Rejecting the Report Card ‘Bait and Switch’

Elementary classroom

My kids attend an elementary school in the Ottawa-Carleton DSB, one of the boards that decided against handing out report cards this year (because inputting the final letter grades, already submitted by teachers to administration, is somehow too onerous a task, even with a month’s warning).

It frustrates me that this part of the teachers’ job action is being used to whip up finger-pointing and accusations of laziness at those very people who have been educating and mentoring our kids all year long.

However, when it comes to the delay or absence of this year’s report cards, I would like to make something clear: I. Couldn’t. Care. Less.

But let me back up for a minute.

This was a big year for both our kids. Under the instruction of two teachers, our daughter began Middle French Immersion—a huge adjustment to how and what she had been previously learning. She did cross-country in the fall, basketball and volleyball in the winter, and track and field in the spring. She participated in the school play and played tennis. Just yesterday she told me this has been her best year ever because she “got to do so much”.

Her younger brother, in Senior Kindergarten, had his first experience in full-day schooling in an SK-1 class–generally a challenging split. He went on field trips, fell in love with Mercy Watson books, participated in public speaking for story-telling day, and came home every afternoon bursting with news of what he had learned. He’s crossing his fingers (truthfully, so are we) that he gets the same teacher, who he adores, next year.

Throughout the year, notes, tests, books and assignments regularly were sent home, and often followed up with email communication from teachers about the events of the previous week and what to expect the following Monday. Our communication—electronically or in person—with our kids’ teachers was ongoing throughout the year. I can honestly say that there was never a point when I felt any concerns we might have had went unaddressed—or when our excitement at what our kids had achieved and their pride in their accomplishments went unshared with the teachers who had helped in that process.

In other words, if a report card happened to make its way into our house the end of the month, it would tell me what we already knew and what those teachers had confirmed to us throughout the year about our kids’ accomplishments and challenges (education and social).

But if my partner and I find ourselves waiting for the last day of school to dump out our kids’ backpacks, rifle through “sharing day” toys or sweatshirts that went missing weeks ago to locate and tear open that envelope and parse through the Ministry-canned phrases to find out if throughout the previous 10 months our kids had “learned anything” or if there are things they “should work on”…well, then, I would have to come to the conclusion that when it came to supporting their education we had been doing it wrong.

The sky-is-falling rhetoric of how kids are being “robbed of all the hard work they’ve done all year” or how “disappointing and frustrating” this is for parents and students does nothing but undermine the entire process of education that students, educators, parents and the entire school community have been participating in since September.

Don’t get me wrong: the debate over the difference between education and evaluation is a fascinating and necessary one, particularly given the ill-advised rise of standardized assessment. But to use it as an opportunity to whip up anti-teacher sentiment is duplicitous and demeaning; to the students, to those teachers, to the relationships they have developed with our kids and with us as parents, and ultimately to the entire learning process.

So as an end-of year assignment, here’s a riddle: If a child participates in school all year, and the board doesn’t send out a report card in June recapping the progress that’s been made and the work that’s been already completed and graded throughout the past 10 months, did that education really happen?

Show your work.

Erika Shaker is the Director of CCPA’s Education Project. You can follow her on Twitter @ErikaShaker.

40 comments

  1. If my child has been working hard all year towards a goal and now is denied the satisfaction of pride of accomplishment by a teacher who doesn’t want to do his/her job then I have zero sympathy for the adult taking their quarrel out on the children.
    Ronald Reagan would know what to do here… fire the lot and offer the jobs to people who want to work. Zero sympathy for the teachers here… just anger.

    1. Rob, you should re-read the first two paragraphs again. Its the board who has decided not to hand out report cards. The teachers are doing their jobs and are still giving their marks out. Your anger should be properly directed!

    2. The whole “fire the lot of them comment” is what angers and saddens me the most. I am fighting for my profession and the educational system of all students in Ontario. Then along comes Rob,who thinks he knows everything and would just fire me because I am standing up for my right to negotiate a fair contract. People like Rob must have had one hell of a horrible life to be so judgmental and emotionally charged over this.

