With most schools utilizing online Learning Management Systems, which provide 24/7 access to student academic data via desktop or mobile computers / phones, many schools still utilize the two-term, 4 or 6 marking period model, with a distributed paper report card at the conclusion of each marking period. Why?
Upon implementing an online Learning Management System (LMS) many years ago in my own school, for quite some time beyond the switch to the web, we continued to print and distribute hard-copies of student report cards for various reasons. Paper report cards served as a reminder and means for parents and guardians to check-in on the progress of their child’s academics. The paper-based report card also served well for providing a reference document during Parent-Teacher conferences. There is a benefit to marrying some of the analog processes with their more modern digital counterparts, which very well meets the spirit and necessity to maximize equitable access to this information. However, while paper-redundancy holds some merit and practicality, there are some remnant practices which make less sense, and don’y fully enable schools to embrace and realize the benefit of these technological innovations.
Online digital Learning Management Systems when used properly and regularly by schools can easily and accurately provide in-the-moment academic and social emotional data for all constituents within the school community. Therefore, why do some schools still empower hard Marking Period grade entry and calendar deadlines, 2-3 times per term? As was our school’s practice, we still asked teachers to submit Marking period 1, 2 and 3 grades, which are effectively just progress report grades, with the exception of Marking Period 3, which ultimately resides on the student’s permanent record / transcript. We did this, with the implementation of the online LMS, fully digitizing the posting of homework, grades, and all the good stuff that robust LMS’s provide. We missed one important step, initially anyhow. We kept the “old practices” in play alongside the new digital systems where a teacher submitted an official Marking Period grade, creating three distinct milestone clusters of extra assignments, quizzes, tests, reports, projects … every sort of measure of a student’s learning, crammed within a short period of time before the end of each marking period. This ultimately translated to a lot of extra work for students and teachers, as the marking period deadline created this nightmarish scenario and influx of extra work for students, parents / guardians, teachers, guidance counselors and administration. Why does/did this happen?
Simply enough, in many cases in education, we often do things because “we’ve always done them that way,” so while we had the benefit of technology on our side, we continued to execute the same practices around declaring marking period grades. This practice was initially the case for us until we started doing a deep Academic & Social Emotional Wellness inquiry with our entire school community. We heard a resounding message that these marking period checkpoints were disruptive to the natural schedule and sequencing of assessments that we had worked hard at establishing around and equitable distribution over the course of the week by discipline. The students and teachers were right! Our immediate reaction to this was to shift from three marking period terms, to two, which made a world of difference for both students and teachers. Teachers had much more time now to get to know their students before calculating and assigning the Marking Period 1 grade, and there was one less clustering effect of assessments and assessments. While it was a great success and had a strong positive impact, in retrospect however, “we did it again,” and were still stuck in this unnecessary loop of assigning marking period grades.
Flash forward to February 2020, where after months of planning and discussing, it felt amazing to send this email (below) out to students and parents / guardians, as we finally executed the final step in reaping the full benefits of our LMS and further instituting our Academic & Social Emotional Wellness initiative. I encourage school leaders to take a closer look at your Grade Reporting practices and schedule to ensure if it is aligned with the needs of the students, parents and faculty, and whether or not the benefits of technology are being fully utilized.
Dear Students, Parents and Guardians,
Welcome back for the Spring Term!
On Friday, January 31st, all students received a paper version of the Fall Term Report Card, reflecting your child’s cumulative GPA for Marking Period 1 and Marking Period 2. The Marking Period 1 grade was a “Progress Report” indicator of how your child was performing up until approximately the end of November. The Marking Period 1 grade is not a final grade, but serves as a mere “check-in” indicator intended to show a student’s progress at that point in the Fall Term. The Marking Period 2 grade (through January 27th), however, is representative of your child’s cumulative Final Fall Term Grade, which is recorded and reflected on your child’s Fall Term Transcript / Permanent Record.
For the Spring Term, we will be using just one single Marking Period (from February to June) to record the Official Final Grade at the end of the Spring Term in June. Therefore, we will be using the PupilPath Progress Report feature to share your child’s progress over the course of the Spring Term. We will be reminding students, parents and guardians to periodically check their progress on PupilPath, which is always available for your personal review 24 hours a day.
By instituting this new “Academic Wellness” practice and eliminating the “extra” mid-point Marking Period, our hope and intent is to continue to work towards eliminating unnecessary redundancies and practices which sometimes create unintended stress. We recognize that traditionally, this “Marking Period Milestone,” created a clustering, unnatural and aggregate of extra work and assessments in a short period of time, in the spirit of getting “one last grade in before the end of the marking period.” With the benefit of an online grading system (PupilPath) that can report a child’s academic progress at any time you wish to view it, there really is no need to pause, stop, and add another schoolwide deadline (marking period), imposing another (unnecessary) stressor in the form of extra work / grades.
However, the day before the Spring Parent Teacher Conferences (March 19th & 20th), we will access, print and distribute your child’s Progress Report from PupilPath, which you can do as well any time 24 hours a day at home. We are doing this to provide each family with a printed version of the Progress Report (via backpack), to serve as a reminder for you and your child to take the time to review their progress thus far in the Spring Term. By providing you with a printed version, you can also bring that copy to Parent Teacher Conferences in order to discuss your child’s progress with his/her teachers.
At the conclusion of the Spring Term, we will provide an official NYC DOE Report Card. This Report Card will reflect both the Final Fall Term grade and the Spring Term Grade.
If you have any questions, or need to gain access to PupilPath, please contact our Parent Coordinator, Barbara Malenfant, at 718-667-3222 Ext 1171, or via email at BMalenfant@schools.nyc.gov. Kindly take this time to register on PupilPath if you have not already done so.