Lanzotte’s work on the Effective Schools Movement (initially published in the 80s) still resonates regarding the importance of meaningful reporting. The work suggested that effective schools should report student progress and ensure that they put procedures in place to ensure that reporting extends beyond mere repetition of what happens in the schoolroom. With this in mind, it can be suggested that reporting in and by itself will not contribute to any meaningful impact on learning unless there are some clear goals set between the teacher and the student.
On way which schools, particularly in the UK, use to inform their reporting strategies is standardised testing. Even though having standardised testing helps monitor academic achievement, if there is the tendency to conflate reporting with what these tests show, there is the risk to demotivate both high and low achieving students. This unidirectional focus on achievement, primarily driven by academic results, runs the risk of undermining the development of academic curiosity, persistence, and intellectual risk-taking (Nagy 2016). On the other hand, there is the model of reporting on ‘effort’. According to Nagy ‘when a school does systemically report on effort, it is rarely more than a single five-point scale with little to no objectivity, and there is usually a high correlation to students’ academic achievement’ (ibid. :165). Given the lack of uniform understanding of what is meant by ‘effort’, scales which aim to measure this undefined term prove largely ineffective. Moreover, as Dweck in her seminal work on Growth Mindset warns, focusing on academic ability alone might yield negative results when it comes to academic pursuits. As she warns when students are praised for merely ‘trying’, which can be an empty concept, they do not build tangible links with underlying competencies for learning. Moreover, reporting which looks at effort only can conflate effort with work habits and personal characteristics and can create distractions from what the students should be trying to achieve – which can vary considerably since behaviour and academic ability are not synonymous. It is, therefore, important that schools report on students’ progress but they also adjust their practices based on the outcomes of such reporting. Lancaster Country School District, in the US, reviewed their practices on reporting and they stressed that the main outcome of reports should be to strengthen the school’s relationships with parents and the wider community and meaningfully monitor progress. With such outcomes in mind, this report will describe a number of case studies of schools which used reporting in ways which tried to ensure academic growth and personal development, while building on relationships between the various stakeholders within school communities.
Read our next post on ‘Models for effective reporting’.