The Edu-babble of Report Cards: Lost in Translation

Like many teachers, I (Clare) found writing report cards a very onerous task. I wanted to be Letter Ffair, encouraging, and accurate. The latest challenge for teachers (beyond time) is the pressure to be use “asset language.” HUH! There was a great article in the Toronto Star today about the “edu-babble” of report cards. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/02/26/consistently-writing-report-cards-with-random-logic.html

Catherine Porter describes the lost in translation situation:
If your kid was terribly scattered in class, would you want to know?
Or would you rather think he was “using planning skills with limited effectiveness.”
That’s how Ontario’s Ministry of Education suggests teachers write their report cards for kids getting D’s. They aren’t struggling, floundering, falling behind. They are “demonstrating limited understanding of content.”
I call this edu-speak. The ministry calls it a “positive tone.”

Porter has previously written about the impenetrable language of report cards. Her previous column on the indecipherable language of report cards led to an outpouring of highly emotional emails from teachers who are “required” to use the language of the Ontario Ministry of Education. She describes one scenario:

One Toronto public primary school teacher described his first “straightforward” report card comments returning to his desk from the principal’s office. “I was told to be more empathetic to how parents feel about their own children, to re-phrase my wordings to be increasingly diplomatic,” he wrote in an email.
So instead of telling parents their kid was disorganized and his desk was messy, the teacher now writes: “Johnny consistently places his materials inside his desk in a random order. He is highly encouraged to adopt a more streamlined organizational style, so that during in-class work periods he is able to locate his documents with greater ease.”

Gold StarPorter includes some examples from the comment bank teachers are required to use. I am an educator and I had NO idea what these mean. No wonder parents are confused and teachers are frustrated! A gold star to any reader who can figure out what these comments mean.

Five examples from Ontario report cards

  • “We will give further opportunities for Ruth to engage with a variety of children and to be honest about her activities.”
  • “With efforts from home and school, Shane will be encouraged to pay attention to his attendance and punctuality.”
  • “Conrad follows instructions with frequent assistance and supervision.”
  • “Farah is able to communicate ideas and informally orally in French using a variety of grade appropriate language strategies suited to the purpose and audience.”
  • “Jacqueline is encouraged to continue to demonstrate understanding and patience towards her classmates and to nurture a cooperative working environment with her team by demonstrating openness towards every student that may be part of her team.”
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