“...teachers indicated that, on occasion, they had to phone in sick in order to complete their report cards on time and they acknowledged that others did so as well.”[i] In 2010 the Manitoba government announced the development of a provincial report card that would standardize assessment reporting across the province using both a parent-friendly format and plain language.[ii] While provisions were put in place to gain meaningful feedback from teachers, parents, and administrators before the mandatory implementation in the fall of 2013, an unstandardized execution has left many Manitoba teachers feeling the pressure.
In a 2014 survey conducted by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society sixty-five percent, of a total eight-hundred survey participants, shared that they spent more than ten hours writing detailed comments for the new Provincial Report Card and forty-two percent shared that they prepare report cards for more than one-hundred students.[iii] Furthermore, “too many job demands” topped the list of sources of stress for Manitoba teachers; up four percent, to sixteen, since 2004.[iv] I argue that a mandate like the Provincial Report Card needs to be implemented effectively and efficiently in a manner that allows assessment reporting to shift towards a more standardized template while providing educators with sufficient support to allow a continuous transition.
When introducing the Provincial Report Card mandate school divisions were forced to address the logistics of appropriate training, the technology utilized to generate their gradebooks, and continued support for staff, among other matters. Sufficient training, however, appears different depending on which school division or even which school a teacher works in. According to the survey mentioned previously, completed by the Manitoba Teacher’s Society, only thirty-nine percent of teachers received division-wide training from a Manitoba Education representative and sixteen percent of teachers received no training at all.[v] The remaining fifty-five percent received training in various formats including sessions hosted by their administration and independent-training from Manitoba Education support documents.[vi] When addressing technology the issue is not any more standardized as school divisions across the province are using software such as Edline, Power School, and Maplewood, or developing their own personalized systems to develop their gradebooks. As each platform offers its own unique formatting options and features, divisions have been forced to work independently to support the various glitches that can occur with any technology system. With the shear amount of time the reporting process can take, teachers have felt pressured to do multiple-copies of their documents to work around some of the programming problems, “I have had the program freeze mid-reporting. Crash and delete all my records and then have to re-write all my reports (I’ve since been writing them in Word and saving the file – just in case).”[vii] With one year of mandatory implementation under their belts, teachers and divisions are still seeking continued support as the November report card period is on the horizon.
As a new teacher, who entered into the profession in the same year as the introduction of the Provincial Report Cards, I have felt the frustrations of insufficient training and unreliable technology. Is Maplewood transferring my records onto the report card correctly? Should I spend the extra time writing and saving my records in a word document incase the program crashes? Is this comment appropriate and free of any superlatives? What about my next eighty comments? While the template of the Provincial Report Card is standardized the uniformity has stopped there and, unfortunately, this leaves teachers and divisions to address how to meet the unique needs of their situation.
[i] Dr. David Dibbon. (2004). “It’s About Time – A Report on the Impact of Workload on Teachers and Students”. Page 18. Available online at: https://www.mun.ca/educ/people/faculty/ddibbon/pdf/teacher%20workload%20final%20version.pdf
[ii] Manitoba Education. (2010). “News Release: Premier Unveils Innovative Changes To Report Cards, In-Service Days”. Available online at: http://news.gov.mb.ca/news/index.html?archive=2010-9-01&item=9642
[iii] Judy Edmund- Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2013). “Wild Cards: Many Teachers Feel Lost In The Shuffle”. The Manitoba Teacher. Canada. Volume 92. Number 7. Pages 13-14. Available online at: http://www.mbteach.org/library/Archives/MBTeacher/June14_MBT.pdf
[iv] Judy Edmund- Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2013). “Stress Tops Class Size Concern”. The Manitoba Teacher. Canada. Volume 92. Number 4. Page 7. Available online at: http://www.mbteach.org/library/Archives/MBTeacher/Jan-Feb14_MBT.pdf
[v] Judy Edmund- Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2013). “Wild Cards: Many Teachers Feel Lost In The Shuffle”. The Manitoba Teacher. Canada. Volume 92. Number 7. Page 12. Available online at: http://www.mbteach.org/library/Archives/MBTeacher/June14_MBT.pdf
[vii] Judy Edmund- Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (2013). “Wild Cards: Many Teachers Feel Lost In The Shuffle”. The Manitoba Teacher. Canada. Volume 92. Number 7. Page 13. Available online at: http://www.mbteach.org/library/Archives/MBTeacher/June14_MBT.pdf