If your kid attends school in Toronto, York or Peel, there’s a decent chance you might have had to soothe a rather unhappy child—maybe even wipe away a few tears—after they learned there would be no end-of-year report card this June.
Instead of report cards, teachers will give hundreds of thousands of students in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), as well as the York and Peel boards, a simple letter outlining for parents whether their child has passed and the grade in which their child will be placed in the coming school year—small comfort for kids who look forward to finding out how well they did overall.
The decision is part of a larger job action that has seen members of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) conduct a work-to-rule campaign that includes restrictions on teachers electronically recording and documenting grades or providing written feedback for report cards.
While some boards are contemplating using volunteers and other staff to complete the task, the TDSB has noted that the amount of work—20 entries each for more than 170,000 students—is simply too much. “This means that at least 3.4 million entries would have to be inputted with a fraction of the staffing resources,” the TDSB noted in a Q&A sheet. “This is simply not possible.”
If you’re concerned this means you might not learn about problem areas so you can help your kid catch up over the summer, you probably shouldn’t be. “Most teachers are in regular communication with parents if their child is struggling so that shouldn’t be something that gets lost in the labour-dispute,” notes a grade 4/5 teacher in the York Region District School Board.
Ontario’s minister of education, Liz Sandals, says she’d like parents to talk with their child’s teacher to get more meaningful feedback in lieu of report cards. “Teachers’ in-depth first-hand knowledge of students’ strengths and weaknesses cannot be replaced,” she says. “That is why I am encouraging parents and guardians to engage their child’s teacher to benefit from their professional insight and intimate understanding of their child’s progress.”
Brian Woodland, director of communications and community relations for the Peel District School Board, also encourages parents to contact teachers directly for feedback, noting that parents have already benefitted from a Term One report card and through-the-year updates. The ETFO has stated that it will not prevent teachers from providing feedback.
Parents who would like to see their child’s marks can contact their school principal. Teachers have submitted marks, and principals can review them with parents—but there may be limits to how and if this can actually be done. In the TDSB, for example, principals will only be available to talk with parents about grades after June 22, and availability is also dependent on the principal’s time constraints. If the principal can’t fit meetings or phone calls into an already-busy schedule, parents won’t be seeing this info until the fall.
The three school boards are, however, working on solutions for situations where a student requires an official grade—for example, admission to a specialized program. “The board will convene a committee of regional program principals who will revise entrance requirements this year for Peel students and ensure no student is disadvantaged,” says Woodland. For students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), the information will be retained and reviewed with parents in the fall.
On the plus side, both sides have expressed a desire to resolve the labour dispute and end the work-to-rule campaign, and bargaining will continue over the summer. Too late for report cards, maybe, but hopefully in time for students to enter into a renewed learning environment in September.