Teachers have always played a role in raising children and educators at Diamond Jenness Secondary School are taking steps to better quantify the results.
“For a curriculum grade to be valid, we can’t be mucking it up with behaviour factors,” said principal Heather Pedjase at a community education planning session last week. “This has always been a part of education, what we’re trying to do is standardize how we evaluate it and make it easier for teachers.”
Along with the next report cards, parents will receive a rubric with six new areas by which their children will be evaluated, entirely separate from their academic grades. Areas like responsibility, organization, collaboration and initiative were brainstormed by a group of community members in a session last fall. At the time, the main message was that students are leaving school without the ability to function in the workplace, lacking communication skills and the ability to work independently.
“We create the people who are going to become employed in the community,” said vice-principal Lynne Beck at last Friday’s session. “It’s important to me as a parent to know not only how my kids are doing academically, but how they’re doing socially and everything else.”
Beck also said that the school had never been clear about the changes to report cards when they were instructed by the GNWT to stop taking grades off for late assignments and missing classes. This will be a chance to better explain how teachers are now approaching “soft-skills” issues with comments of either exceeding, meeting or developing in report cards for each new area.
Last fall’s session, however, brought up the major issue of a lack of consequences for things like late assignments and consistently showing up late to class. These issues have yet to be dealt with, but Pedjase said there are solutions in the works.
“We still can’t take marks off, but there are other things teachers can do, like calling home, or having the student stay after school,” she said. “The message here is you’re not going to get away with not doing this.”
Pedjase also said that although she has heard people say that a lack of deadlines — Jenness students can hand in all their assignments on the very last day of class if they choose and not have marks docked — isn’t preparing children for the real world. But in her experience, she said, adults also miss deadlines on a regular basis.
“It’s a subtle change, but it makes a huge difference, the change between teaching and learning,” she said. “One small word changes everything.”