Sunday Evening News: Reporting Student Progress

November 13, 2005

By Mike Nelson

Many of you have spent the last several days looking at student work and progress that has occurred during the first ten weeks of school. Thank you for spending such thoughtful and reflective time in letting our families know how their children are doing at this point in the school year. As a parent in the district myself, I truly appreciate the extra time and effort that you put in to make this a meaningful experience for students and parents.

Reporting student progress to parents is becoming more significant than ever before in the history of public education in Washington state. Last spring, the state of Washington determined that parents can view their child's WASL. We have had several families in our community fill our the paperwork (can be found on the OSPI web site) to view their child's assessment. Paul and I meet with the families to walk through the exam with them and to answer any questions that they may have. A common theme in these conversations is the disconnect between student grades and meeting standard on the WASL.

Over the past several years, our state and district have attempted to move our system to one which is based upon clear standards and instructional strategies to help our students meet these standards. Examples of this include:

  • Implementation of a standards-based elementary report card
  • Curriculum adoption models which have used "backwards design" processes that focuses on standards/expectations and then finding the best instructional materials to help students meet these standards/expectations
  • Focus on Literacy and Mathematics in curricular adoptions and instructional projects

Even with all of our work and effort toward this focus, we will still experience and feel this change to an even greater extent as it becomes "real" to our students and parents (and even ourselves). I once heard someone tell a story about change as the moment between hanging on to one trapeze bar and reaching out to grab the next one. Like all other districts in our state we will be experiencing that "moment" this year...and probably for the next several that's quite a moment! :)

This spring our current 10th graders will be needing to meet standard on the reading, writing and math portions of the WASL. Calls from parents to my office have been different than in past years. Parents are asking important questions about how they can help their child do well on this assessment, particularly if they haven't done well on past WASL assessments. As I stated earlier, they are wanting our student reporting system to be one indicator as to how their child might do on the WASL.

This may sound like a daunting task, but I can honestly tell you that report cards do match a child's WASL results for the majority of our students. We do however, have some students whose report cards do not match their WASL assessment. Examples:

  • We have students in our system that have very high marks on our student reporting system who did not meet standard on the WASL. (This represents the majority of the parents that have requested to review their child's WASL with Paul and me.)
  • We also have students who do not do well on our reporting system who then meet all areas of the WASL.

I believe in both of these examples we can learn to better calibrate our student reporting system. I believe the best way to tackle this would be in conversations at your grade levels and departments.

This Thursday marks the first official day of our K-12 conferences. This is a great opportunity to meet with families about the progress their child is making this year. You may experience different kinds of questions than you have in the past. I sure would like to know this. If you have the time, drop me an email about what is being asked. I think this could help us take some next steps as a system.

WOW...I have been a bit long-winded about changes that are occurring across all public schools in our state. The one thing that I don't think we should EVER forget about conferences/reporting student progress is the relationship factor. For me, I can tell you the above paragraphs are important, but as a parent what I really want to know before we move into instruction and assessments is that you care and value my child as a person. Britt and I have never been disappointed about that. All of our childrens' teachers over the years have made this point very clear. We continue to be thrilled that we moved our family to this school district eleven years ago.

Enjoy this opportunity to connect with families.