Education minister explains changes to report cards

As B.C.’s new education curriculum becomes mandatory for students in kindergarten through Grade 9 this fall, parents can expect some significant changes to what they see on report cards – and even whether they’ll be getting interim report cards in some cases.

Education Minster Mike Bernier stopped by a class of kindergarten students at North Vancouver’s Canyon Heights elementary on Monday to highlight some of the innovative ways teachers are informing parents about what’s happening in the classroom.

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Members of the Class of 2029 used an iPad to walk Bernier through the way one technological solution is keeping parents in the loop.

For the second year in a row, students in kindergarten and Grade 1 at Canyon Heights are piloting the app Fresh Grade, which allows teachers to share photos, comments and short videos of work students do in the classroom instantly with parents via their smart phones or tablets. Parents can also comment back to teachers on what they’ve seen.

Kindergarten students at six elementary schools in North Vancouver are now part of the pilot program for Fresh Grade. Getting regular updates on their electronic devices allows parents a special window into the classroom, say Canyon Heights teachers who have used the app, and helps promote conversations about what’s happening in school. Last year, parents’ response to Fresh Grade was overwhelmingly positive, they added.

Bernier said it’s important to highlight successes like Fresh Grade so other schools and districts can follow suit.

Other changes to the way parents hear about their kids’ progress at school are also planned, including changes to report cards.

Report cards in some form will be retained, said Bernier. “Most parents still want to see a report card,” he said. “There’s been no discussions around eliminating them,” he said, adding there have been “discussions around changing and enhancing them.”

Under the new curriculum, report cards will likely include more comments from teachers on key ideas and skills and fewer letter grades, although “any parent who wants a letter grade, you can still ask for a letter grade,” he added.

Some of the report card changes are already being piloted this year in North Vancouver schools. Students at five elementary schools – Queen Mary, Capilano, Brooksbank, Norgate and Westview – won’t get report cards for one of the two interim reporting periods that happen in the later fall and spring, said Kathleen Barter, district vice-president of learning services for North Vancouver School District.

Instead, parents, teachers and the student will take part in a detailed three-way interview. “We feel it engages students better,” said Barter.

Students in kindergarten to Grade 7 will also see a new provincial report card this year, highlighting areas in the new curriculum, in a manner similar to the report cards used in International Baccalaureate programs.

Consultations will be launched with parents later this month, said Bernier, and continue over the next six to eight months to gauge what they think of the changes.

“We’ve left the gate open,” he said. “We want to make sure parents have a say.”

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