When I was a kid, the main way school performance was measured was with letter grades. We got letter grades on almost all of our work. Getting an A meant you knew it all, a B meant you didn't quite know it all, C meant you knew enough to pass, D meant you knew so little you were on the verge of faiing, and F meant you failed. If you always got As you were one of the really smart kids, and if you always got Ds and Fs you were one of the dumb kids. Unfortunately, that's how we thought about it, plain and simple.
If I got a B, my teacher and parents told me I could do better and that I should work harder. If I got a C, I was in deep trouble, and was put on restriction until I brought my grade up. This meant more hours of homework. I suspect this was a common experience. It was certainly what happened on Father Knows Best and The Brady Bunch.
The best teachers also commented on our work, telling us where we could improve our arguments or where and how we had erred, and suggesting actions we could take to improve. In terms of feedback, this was the gold standard. It was the only way we got any real guidance about what we, as individuals, needed to work on next. Letter grades represented rank, punishment, and reward, but they weren't very useful indicators of where we were in our growth as learners. Report cards were for parents.
Usher in Lectica and DiscoTest
One of our goals here at Lectica has been to make possible a new kind of report card—one that:
- delivers scores that have rich meaning for students, parents, and decision-makers,
- provides the kind of personal feedback good teachers offer, and
- gives students an opportunity to watch themselves grow.
This new report card—illustrated on the right—uses a single learning "ruler" for all subjects, so student growth in different subjects can be shown on the same scale. In the example shown here, each assessment is represented by a round button that links to an explanation of the student's learning edge at the time the assessment was taken.
This new report card also enables direct comparisons between growth trajectories in different subject areas.
An additional benefit of this new report card is that it delivers a rich portfolio-like account of student growth that can be employed to improve admissions and advancement decisions.
And finally, we're very curious about the potential psychological benefits of allowing students to watch how they grow. We think it's going to be a powerful motivator.