December 1st, 2016

kids 201006

Obfuscatory report cards

The kids' report cards came home this week. The grades are E for exceeding the standard, M for meeting the standard consistently, P for progressing towards standard, N for not meeting the standard, and N/A for standard not assessed this term.

Duncan's first grade report card has 26 Ms and 3 Ps on academic performance. Margaret's third grade report card has 7 Ms and 17 Ps. So relative to grade level, Duncan is doing a lot better than Margaret, right?

Not so fast. The report card doesn't say whether an M means meeting the standard of where the student is expected to be at the present time, or meeting the standard of where the student is expected to be at the end of the school year. For items that are expected to be completed in one quarter, there may be no difference, but some items may stretch out for multiple quarters, or even the entire year.

Duncan's teacher grades relative to where the student is supposed to be at the end of the current quarter. His report card actually says he's very slightly behind the curve. Margaret's teacher grades relative to where the student is supposed to be at the end of the current year. It's much harder to tell where she is relative to where she should be, since we don't know which items should be completed at the end of the first quarter, but if we assume a linear progression from all P at the beginning of the year to all M at the end of the year, she might be slightly ahead of the curve. Certainly a student exactly following the expected progression in Margaret's class would still have a lot of Ps.

So the better progression would be represented by a worse report card. It's almost as if this system were designed for obfuscation rather than communication.