Illustration by Brynne Barnard-Bahn

New report card comments exchange teacher assessments for adviser insight

In the past, students have received comments from each of their teachers on report cards for the first three quarters.

This year, when students received their report cards on April 21, the third-quarter comments were replaced by one large comment from their adviser. The comment was based on students’ grades and a self-reflection form.

“This change was made by the faculty in order to provide a more holistic assessment for the students,” head of high school Brooke Wells said.

According to Wells, comments for the first two quarters are designed to give a detailed assessment of students’ progress in each class.

“First-quarter comments are formative, (and) first-semester comments are more summative,” Wells said.

Since students receive targeted feedback at the beginning of the year, Wells said the third quarter is the perfect time for students to receive a broader assessment and evaluate their own challenges and goals as they pick classes for the following school year.

Adviser and French teacher Richard Day said giving big-picture feedback late in the year is a good idea.

“I also like that the new system encourages more self-reflection, goal-setting and strategy-building on the part of the student,” Day added.

Adviser and chemistry teacher Victoria Conner agreed with Day that overarching feedback is important late in the year.

“In the third quarter, we recognize that the school year is almost over,” Conner said. “Rather than focusing on how a student might do better in a class they have almost completed, the comments use student performance from the year as well as student ambitions and desires to help begin to shape what next year might look like for them.”

Day said the new system is more challenging and time-consuming than anticipated.

“As always, I’m trying to make my comments meaningful,” he said. “It’s not always easy to see the big picture, even though I have access to grades and assignments.”

Day said some students did not fill out the self-reflection form, making his  job more difficult.

Conner said although she allocated more time per comment, the new system saved her time overall. She wrote 11 comments this quarter instead of 64.

However, one challenge Conner noted was being unable to meet face-to-face with advisees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adviser and biology teacher Kellie Whited highlighted multiple advantages of the new system.

“It strengthens the role of the adviser in helping their advisees pick classes for the upcoming school year,” Whited said. “It (also) strengthens the relationship between the adviser and advisee and gives the adviser a chance to advocate for them. And it lets the student have a voice on their report card.”

Whited said comments for the first two quarters are good insight from a teacher’s perspective for parents to see. The self-reflection from allows students to convey their successes and goals.

“What an incredible opportunity for students to take ownership of their academic journey at SCDS!” Whited said.

Whited said she spent less time writing comments but the same time as usual on the entire process because she met with advisees in Zoom conferences. The conferences lasted longer than if they had been in-person, Whited said, because she wanted to see how students were adjusting to online learning.

Junior Erin Wilson said she prefers to see comments from all of her teachers rather than just from her adviser.

“In the past, it was one of the things I looked forward to,” she said. “I think it would have been really helpful to get comments from all of my teachers during quarantine.

“Since Country Day is such a small community, our report card comments are more personal and helpful and add to Country Day’s overall charm.”

Freshman Savanna Karmue agreed with Wilson.

“Although my adviser’s comments were helpful seeing where I am overall, I would have liked to see my teachers’ individual comments,” Karmue said. “I want to see how much I have improved in each class.”

Wells said he plans to use the new system for the third-quarter next year before evaluating the change.

“With the shift to remote learning this month, it would be hard to evaluate the comments in isolation,” he said.

—By Ethan Monasa