Follow up to Open Letter to my children’s school board.

In the interest of complete transparency, here is a follow up to the situation in Ontario and our particular school board, the Halton District School Board. Although not exactly what I and many other parents are requesting, it is a step in the right direction. At least we will obtain our children’s grades. Below is an email sent out to all elementary school parents yesterday after a meeting with the Board of Trustees from the Director, Mr. David Euale.

I remain hopeful that communication to my children’s teachers will result in some tangible progress from the last report card before the last day of school as personally I would love to celebrate expected improvements and help prepare my children for the next school year.

June 18, 2015

Important Message for Families of Elementary Students:
Report cards to be provided for elementary students in SK – Grade 8

At the Halton District School Board meeting of June 17, trustees have supported the Director of Education’s recommendation to allocate up to $100,000 to secure assistance to input elementary student academic marks in the report card system.

Currently, public elementary teachers across Ontario are taking part in a legal strike. This action includes not providing report card comments and not inputting student marks/achievement levels electronically. The production of report cards for more than 40,000 Halton public elementary students relies on the inputting of this data by 2,700 teachers. Trustees had previously supported the concept that the data entry could not be managed by principal and vice-principals at this very busy time of year. Therefore, a commitment was made to have principals and vice-principals produce report cards only for students graduating from their schools. These report cards will be distributed on June 24th.

As a result of the approval of funds by trustees, during the summer, report cards for all remaining students in Senior Kindergarten to Grade 7 will be produced with subject grades/achievement levels and learning skills only (no comments). These will be made available from August 31- September 3 at the elementary school your child attended during the 2014-15 school year. Report cards not picked up will be mailed home to families.

The Ministry of Education indicated they could not provide special funding for this initiative. Therefore, we are very pleased that the Halton District School Board trustees chose to support this allocation of funds. This enhancement to our original plan allows for the equitable access to grades and learning skills for all elementary students for this school year.

For more information, please visit http://www.hdsb.ca

Sincerely,

David Euale
Director of Education
Halton District School Board

An Open Letter to my school board. Let’s teach RESPONSIBILITY.

This morning, I decided to send a letter to our local school board. After that, I made the decision to go public with my letter. Here in Ontario, as a result of work to rule action, some children in some elementary grades will NOT be receiving their final grades. The basics of the situation are this: as a work to rule action, teachers submitted the marks to the school administrators but refused to input them as in other years or provide comments. Boards had to respond accordingly. Each board is responding in whatever way they deem appropriate but it keeps shifting. Yes people, this is what my high property taxes to the public school systems pays for. In my personal opinion, not a great use of my tax money.

Now I do not mean to simplify a very complex situation, but as a parent, the above is the basic premise of what is happening.

I have no desire to enter into a political debate about what is wrong or not or why this is happening. Truthfully, I understand the complexities and arguments, difficulties of ALL involved including teachers/their union, administrators and boards.  But in the end, this is not my fight.  It is simple. I want my children’s marks and have a right to them.  I want to tell my child that anything is possible and mean it. When I teach them about responsibility, I want them to witness it first hand.

If you want more information, there is a lot of media attention on this as school boards across the province deal with this. Just google Ontario school boards, EFTO, Ontario elementary schools to get the latest news.

I share this letter for those parents in the same situation and encourage them to contact your local school board, parent groups and trustees. Make your voices heard. My children are too young to deal with this, so I must. As for anyone else reading this lucky enough to have your children’s final report cards in hand, well enjoy our ride. Maybe you will have to deal with this in the future too. I hope not.

**Note: Mr. Euale is a public figure and Director of the Halton District School Board thus I have left references to him. I have removed all other personal information to protect the identity of my family and children.

**Note 2: I did receive a response from Mr. Euale thanking me for my suggestions and letting me know our board, Halton District School Board, is looking into strategies to communicate with parents. With seven days of school left, I hope it’s quick and takes our children into consideration. I remain cautiously optimistic they will release our children’s marks.

June 17, 2015

Dear Mr. Euale,

We are aware that we may be one of many, many parents contacting you and the board in lieu of the announcement this past Friday. As directed, we are attempting to reach out to our children’s teachers to obtain their end of year marks with no response as of yet and if the media reports are accurate, the teachers will not be answering our pleas to release our children’s marks to us in an informal manner, although we were directed by the email on Friday to contact their teachers.

