress reports are being sent out on Friday. But you hadn’t gotten around to test corrections yet…your teacher lost that homework assignment…etc. We’ve all been there.
Progress reports are intended to be a way for students to see where they stand in their classes, so they can work to change any displeasing grades. Dean Nadira Ricks said, “I hope it impacts them to self monitor their behavior and make different choices.”
However, most of the progress reports sent out this first advisory had little information on them. The classes that were not left blank said one of five things ranging from “good initiative” to “needs more study.” Some students question the need for them at all.
Junior Emily Morin believes that progress reports are “a waste of paper, and postage.” Simon Gomez, also a junior, says that when his progress reports say “‘pleasure to have in class,’ I don’t think I did good. It’s not special, it’s not personal.”
Morin says that often progress reports lack real information. “The teachers don’t put anything in them,” she says. “It’s a fine system, but the execution of it doesn’t exist.”
There are other questionable components as well. Math teacher Joseph Herbert wrote on all of his students’ progress reports that they had the possibility of failing.
“Teachers have to submit progress reports after the fourth week of school,” he explains. “That’s not a very long time. I really hate sending that to students who study for math, because it sends a message that I think they might fail.” However, Herbert says, “Anyone, after only four weeks, could very easily — even if they had an 100 percent — fail.”
Herbert’s “understanding is that if a teacher does not mark ‘possibility of failing’ on a student’s progress report, then that student cannot fail.” If a student receives an F on their report card but not on their progress report, that student can challenge their grading.
Herbert thinks that the concept of progress reports has lost its relevance because of the Internet. With Edline, students and parents can know what their grade is immediately. However, Herbert says that progress reports could give information that Edline can’t, such as attendance. With progress reports, parents can “make a note of chronic attendance and tardiness” to avoid those dreadful detentions.
The comments available for teachers to put on progress reports are the component most complained about. Herbert says that he doesn’t like how a lot of these comments are phrased. “Some of the comments like ‘lacks initiative’ and ‘poor behavior’ show negative phrasing, instead something like ‘needs to put forth more effort’ would be more effective. Things should always be phrased in a positive way.”
Also if a teacher would like to comment on missing homework, the only option is “does not do homework;” there is no option of “occasionally doesn’t do homework,’ or ‘has missing assignments.’ Herbert says he is ‘hesitant’ to use some of these phrases because of the wording.
Morin says that these phrases have little meaning to her. “One teacher wrote I was a ‘pleasure to have in class.’ While that is nice to know, it’s not necessary and, without an actual grade, it is of no use to me or my parents.”
Suggestions for changing progress reports include revising the comments, having teachers add more information, and sending them out later in the advisory so teachers can better grasp who actually has the possibility of failing.