Board reverses course on report cards for elementary students

Less than 48 hours after announcing it will not provide final report cards for local elementary schools, the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) reversed course and will now provide final marks – although not until late this summer.

On the morning of June 17 the board announced it will hire staff to input student grades during July that are normally entered by teachers into report card software.  

“This will be done at the board office and supervised to ensure accuracy and security,” the release stated.

Parents/guardians will be able to pick up report cards from the principal at their children’s school on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1 or make other arrangements.

UGDSB spokesperson Maggie McFadzen could not specify how many people will be hired to complete the entries. She also could not provide  a total cost for the data entry or details about how the board will pay for the extra help.

“We’ll have to find it somewhere,” she told the Advertiser on June 17, noting there is no funding available from the province.

McFadzen explained paper copies of the children’s grades will be  brought by principals to the board office “for confidentiality reasons,” where hired staff will input just grades into the software.

Two days earlier, on June 15, the board announced students would receive “letters of promotion” instead of traditional report cards at the end of the school year.

The letters, which McFadzen said on Wednesday will still be sent home, include the number of days a student was absent/late and indicate the grade he or she will be entering in September, but they will not provide any information about grades.

The original decision came on the heels of province-wide work-to-rule strike action by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).  

ETFO officials said they are taking strike action due to demands from the government that would give school boards latitude to increase class sizes, dictate how teachers spend preparation time and curtail teachers’ ability to determine “how to support student learning.”

As one of the steps taken since the May 11 launch of the job action, teachers have not entered student grades into the electronic, board-wide system for the purpose of producing report cards.

Instead, they submitted grades to principals in a non-electronic format.

“Originally the board decided it was not possible for principals to do all of the data entry themselves, and at the same time ensure the accuracy that is achieved through team effort, oversight and double-checking,” states the June 17 board press release.

McFadzen originally stated thecost was also a concern.

UGDSB officials made the original decision earlier this week  to provide letters of promotion instead of report cards.

McFadzen said the decision was reversed by director of education Martha Rogers and UGDSB superintendents.

When asked about the original decision to not provide final report cards, Upper Grand ETFO president Gundi Barbour said teachers have been completing informal evaluations throughout the school year and sending projects and tests home with marks and comments, so parents and guardians should already have a good idea of where their child stands.

“No parent is going to suddenly find themselves with a mark that would be a surprise – or at least they shouldn’t, because teachers have been sharing information all along,” she explained.

Barbour told the Advertiser that providing report card grades to parents is not the responsibility of teachers.

“The teachers did that as part of their job, it was not the teacher’s responsibility; ultimately it was the school board’s responsibility,” she said.

“It’s the principal who signs the report card. It is the principal and the board’s responsibility that those report cards go out.”

She said teachers haven’t skirted any duties this year.

“We’re in a legal work-to-rule and teachers are fulfilling their responsibility, they’re assessing and evaluating and they’re providing the marks,” she said.

“They provided the marks to the principals … so the teachers have done their jobs.”