Chinook changes to student assessment and report cards
The Chinook School Division made some changes to student assessment and the number of report cards to create a more efficient process.
Details of these changes were provided during the presentation of the curriculum and instruction status report at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, April 8.
The changes were the result of a review by two committees, which were formed to consider changes in the areas of student assessment and report cards.
“The biggest difference would be we eliminated several assessments that teachers were doing with their students,” Level One Curriculum Coordinator Kathy Robson told the Prairie Post. “So not to say that they don't do them in their classrooms, but from a division perspective we only collect now the assessments that the ministry is requesting us to collect.”
As an example of the changes, she noted that all the information from reading assessments for Grade 1-5 students were recorded in the school division’s portal, but the Ministry of Education is only requesting the collection of information for Grade 1-3.
“So we've reduced the amount of assessments that teachers are putting into our portal to reflect what the ministry is asking for,” she explained. “Not to say that the teachers don't still do some of those assessments in Grade 4 and 5 to drive their instruction, but they're not having to input that information necessarily into our dashboards.”
The changes will not only align with ministry requirements for assessments, but will also assist teachers to spend more time on instruction.
“We were hearing from our teachers that there was too much assessment, that we were requesting too many assessments, and so we wanted to make sure that we respected teachers' time and maybe the amount of time it took to input that information into the dashboard,” she said. “We were trying to find ways to reduce that time that would be taken doing that so teachers could be focusing on their instruction and their planning and all of that. Lots of times the assessments will help you drive your instruction, but when the ministry started to come out with the writing assessment and the math assessment, we didn't want to overload teachers at different grade levels.”
Teachers are still required to collect information on different grade levels, but it is now only done for specific grade levels in accordance with ministry requirements and the school division is not collecting information from every grade level.
“So right now, the way our assessments are aligned, we have the kindergarten assessment for all our kindergarten students, then we have reading in Grade 1 to 3, and then the writing is for Grade 7 and 9, and the math will be in Grade 2, 5 and 8,” she said. “So it gives us a nice view of how our students are doing in the different areas and we are seeing what's happening at every grade level, but we're just not doing for example reading, writing and math in every grade.”
Another change is the reduction in the number of report cards from three to two for students in Grade k-5. There used to be an initial report card in November, but it was scrapped. There is now the mid-year report card in January and the end-of-year report card in June.
“It spreads that first report card out so that it's happening in January and there are still our two points of contact with parents in November and March, but the report card actually doesn't happen until mid year and then in June,” she said. “Sometimes teachers felt it was really early to do a report card in November and this way they have a lot more information and they're still able to meet with parents and discuss student progress in November, but they're not actually doing a report card until January.”
Slight changes to report cards at the Grade 6-9 level will be implemented during the 2019-20 school year. There will be no changes to the number of report cards for the high school grades, because the reporting is semesterized.
Another change is the format of interaction with parents, which will change from student-led conferences to parent teacher conferences. In studentled conferences the intention is for students to take ownership of their learning by sharing their progress with parents and teachers, but parents have indicated a preference for a more direct discussion with teachers.
“When we had a committee that got together, we met with our parents and one of the things that parents felt was missing is they wanted to talk to the teacher about the student progress,” Robson said. “They felt in the studentled conference it was hard to find time to have that conversation with the teacher about the student's progress, because the set-up of the student-led conference didn't really lend itself to that. So parents were still interested in coming in and learning about what students were doing and having students share what they were doing, but they really missed that contact with the teacher and being able to ask some of their specific questions that they wanted to ask about the student and how they were doing.”
As a result of this feedback the school division decided to return to the use of the parent teacher conference format, and the response has already been positive.
“This is the first year that we've gone back and the feedback that we got in November was overwhelmingly in favour of having a parent teacher conference versus the student-led conference,” she said. “So a lot of our schools continue to have a parent teacher conference in March as well.”
The Chinook School Division is currently focusing on writing strategies due to a provincial emphasis on writing instructional approaches. Robson felt there is good progress with the implementation of these strategies.
“Our teachers have changed a lot of their instruction within their classrooms to include many writing strategies that are effective,” she said. “We've seen a big change in the implementation of Writer's Workshop in particular, which is a strategy where students have a lot of choice in what they write about. They also have a lot of time to practice their writing. I think just giving our students more time to write and putting the focus on the writing has meant that our student writing has also improved within classrooms.”
The school division is continuing efforts to incorporate First Nations and Métis education into the curriculum. Resources have been ordered, teachers are implementing treaty education, and students participate in several events in the community that help them to develop a better understanding of treaty issues as well as reconciliation.
Elder helpers have been hired to work with students and staff. These elders are from the Nekaneet First Nation.
“They work with students around a variety of topics, and our curriculum coordinator has worked with them quite a bit and also with the teachers to develop some lesson plans that they focus on,” Robson said. “The elder helpers can come in and answer some questions that students might have or provide some background for the teachers. They've done a variety of activities. It's a variety of topics around First Nation and Métis education, and helping the teachers and the schools build up their background.”
During one activity the elder helpers built a tipi with students at Sidney Street School and they have also been at Maple Creek Composite School.
“They've worked with students around treaty education and even just learning about Nekaneet and having students go out to that First Nation and do some activities out there that would be connected to their culture,” she said. “That's been a really great thing for them to experience, what it's like to be out on that First Nation, and I think it's been really great for building that communication between the school and Nekaneet.”
The Chinook School Division has continued with the process to merge the Curriculum Department and Student Services. This is due to the reduction in the number of superintendents in the school division, and one superintendent now has responsibility for both learning and student services. Robson felt the merger will have definite benefits with regard to communication and coordination.
“The big benefit is that there is collaboration among the student services coordinators and the curriculum coordinators,” she said. “We are meeting more often to meet the needs of students and also to meet the needs of our schools in a more collaborative way rather than each department working in isolation. We know that when we work together, we provide better service. When we have better communication we provide better service, and when we work in isolation sometimes we're going in different directions.”
Level One Curriculum Coordinator Kathy Robson and Superintendent of Learning Bob Vavra presented the curriculum and instruction status report at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, April 8.