However, we wanted to reach out to you in light of the decision by the TDSB announced this am, the question on our minds (as many others) is why this strategy is not possible in Halton? For your reference:

http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2015/06/16/toronto-elementary-students-will-get-report-cards-despite-teachers-manoeuvre.html

In fact, although Halton has indicated it will send report cards home for certain elementary grades, which is the least to be expected for these important transition years, we would argue that other elementary grades also be given similar considerations. In our situation, we have three children within the Halton District School Board, all in primary grades. Do we not have a duty as a collective to ensure they are well prepared for September? That is difficult to do as a parent without some sort of feedback or indication of progress from this year. Perhaps a modified version, such as a summary of marks as the TDSB is doing should be the minimum the board/administrations provide to all the parents in Halton.

We want to share with you our situation with one of our children. We share this with you with the hope that if you understand a real life situation, you, the Board and Administration will reconsider the decisions made on Friday. We are cognizant our situation is most likely not unique but perhaps highlighting to you the difficulty you are placing parents and the concerns we have in not obtaining feedback as well as the possible detrimental affects on primary learning, the decision will be altered.

Our eldest daughter (Grade Three, French Immersion) has been working hard since her last report card in February to improve her learning skills and bring her grades up to a place we believe she is capable of achieving. We also need to ensure she is well prepared for grade four, a huge transition year from primary to junior level learning. There has been a lot of work at home, extra tutoring and attempting to access the very, very limited resources at our particular school for a child who just needs a little extra support to succeed. Her teachers for the most part have tried to help within their limited means as well.

The final measure for this hard work was to be her final report card. Our daughter, Elizabeth, is one of those kids (as are most children in my experience) where positive, tangible feedback on her progress helps builds her confidence leading to steps for success. Being only nine years old, she is also very literal. Telling her I think she did better is not what the public school system has prepared her for.  At the end of it, marks are marks and one of the measures our children expect and deserve to know.

Throughout the last four months, albeit with overall positive general feedback from her teachers, her personal ultimate goal was to see her efforts translated into marks on her final report card. Can you imagine the end of the year when she holds that piece of paper in her hands and says “I did it!” That is a priceless moment.

Well Mr. Euale that is what is possibly being taken away from her and hundreds of students like her, this sense of accomplishment.

How do you explain to a nine year old that her efforts weren’t important enough to warrant even a letter home stating her grades?  Now, as her parents, we are of course assuming her marks are improved based on recent conversations and items coming home from her classroom.

But, what if she hasn’t improved enough? What if we are completely off base in our own personal assessment? Well, as a responsible parent who cares about her education, if her grades haven’t significantly improved and there are still gaps in learning, we must know that too and as soon as possible.

How are we to address possible issues this summer if we are not aware of what they are? It’s like trying to solve a problem blindfolded. We have a sense, but not the whole picture.

The argument, “you should know where your child is in their learning” is not a realistic in our circumstance and I’m sure many other families. Although we may think we know where her grades will land on a final report card, seen improvements at home and with her tutor, we cannot know for certain how that work translates in tandem with her in-class work and learning skills. Truthfully we are not comfortable or equipped to guess what her final marks may be and we should not have to. It is the board/administration and teachers responsibility to communicate with the parents their children’s progress and final marks.

We are not political in any way and sympathize with the difficulty everyone finds themselves from the teachers, administrators and the board. We understand it is not easy for anyone.  However, at the end of the day, this is not our fight. I want my children’s report cards. It is an expected duty of the board and schools to provide end of year report cards to parents. We very much hope that in light of what other boards are beginning to realize, the Halton District School Board reconsiders their position, responsibility to parents and children of their district and if not any of that, consider what you are doing to a child like my own.

How do I teach my children the value of school and learning when they can easily shrug their shoulders and say, “What does it matter? We may or may not get grades anyway.”

We have spent a year trying to instill a love of learning, responsibility and foster a sense of personal accomplishment for a job well done. All values taught in their classrooms. At a pivotal time in their personal development, as we are trying to teach these primary students the importance of words like, responsibility, we believe the board and administrators should be the example and make the responsible choice. 

 Release their marks.

Get it done in any way possible because when we tell our children that anything is possible, we would really like to mean it.

We will be forwarding this letter and encouraging our network of parents, organizations and media to contact you with their concerns in the hopes that HDSB responds accordingly.

Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing your response.

Rebecca House

(Name of child changed above and personal information omitted for privacy.)