End of semester reports include much, but tell little

End of semester reports include much, but tell little

The role of the traditional end of semester school report is being called into question after a new report found that they provide little indication of students’ learning growth.

The new report from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) said rather than providing one big report at the end of each semester, students should be continually graded throughout the year so parents and children can monitor progress.

For the study, ACER researchers, Dr Hollingsworth, Jonathan Heard and Paul Weldon, summarised a three-year initiative to investigate the effectiveness of activities related to communicating student learning progress.

This included whether reports provide quality information and how much they are valued by students and parents.

‘Parents left with little insight’

“The most recent Gonski report emphasises the importance of communicating both individual achievement and learning growth but our analysis revealed that, with few exceptions, Australian schools tend only to report student achievement,” ACER researcher Dr Hollingsworth said.

“This singular focus on grades and scores can leave parents with little insight into their child’s learning growth and can be demotivating for students.”

The report recommends that school reporting should track student growth over time in relation to the typical pathway of learning in each area, make clear how students are both performing and progressing against expectations, and include specific information about how to improve.

“Parents and students told us they want school reports to explain what the student has, and has not yet, been able to demonstrate, and indicate more specifically what they need to do next to progress in a learning area,” Dr Hollingsworth said.

Bigger reports put more administrative strain on schools

The research also found that schools felt pressured by the end of semester reporting process, which is often initiated several weeks or months before the reports are eventually released.

“Traditional semester reports require significant time and resourcing to produce and, by the time parents receive them, the information is often outdated and un-actionable,” Dr Hollingsworth said.

The report recommends schools investigate continuous forms of reporting as one means of streamlining communications to parents and carers.

“Online management systems typically enable teachers to continuously report on student achievement throughout the school year, providing parents with information closer to the point of assessment,” Dr Hollingsworth said.

“This is prompting some schools to reconsider the purpose and format of end of semester reports.”

She pointed out that while many schools already use continuous reporting alongside written reports, parent-teacher interviews and portfolios, “few have aligned the distinct but complementary role of these different forms of communication.”