In a post-standardized and personalized learning world how do we decide which structural decisions are at the class, school, district and system levels?
One area we are seeing this tension right now is around reporting. Should reporting look the same across the board in a school? Across a district? Across a province? These are all good questions. Traditionally reporting in British Columbia has generally looked the same across the province. The Ministry of Education sets out the rules that see students have a certain number of formal and informal reports each year. Across the province, letter grades and work habits are used in a fairly consistent manner. And I get it, as students move from community to community or graduate into the world of post-secondary school or work, having some common elements of reporting help make the system run smoothly and clearly. While those of us in the system have been openly questioning the current reporting structures, I appreciate the larger community often feels assured knowing that there is some sameness when it comes to assessment.
Recently, many districts (including West Vancouver) have been looking closely at different ways of reporting. And thus the healthy tension within education. We have some outstanding report card pilot projects in our district and we have decided that the work in different schools needs to inform a common district approach to reporting. For this fall we are looking at a new common approach to reporting in both Kindergarten and Grade Four. These new reports flow out of the work we are doing around the curriculum changes in BC. Of course with diverse programs like IB and French Immersion, even our efforts to have a common approach to reporting will be nuanced. I know other jurisdictions have held tightly to common reporting across the entire system, while others allow incredible autonomy at the teacher level.
My general view is that wherever we work really influences how collective we need to be. As a teacher, I often didn’t feel what I did in the class needed to be connected to what was happening in other classes, I just needed consistency throughout my teaching. As a principal I strived for consistency in the school but didn’t always feel we needed to be consistent with other schools. As a Superintendent I feel the need to create some common structures across the district, and I see those at the Ministry of Education trying to ensure some common approaches across the province.
As I stated, it is a healthy tension between the class, school, district and system level on a variety of topics as the tension helps open up the conversation. Whether it is determining what body of content all students in a school, district or province need to know; deciding if there should be a common set of digital tools for teachers and students; or identifying reporting structures that should be consistent in a system there are important conversations to have. And continue to have.
I have said in presentations that “schools are not fast food franchises” each should have their own signature reflective of the community in which they exist. I also often say those in schools, “are more than just a group of independent contractors who share a parking lot.” It is a balancing act to see both these concepts at work.
As we continue to see change in our system, we need to be continually thoughtful and mindful of the parts that must to be consistent across schools, districts and the system. There is not necessarily one right answer, but the rich conversations that come from these decisions should make our system better.