Is There Another Side to the Report Card?

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This week on Studentcentricity I talked with educator Nancy Flanagan and social-emotional learning specialist Maurice Elias. The topic was redirecting student misbehavior toward positive behavior. This is a practice many teachers are advised to implement, but seldom is there guidance on how to implement it. Nancy and Maurice had some wonderful suggestions, which you can listen tohere.

Before the interview, Maurice and I corresponded about social-emotional development in general. He explained some of the rationale for his latest book, The Other Side of the Report Card. He wrote:

We all know that whatever gets measured usually gets attention and focus. Right now, there is no widespread, practical way elias bookfor all schools to assess children’s social-emotional skills and character (SECD). Or is there? If one looks at student report cards, one often will find on “the other side” of the academic grades a set of comments about children’s behavior, character, preparation, motivation, and more.

The gifts of individual students include their academic abilities, personality, character, and skills of relating and interacting. We can use SECD in our report cards to frame essential, multiyear conversations among students and teachers, teachers and parents, and parents and students. Some of the most important of these con­versations, particularly for parents and guardians who are not as closely attuned to schools’ academic rigors, revolve around “the other side of the report card.” Our current comment systems too rarely address the behaviors most worth talking about, i.e., those best aligned with our ultimate goal of educating the future citizens of our society.

We know that our students’ social-emotional and character development is essential for their success in school and life. Since it matters so much, we should give serious thought to assessing it in ways that are much better aligned with theory, research, and practical utility than are our current report card comment systems.

One of my battle cries, for over three decades, has been that children do not exist only from the neck up. Sadly, we continue to educate them as though they do. The folly of this practice, I believe, is beginning to come to light. I’m extremely grateful to Maurice Elias and for all those like him who continue to promote the education of the whole child.

Note: My interview with Maurice is sponsored by Corwin Press.

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