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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Report Cards Came Out Yesterday - Publicly. Do Students Have a Right to Privacy?

Okay, so I need to say a bit more about grades. After my last blog about Katie's addiction - which has been tempered, sorta   - I find I am still stuck on the subject after watching a disaster in the making yesterday!

I arrived at school a little early and decided to wait for Katie in the Quad since we were experiencing a wonderful, Indian Summer day. I noticed the kids in 7th period PE were all being given a slip of white paper and there was a LOT of activity going on. Kids were in clusters all looking at the various sheets of paper.

And then I heard a kid say what it was: his report card.

I was aghast. What! Passed out on a sheet of paper? For the entire world to see? Are you kidding me?

Clearly printed out from the "Parent Portal" (our online grade viewing tool), this single piece of paper reported the grades, included teacher sound bytes (they are so short they don't really constitute a whole comment) and a citizenship rating. There's no key or legend so many of the sixth grade kids had no idea what the citizenship marks indicate. So if you don't know what a mark means, does it have any meaning at all? 

But that missed opportunity aside, what happened to respecting a student's privacy?

I can think of nothing more horrible than having my grades handed to me, in front of everyone else, with little to no opportunity for privacy. It's bad enough to have friends ask, "What did you get?" but usually that's in the halls or on the phone when you can spin it in a way that works for you.

In this scenario, complete strangers were coming over to Katie to see her paper. They don't know her but they know what she got in English! There was absolutely nowhere to hide. I thought grades were something between you, your teacher and your parents. Goodness knows how many parents actually even saw these pieces of paper. The way they were being manhandled on the school grounds, I wonder how many actually made it home.

It all leaves me with a few lingering questions:

If grades are to be valued, shouldn't the entire process be honored? We ask these kids to work hard to achieve and then we minimize it by passing out report cards like a flyer advertising Little League sign-ups.

If parents are in important part of the process, shouldn't we make sure these are mailed home so they can actually see them and discuss them with their child before they are socialized in the school yard?

And don't we want the students to understand what the grades mean; especially the sixth graders who don't have access to the Parent Portal and have no idea how to interpret things like the citizenship marks?

Somewhere we got lost. We have traded away fundamentals. I understand money is an issue and maybe mailing home grades is expensive. But it certainly seems like it should be a priority over other things to preserve some honor and respect for the process.
  

2 comments:

  1. I agree. Our school district gives the report cards to students to give to the parents but in elementary school, they are in an envelope. In middle and high school, they're not. I'm not sure if it's a money issue or what. Maybe you can bring it up at the next PTO meeting at your school? Or email your principal. Administrators get bogged down in their tasks and sometimes lose track of what it feels like on the parent side...

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  2. Thank you for the support! I am going to pursue this. I think the administration does need to understand how this is received and that something very important is getting lost in the translation. I will post an update after I learn more.

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