      1. However, just as teacher’s have the right to negotiate a fair contract, Rob has the right to express his feelings. It has been my experience lately that teachers (not all – but many) seem to forget that citizens have the right to express their opinion.
        All along the rhetoric from the teacher’s unions has been that students are not being impacted by their actions. Well, they are. My kids are upset that they won’t get a report card. They have been working hard all year to achieve specific goals. We have tried speaking with their teachers and were politely told that they had submitted their marks and if the board couldn’t get them to us, it wasn’t the teacher’s problem. That is where the anger “people like Rob” comes from.
        Teachers need to realize how good they have it. Teachers are concerned that principals will be able to dictate how they spend their prep time? So what? My boss dictates how I spend every minute of my work day. Teachers don’t want caps removed from class sizes? Admirable, but the reality is that the province of Ontario is broke. As a taxpayer, I’m strapped – there’s nothing else I can put in the pot. We have to find ways to be more efficient. Perhaps that means a few extra kids in each class?
        I’m not saying the Province isn’t wrong either. They have made mistakes and need to own up to them.
        The bottom line is that both sides need to put their big kid pants on, sit down and work through the issues – without dragging the kids into it.

        1. Why is Ontario (and all provinces) broke? Have they been lowering the corporate tax to invite foreign investment like BC has? Neo-liberal agenda across this country is squeezing social services but the 1% get richer. Not everyone is needing to tighten their belts.

    3. Again, read the article. If you are waiting until the report card to find out how your child is doing and you & your child had paid little or no attention to all the feed back on tests, assignments, teachers’ direct instruction about students areas to work on to improve whether in parent / teacher conferences in person or on the phone or in email communication, or in the planners that most schools us, then you, the parent, have not done YOUR job! It is the constant, daily participation, communication with the child’s teacher and your child, in positive, encouraging but consistent ways that will support & earn successes in his/ her education. The report card is the summary for ONE term of the 2 term school year ( 10 months). It is more for the OSR ( student’s school record) than for a surprising ( pleasant or not) account of what youR child has accomplished. Sooooooo read up, and start doing YOUR home work! Teachers spend the majority of our after school time, including holidays & weekends ( summer too) planning & marking, specifically so we can give helpful and meaningful feedback to students and their families and support their improvement in learning how to learn. The report card is added onto what is already a feedback filled school year, unfortunately, as we all know, falling on deaf ears most of the time, and to the detriment of each student whose parent, for what ever reason, doesn’t participate in the process.

      1. What you say is true only to the extent of the teacher’s efforts through the school year. Fortunately, my daughter has had an outstanding teacher this year who initialed the agenda every day, sent tests and work home every week, set up a website for communication with parents and students etc. Not every teacher is like that. Some teachers really fail in the communications department. Her teacher last year did not send a single assignment, drawing, test or workbook home AT ALL. Not even end of year. Luckily, my daughter excels in school and I wasn’t too worried. Also, we walked to a small school where I could meet with the teacher for brief chats and updates. This year, she went to a new school out of our town, is learning a new language (french), making all new friends, and her first teacher left partway through the term for maternity leave. Her grades dipped with the new teacher coming in and the report card is important for me to see if it was just a transition problem or more of an issue. I can then compare the first report in January to this report in June. There aren’t any teacher conferences in between. So, yes, if a teacher is outstanding at communication and sending things home then you really don’t need a report. My daughter is in grade five and she’s only had two of those types of teachers so far, with one that was TERRIBLE at communication and the rest were just so-so.

  2. While your kids did well in school I’m wondering if you would feel the same way if your kids were performing poorly, had a rough start to the year or are struggling in a particular subject . Without the report cards would you truly be able to see that their hard work had paid off. Would you be able to show them with concrete evidence of what happens when they slack off or bust their butt. I find report cards more of a motivational tool and to show where there needs some help or improvement or how awesome they’re doing by putting in the time and effort required to learn. You also mentioned that your kids teachers kept you in the loop throughout the school year with weekly updates. While that is great to have most teachers do not do that so you may not get the full picture of how your child is doing. The only information you get will likely be from parent teacher nights or the things your kids show you which from when I was a kid it was only the really good stuff or the really bad stuff. I think report cards are an important part of our schooling since we can measure so much by it including how well the teachers are doing and where your kid may need to spend some extra attention or need outside help.

    1. How many meetings have you initiated with your child(ren)’s teachers? The point of this piece is that involved parents are well aware of what is going well and what needs more attention and growth, because they’ve been communicating with their kids and teachers all along.

