“It’s Confusing”: One Parent’s Honest Response

After an evening presentation to a group of Grade 11 parents last week during which we laid out the roadmap for current 11th graders as they navigate the IB, the college search, the essays, the Internal Assessments, the Mock exams, the college applications, the SAT prep, the SAT exams, the decisions, the deadlines, the co-curricular options, the need for balance, the need to take responsibility, the need to stay close as a family, and the need to breathe…..parents were asked to offer a word or phrase to capture how they (the parents) felt at that moment.

“It’s confusing”, said one parent.

These 16 year olds who will turn 17 as Grade 11 students are setting out on an incredibly intense course of activity over the coming months.  They join thousands of other young people at this impressionable age in taking charge of the list above. This week they start that process with the PSAT exam and their first quarter progress report for Grade 11.  This is a first glance at how many of them are achieving in the IB Diploma Program.  The fun begins.  Parents must find ways to support and bolster their child during these challenging times.  Kids need parental support.  Being informed of the challenges and the roadmap that lies ahead for kids is really important for parents.  The stress, anxiety, and pressure is very real and must be managed.  Parents are critical to the management of the challenges.


Apart from the intensity of school responsibilities, most Grade 11 students are begging for more freedom from their parents.  Extended curfews, more freedom to roam on Friday evenings, greater privileges are requested.  Parents must navigate these difficult and challenging parental decisions.  Its’ not easy, in fact, it’s confusing.   Most parents are often in some form of negotiation with their kids.  It is part of parenting and part of navigating the teenage years.  It’s important.

When this parent used the word confusing, however, I read into his response another source of confusion.  It’s confusing parenting 16 year olds.  It’s confusing parenting a 16 year old child Continue reading

What are grades for? Why do we grade students?

Report Card time!

In U.S. schools, grades became part of the fabric of education in the late 1800’s. A need existed to separate students according to how well they were learning the content of the curriculum.  Was the reason for grading to attempt to motivate students?  Perhaps it was.

We aim to communicate achievement and learning with our grades.  We aim to provide feedback to students and parents about how well students are progressing.  We are not interested in ranking students nor do we ever group students around their grades.  We do, however, want to make sure that the feedback students and parents receive from grades is a true and honest indicator of learning.

In addition, narrative written comments from teachers provide additional feedback and information which should be used to effect learning, work habits, and spurn reflective conversations with parents and children.  It is clear that narrative comments are essential to rounding out the communication on a report card. They offer a personal message from teacher to student.

Feedback to students is critical to learning.  Research shows that the single most important tool in a teacher’s toolbox for learning is their ability to provide timely and high quality feedback.  Report cards should be seen in this light.  It is feedback and it is time to reflect upon that feedback.

However, grading and reporting are NOT essential to the learning process. Timely and constructive feedback is important for learning but not grades.  So what are grades for and why do we grade students?  The grades must be seen as a way to provide feedback about progress towards specific criteria.

Most students want to achieve high grades.  For students who wish to receive higher grades, what do they need to do in order to earn those grades?  In Continue reading