Classroom Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting
Teachers must assess, evaluate, and report student progress in relation to the learning outcomes in the prescribed curriculum.
Teachers have professional autonomy in deciding what methods to use to assess student work in their classrooms—observation, tests, portfolios, checklists, written assignments, projects, etc.
The purpose of classroom assessment is to support learning. Teachers assess student learning—describe what the student knows and is able to do—and use this information to adjust instruction for individual students, small groups of students or the whole class, and to plan further instruction. Assessment that provides descriptive feedback is more effective than assessment that provides evaluative feedback (right or wrong, a mark). Descriptive feedback focusses on:
- what students have or have not achieved, including improvements to earlier work
- explanations to a student that they are right or wrong and why in a timely fashion
- specific ways in which the work could be improved
- inviting the student to suggest ways they can improve
Bangert-Downs et al, 1991; Crooks, 2001; Tunstall and Gipps, 1996
Assessment that is focussed on supporting student learning is often called assessment for learning, as opposed to assessment of learning that is focussed on determining what students know.
“Assessment for learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there.”
UK Assessment Reform Group, 2002
We know, from research, that effective assessment for learning can improve student achievement substantially, and that improved classroom assessment helps low achievers the most.
Black and William, 1998, U.K. Assessment Reform Group
Teachers are also required to evaluate student progress—make judgments about student learning in relation to learning outcomes in the curriculum, and/or IEP goals—and to report their evaluations to parents.
There must be at least three formal and two informal reports each year. Informal reports can take the form of parent-teacher interviews, phone call, interim reports, notes home, etc. The ministry does not require teachers to document the informal reports but individual school districts may.
Evaluations of student progress, whether anecdotal or in the form of percentages or letter grades, must be in relation to the learning outcomes in the curriculum. Evaluations of students behaviour, including work habits, attitude, and effort, and information about attendance must be reported separately; they are not part of the students’ marks for a course.
Teachers, especially beginning teachers or teachers teaching unfamiliar subjects and grade levels, often worry that their “A” will not be another teacher’s “A.” The learning outcomes spell out what students are required to know and be able to do, but not what is “good enough” at a particular grade level. The ministry has developed performance standards for reading, writing, numeracy and social responsibility: www.bced.gov.bc.ca/perf_stands/. The standards represent the collective professional judgments of a significant number of BC teachers about what student performance is expected to look like at specific grade levels. The standards are optional resources that teachers, students, and parents can use to compare student performance to provincial standards, so teachers have professional autonomy about whether or how to use them.
In the 2003-04 school year, the ministry initiated a Report Card Review with the intention of developing standardized provincial report cards. The ministry backed down on mandating provincial report cards. Instead, the ministry produced non-mandatory report card templates and revised provincial reporting policy and guidelines. The templates and revised policy and guidelines can be found on the ministry web site at: www.bced.gov.bc.ca/reportcards/. Ministry data collection requirements provide a significant incentive for school boards to mandate these templates in their districts. However, the BCTF and its Primary PSA oppose the templates that have been proposed Kindergarten and Primary templates.
Overall, the new ministry policy on reporting is not as problematic as some of the optional report card templates provided by the ministry or developed by districts. The BCTF has encouraged locals to engage in discussions within their school districts about new report card formats for Kindergarten and Primary in order to minimize the negative effects of the new reporting policy on Primary children.
The “I” letter grade has caused both confusion and extra work for teachers. The Federation was successful in getting the provincial requirements reduced but most school districts simply made the old provincial requirements into local policies, so the workload for teachers was not reduced as intended. The provincial requirements for the assignment of an “I” letter grade can be found in the Provincial Letter Grades Order. The 1999 AGM passed a motion opposing the mandatory use of the “I” letter grade but the Federation was not successful in getting this change in the new reporting policy.
Teachers are often unclear who is making them do what they are being required to do, i.e., what things are required by provincial Ministerial Orders, what things are required by board policy, what are just district guidelines that are advice only, and what are simply the whims of different principals. The inclusion of previews or overviews with report cards often falls in the latter category. It is important that locals are clear on which reporting requirements in their district have the force of a provincial Ministerial Order or board motion, and which do not, in order to protect members’ professional autonomy and workload.
Updated February 2006