In a really interesting post comparing schools to spaghetti sauce, Parry recently argued that the amount of information being given to parents regarding student success is inadequate.
"Once a child is enrolled in a school, parents receive relatively limited information about the quality of education the child is receiving. While parents may see good grades on a report card every nine weeks, do those grades necessarily reflect the quality of education?" he writes, "How many parents with students in K-12 public schools have a clear understanding of what their children should be learning, how their children are progressing relative to those learning goals, and how their children’s rate of progress compares to that of children in other classrooms or nearby schools?"
What's more, Graham argues that providing parents with more information would actually lead to improved schools. "By providing parents with more specific information about the quality of education that their children are receiving, we would give them tools to help us improve the quality of education that we provide. External, consumer-driven pressure is a powerful force for improvement in any industry, but consumers can only make good choices if they have good information."
While I agree with Graham's central premise that parents deserve accurate, timely, easy to understand information about student performance--information that is often not currently provided--I think he's missing a few key points that must be addressed to make his plan possible.
First, teachers will need significant support in developing formative assessments that accurately measure student achievement. As an "accomplished educator," I am almost ashamed to admit that I have little confidence in my own classroom assessments because I've never been taught how to create high quality, reliable measures of student achievement. While I've got a "good sense" of what my children know and can do, it is based on more than fourteen years of experience---not on the homework assignments or quizzes that I give.
(Don't tell my principal that I said that!)
What's more, I have little access to management systems that allow me to quickly and easily collect and analyze data at the classroom level. "Looking for trends," and "making comparisons" between students means shuffling through stacks of paper or flipping pages in my gradebook. Our school--a leader in student achievement and innovation--asks teachers to keep data records in three-ring binders--and I end up drowning in data that I struggle to draw meaning from.
Finally, teachers will need significant time to develop reporting systems that work. While the trend towards increased communication between home and school is essential, it also chews away at already limited planning hours. Between replying to emails, updating websites and returning phone calls, communication has become an almost overwhelming task. To add additional expectations and responsibilities without extending non-instructional time for teachers would hurt the quality of classroom teaching.
Graham's logic is sound---Parents deserve to have accurate information about the performance of their children. But generating and communicating accurate information is a task I'm not sure I'm currently qualified or capable of completing.