Sunday, February 21, 2016

The meant-to-be-a-conference-sheet-thingie that just ticked me off

I didn't attend N's parent/teacher conferences in the fall because, much to my dismay, there hasn't yet been a Star Trek-like teleportation device invented yet that will allow me to be at two different schools at the same time (or within minutes).

N's grades have been fine.  When I say fine, I mean she has gotten all As this entire year.

However, some of the work that she has received grades on is stuff like taking notes, which tells me that she is a good note-taker.  It doesn't tell me whether she understands the notes she takes, whether she has deep questions about what she is learning and whether she can create or analyze anything based off these notes.  These grades are an effort to make parents who think grades are VERY IMPORTANT STUFF happy and content.  "My child is an excellent student" is sometimes code for "My child can sit still and do exactly what the teacher says to do but may or may not have very much going on upstairs."  Or "My child can do busy work very well."

The mom in me thinks my child is bright, but the realistic critic in me knows that mostly she is average (although I was average at her age, too.)  Like awesomeness, there is no rule that says a person's intelligence can't grow immensely larger as they develop and mature.

The district also changed the grading scale so that 90-100 is an A, but if I see a 92.4 I will read that as a B even if the report card says A.  Again, it doesn't really matter, especially if the grade is on note-taking, but a rose isn't a rose isn't a rose in public education.

Today, N handed me 2 manilla folders with a series of assessment reports inside them.  According to the paper, this is supposed to be a student-led conference to engage families and increase student responsibility for their learning.

Here is my written response to the sheet:

I understand, given how many students are taught on middle school teams, the need to do this, but I'm not sure how helpful it is for me and N without actually seeing any of the work and where her mistakes are on the proficiency assessments.  She isn't certain what the problem is without looking at the test.  I regularly check the Parent Portal so I don't need a grades update.  I'm not even sure what the "Learning Conferences--Reflecting on Progress" sheet is since nothing here is labeled as such.  Is THIS SHEET the "Learning Conferences" sheet?

That probably sounds bitchy, but that accurately sums up how I feel about trying to decipher this.  My problem is less that they asked me to do it than that it isn't user-friendly.  How can I accurately assess and reflect with my child if all pertinent information isn't provided?  How can I encourage my child to do "better" on a proficiency assessment when it might be asking her to regurgitate information instead of thinking?

Like so many things education-related, this "conference" seems like a well-intentioned but rather off-the-mark activity.  

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