Noah Rinaldi, Holly Owen and George Henderson at Brisbane Montessori School. Picture: AAP
Noah Rinaldi, Holly Owen and George Henderson at Brisbane Montessori School. Picture: AAP

How school report cards are failing Aussie kids

School report cards across the country should be scrapped and new 'real time' reporting implemented, with the current mandated federal system acting like a "straitjacket", experts say.

Report card 'season' is now in full swing with teachers so swamped some are forced to turn to software tools that generate generic comments.

Some schools use drop down menus that allow teachers to shortcut the process and other schools, in the name of political correctness, demand teachers use this drop down menu.

A News Corp investigation has found an Australian teacher selling a software package which has hundreds of categorised comments that can be selected from, with the "name and pronouns entered automatically".

It includes comments like "Name's enthusiasm for learning enables him/her to tackle new challenges eagerly with a positive attitude and as a result he/she is making considerable progress."

 

Noah Rinaldi, Holly Owen and George Henderson at Brisbane Montessori School. Picture: AAP
Noah Rinaldi, Holly Owen and George Henderson at Brisbane Montessori School. Picture: AAP

 

Education experts widely believe the current system is not working with the federal government's 'five point system' hampering teachers; one expert described them a "straitjacket" that doesn't provide meaningful feedback while another told News Corp Australia he gets better reports from his mechanic.

With a new report due this week from the Australian Council for Education Research that is expected to call for significant report card reform, some work is being done around learning progressions, helping teachers better monitor learning over time.

 

 

But Associate Professor Glenn Savage, an expert in education reform from the University of Western Australia, said "we are several years away from seeing our report cards looking very different".

He said many of the report cards parents are receiving are essentially a "pointless exercise," particularly if the standardised comment banks are used.

"Unfortunately, there is no way teachers can feasibly sit down and provide meaningful and personalised feedback, especially in high school settings where teachers can teach upwards of 150 students each, so teachers rely on these standardised comment banks to some extent and tweak them where they can," he said.

 

One of the comments from the standardised bank sold to Australian teachers.
One of the comments from the standardised bank sold to Australian teachers.

 

"We need to harness emerging technologies so parents can have real time insight. Then they wouldn't feel the need to have that summative largely performative comment and you could get rid of the standardised banks because they would become redundant."

With four people required to sign off on each report card, they are taking up hours of teachers' time and Professor Adrian Piccoli, Director of the Gonski Institute for Education, says one teacher recently told him it would be more efficient to call each parent individually.

"Teachers spend a lot of time writing and they are often of questionable value to parents. It is an area ripe for change," he said.

President of the NSW Teachers Federation Maurie Mulheron said the five-point system, where a C indicates the student is where they need to be, is "a straitjacket we don't need and doesn't provide anything meaningful" while Brad Gaynor, President of the Australian Catholic Primary Principals' Association, said the rating system, doesn't "provide insights into students' learning and growth."

"There needs to be an overhaul of report cards, they need to reflect what is going on in the classroom, because I don't think they do," said Mr Gaynor.

"I would like to see a portal where parents can log in anytime to see how their child is progressing. Not a formal summative document at the end of the semester when it is too late."

 

 

Screen shots from a software tool sold by an Australian teacher that auto-generates comments for report cards.
Screen shots from a software tool sold by an Australian teacher that auto-generates comments for report cards.

 

While a number of early childcares have technology such as apps, portals and daily newsletters that give a real-time insight into a child's day and activities, many Australian schools are still operating on a paper system that gives limited feedback through twice-yearly report cards.

Dr Rose Cantali, President of the NSW Parents' Council backed the call for more real-time and outcome-based reporting: "Even ticking boxes of outcomes would be easier; are they at their reading level or not?"

Across the country NSW is the furthest ahead with looking at implementing learning progressions while Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australian governments confirmed they are not reviewing report cards, the ACT rolled out a new reporting system earlier this year.

The Northern Territory said they were reviewing report cards and the Tasmania Education Department has also committed to review.