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Intermediate Report Card FAQ

What report card format creates the least workload for teachers?

There is no simple answer to this question. Doing report cards is a significant workload issue for teachers. Part of the solution to the workload problem may be in the format of the report cards. However, if it were all there, teachers in some school or district would have come up with a format by now that was widely recognized as solving the workload problem. Part of the problem is the expectations teachers tend to put on themselves. Many teachers advocate for report card formats that require them to do more work than is required by ministry policy. The reasons for doing these extras may be philosophically sound, but the additional time and thought put into reporting as a result needs to be weighed against the time and thought teachers could put into planning for classroom instruction or providing descriptive feedback, rather than marks, on students work. Because report cards have formats and deadlines, there is a tendency for them to grow in importance out of proportion to their relatively small role in the whole process of learning.

Do teachers have to put letter grades on Intermediate report cards?

The answer depends on the grade level.

  • Grade 4 and 5 report cards must contain letter grades unless the school board has approved a plan to provide letter grades to parents in a different document.
  • Grade 6 and 7 report cards must contain letter grades.

Why do Intermediate teachers have to crunch numbers to calculate marks AND write anecdotal comments?

They don’t. Intermediate teachers must report student progress in two ways—with letter grades and with written reporting comments that include what the student is able to do, the areas in which the student requires further attention or development, and ways of supporting her or his learning.

But teachers do not need to use numeric marks, or calculate percentages in order to arrive at letter grades. Letter grades are not defined in terms of percentages; until Grade 10 there are not even percentages associated with letter grades. The definition of letter grades in ministry policy (Ministerial Order 192/94 Provincial Letter Grades Order, http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/legislation/schoollaw/e.htm) is in words:

A The student demonstrates excellent or outstanding performance in relation to the learning outcomes for the course or subject and grade.

B The student demonstrates very good performance…

C+ The student demonstrates good performance…

C The student demonstrates satisfactory performance…

C- The student demonstrates minimally acceptable performance…

I (In Progress or Incomplete) The student, for a variety of reasons, is not demonstrating minimally acceptable performance in relation to the expected outcomes.

F (Failing) The student has not demonstrated, or is not demonstrating, minimally acceptable performance in relation to the expected outcomes for the course or subject and grade. The letter grade “F” may only be assigned if an “I” letter grade has been previously assigned for that course or subject and grade.

Primary teachers do not need to crunch numbers and calculate percentages to determine whether a student is “not yet meeting expectations”, “approaching expectations”, “meeting expectations”, or “exceeding expectations”. In the same way, Intermediate teachers do not need to crunch numbers and calculate percentages to determine whether a student is demonstrating “excellent”, “very good”, “good”, “satisfactory”, “minimally acceptable” performance or is not demonstrating “minimally acceptable” performance in relation to the learning outcomes in the curriculum.

An over-reliance on numeric marks can create problems. Giving students numeric marks does not help them learn the way giving them descriptive feedback on their work can. In addition, teachers often find that their judgments within broad categories are more accurate than what their calculators tell them.

How can teachers give letter grades to ESL students or students with special needs?

The Ministerial Order clearly states that a letter grade can only be assigned for a student with special needs or for an ESL student where the student is able to demonstrate her or his learning in relation to the learning outcomes for the course or subject and grade.

Until an ESL student is able to demonstrate her or his learning in relation to the expected learning outcomes set out in the curriculum for the course or subject and grade, the student’s report card contains written comments only.

Unless a student with special needs who has an IEP is able to demonstrate her or his learning in relation to the expected learning outcomes set out in the curriculum for the course or subject and grade, the student’s report card contains written reporting comments only. The written comments must address the student’s progress in relation to the expected outcomes set out in the student’s IEP.

In both cases, written reporting comments must include what the student is able to do, the areas in which the student requires further attention or development, and ways of supporting her or his learning.

Where appropriate, the report card for students on IEPs may also include comments describing ways to enable the students to demonstrate her or his learning in relation to the expected learning outcomes in the curriculum for the course and grade, and the time frame required to enable that. This is clearly more applicable to high incidence or “grey area” students who may be considered “behind” in school and can “catch up” if there is sufficient intervention, than to low incidence special needs students.

Can a principal or vice-principal change the letter grade a teacher gives a student?

Perhaps, but administrators are bound by the same Ministerial Orders as teachers so must also evaluate students’ progress in relation to the learning outcomes in the curriculum for the course or subject and grade. Teachers have professional autonomy in their professional judgments but should be prepared to defend their professional judgments about a student’s progress in relation to the learning outcomes to either a principal or a parent. Similarly, a principal who wants to change a student’s letter grade should be able to explain why, with specific reference to the student’s work, she or he feels that the student’s work meets the learning outcomes to a different degree than indicated by the original letter grade. No one is free to assign letter grades on any basis other than student progress in relation to the learning outcomes in the curriculum.

The person who makes the evaluation of the student’s progress in relation to the learning resources in the curriculum and assigns the letter grade should sign the report card.

Can teachers use the language of the BC Performance Standards in their written comments?

Yes, teachers may choose to use the language of the BC Performance Standards in their written comments. However, it is better to use the descriptions in the body of the performance standards scales (e.g., “uses text features to preview and locate information”) rather than the column headings (e.g., “fully meets expectations’). The actual descriptions provide more information to parents. In addition, the use of the column headings or the scale used on Primary report cards (i.e., not yet meeting expectations, approaching expectations, fully meeting expectations, exceeding expectations) are confusing as they do not match the definitions of the letter grades.

The BC Performance Standards for Reading, Writing, Numeracy, and Social Responsibility are non-mandatory resources. It says this in the preamble of each document. Teachers have individual professional autonomy about whether or not to use these resources in their classrooms. Whether or not a teacher uses the BC Performance Standards to inform their judgment is a matter of individual professional autonomy.

Do Intermediate teachers have to report on every subject area on every report card?

Yes, teachers must report student progress in relation to the learning outcomes in each curriculum in the required areas of study on each report card. The required areas of study are set out in ministry policy (Ministerial Order M295/95 Required Areas of Study in an Educational Program Order, http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/legislation/schoollaw/e.htm) and are as follows:

Grade 4

  • English language arts, or in the case of a student enrolled in a Francophone educational program, French language arts
  • Social studies
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Physical education
  • Fine arts
  • Personal planning
  • French language arts, in the case of a French immersion student

Grades 5 to 7

  • English language arts, or in the case of a student enrolled in a Francophone educational program, French language arts
  • Social studies
  • a second language, or in the case of a French immersion student, French language arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Physical education
  • Fine arts
  • Personal planning

How are teachers required to report on student behaviour, attitudes, work habits, effort, and social responsibility?

The ministry policy requires that report cards include a “description of the student’s behaviour, including information on attitudes, work habits, effort and social responsibility.” The policy does not further clarify what “description of” means, so it could be interpreted to mean written comments, or G, S, and N, or a scale of some sort.

Teachers do not have to use the BC Performance Standards for Social Responsibility when reporting on social responsibility, as the performance standards are non-mandatory resources. However, those performance standards are a good reference for what BC teachers mean by the phrase “social responsibility”—contributing to the classroom and school community, solving problems in peaceful ways, valuing diversity and defending human rights, and exercising democratic rights and responsibilities. Social responsibility is not the same as personal responsibility. Evaluation of a student’s social responsibility should not include whether they arrive with their books, pencils, and gym strip, and the like.


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