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LABOUR DISPUTE

Public school pupils at Thames Valley District school board to get report cards

Kate Dubinski

By Kate Dubinski, The London Free Press

(Postmedia Network file photo)

(Postmedia Network file photo)

Sorry kids, you’re not going to get off easy after all.

Principals and other school board administrators might be pulling all-nighters this summer, scrambling to put together final reports for the Thames Valley District school board’s 51,000 elementary pupils.

While at first it looked like there’d be no final report cards, the fallout of a work-to-rule campaign by Ontario’s 76,000 public elementary teachers, now there will be — only they’ll look different and come out months later than normal.

“The format that we have received from teachers, it’s in a class list, by subject, and it’s hand written. This is quite an undertaking. We have more than 3,000 teachers and well over a million data points to put in,” board education Laura Elliott said Thursday.

“We’ll be doing all the input work centrally, so there are logistics to work out.”

This year’s report cards -- the school board is calling them "report summeries" -- will be ready by September, Elliott said.

Thursday’s announcement came less than two days after the board said it would only send letters home saying kids had passed.

Tuesday, the board had told parents to talk to their kids’ teacher for specifics about marks. But by the end of Wednesday, teachers were telling parents they couldn’t talk about specific marks because they hadn’t been approved by principals.

Other boards, including in Toronto, Peel, York and Durham, also changed their tune, bowing to public pressure to provide marks.

The 3,300 Thames Valley elementary teachers on Monday turned in class lists with letter grades for each subject, hand-written, for pupils in Grades 1 to 8, and comments for each subject for special education and kindergarten kids, their union said.

That left principals or other administrators to input the grades and comments so they can go out to pupils.

While the board had told parents who want marks to talk to their kids’ teacher, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) told its members to direct parents to principals for grades or information about pupil progress.

“The fact of the matter is, we have never refused to talk with parents about progress. That we won’t share marks is an issue with the law,” said Craig Smith, ETFO’s local president. “The marks we submit can be changed by the principal, so we can’t tell a student or parent a mark without the principal signing off on it.”

While principals don’t have time to input all the marks before the school year ends next Thursday, along with other administrators they’ll likely work over the summer to get the report cards ready for September.

Elliott, a former elementary teacher, said this is the first time in more than 30 years as an educator that she can recall such a problem with report cards.

“Even prior to computers, we had three-copy carbon paper and teams of teachers handing booklets to each other,” she said. “What principals received from teachers this year is not a report card.”

ETFO did issue one very public grade – in full-page newspaper ads Thursday, before the board changed its tune on marks, it gave the Thames Valley board an F for “refusing to issue students’ final marks, depriving parents of information they deserve.”

Meanwhile, in a directive Thursday, the union local told teachers they’ve done their duty by filing marks to principals.

“The Board has put students, parents, Teachers and Principals in a very awkward spot,” the memo says.

Teachers won’t distribute any board materials about report cards or the job action, they won’t conduct formal parent interviews and won’t “handle or distribute” letters about passing to the next grade level.

Pupils in Grades 1-8 will get letter grades for every subject — but no comments. Children in kindergarten will not get reports, Elliott said. It's unknown whether children in special education will get reports.

All three major Ontario teachers’ unions are working under expired contracts, amid speculation Ontario could be in for full-blown strikes by its more than 180,000 teachers this fall if progress on new contracts isn’t made soon.

Kate.dubinski@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/KateatLFPress

WHAT PARENTS CAN EXPECT

  • Letters home with kids Friday saying they’re advancing to the next grade, with a summary of their attendance.
  • By September, you’ll be able to go to their school to get a letter grade mark for each subject, if they’re in Grades 1 – 8. Children in kindergarten will not get reports. It's unclear whether special education pupils will.
  • Monitor your school website as details become available.
  • If you ask teachers about marks, they’ve been told to say you need to speak to the principal first.

 


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