    2. How can a single grade tell you anything about how your child did or what they accomplished over the course of the school year? Does that grade truly show any growth they made? If you are hoping the comments will tell you then you are mistaken here too. They are ministry directed and do not allow the teacher to really express anything worthwhile. If you want to know how your child did, talk to the teacher. Set up a meeting. I bet they are more than happy to sit down and discuss the learning with you.

  3. Very well written, hope it gets through to the parents who don’t have a clue what they’re protesting about, and many of them don’t!

    1. As a mom, I find this very insulting. Teachers bring out the guns just because we don’t support their cause. You won’t garner parent support by insulting us.

  4. Dear Erika,
    THANK YOU for the amazing support shown in your wonderfully written letter. I, as a teacher, can say the same thing with little impact compared to what you did as a parent. Unfortunately, it is often the parents who are complaining and pointing fingers at teachers who “have been doing it wrong”. You sound like a parent who is doing an amazing job with her children.
    Thank you once more!

    1. The irony is that everything Erika praises would be vehemently opposed by ETFO as standard practice.
      Perhaps Erika will consider lobbying to have these valuable actions added to her children’s teachers’ collective agreements.

      1. “Vehemently opposed by ETFO?” Pardon? I am a union steward and I email, Facebook, call, write to and meet with parents consistently. I speak to several parents DAILY! Perhaps, Mike, instead of adding your two cents, you should first read our collective agreement which encourages on-going and meaningful communication with parents AND the delivery of marks to our administrators. It is the admin’s job to input those marks. Just because we have always done it for them doesn’t mean anything. How DARE we stop doing someone else’s job! How often do you do your boss’ job?

        1. Standard practice is defined by professional bodies as what can be counted in as normal conduct of its members. A standard is not something that is merely “encouraged” as encouragement provides nothing tangible or predictable.
          Would ETFO (vehemently) oppose extra-curriculars as standard practice of its members? How about maintaining a classroom web or facebook page, or or any other defined communication protocol. Imagine if what Erika described was experienced by every student in Ontario as standard practice.
          Let’s go one step further. Imagine a collective agreement where school boards are “encouraged” to provide prep time, benefits, seniority, maternity benefits, pensions, etc. to teachers. Would adding language such as “ongoing” and “meaningful” to “encouragement” secure or protect your best interests?
          Finally, the financial meltdown hit my industry very hard in 2009. My company had a massive dismissal, this included admin staff in my office. On a dime, my job description changed to include the functions of an office administrator. There was no consultation, negotiation, remuneration, or even resentment over these expanded duties that were unilaterally dictated to me and many others over night. As the economy recovered things got crazy for us “survivors” who took on many hats because of the cutbacks. The reality is, the company would not go into debt (unlike the govt) to pay salaries it could not afford. Everyone who was not let-go was genuinely grateful to keep their job. You probably can’t even imagine feeling that gratitude or receiving a list of co-workers that lost their jobs en-mass.
          I think you might also consider that ever-changing legislation constantly demands additional documentation and reporting from Ontario licensed professionals without remuneration. Professionals who don’t comply are subject to penalties that can even include jail time.

  5. My oldest is finishing her second year of university and my 2 boys are in HS. I have saved every report card they have gotten from the moment they started school. I would be disappointed to miss one in that regard. My mother saved all of mine and gave them to me, it’s an interesting treasure to have of my childhood and one I hope my kids will treasure too.
    But other than that as the author said the report card is not really the end all and be all of communication with the teachers :-).

  6. “…cross-country in the fall, basketball and volleyball in the winter, and track and field in the spring. She participated in the school play and played tennis…
    …notes, tests, books and assignments regularly were sent home, and often followed up with email communication from teachers about the events of the previous week and what to expect the following Monday…”
    This sounds wonderful! The truth is, none of what you describe and value consistently occurs, much less is guaranteed by minimum parameters outlined in your child’s teacher’s job description. You and your children are merely fortunate to be the recipient of such favours. Be grateful you have not yet experienced a teacher that strictly adheres to ETFO policy or their collective agreement, the day you do, your opinion will differ.
    With all due respect, the fact that you don’t care about report cards is hardly relevant when based on your short and privileged experience of having teachers who voluntarily exceed their professional responsibilities throughout the school year.

    1. The fact that teachers get dumped on the minute they follow the parameters set out by their collective agreement should be proof enough of how much extra they do! Maybe, just maybe, if parents stopped EXPECTING these things, they would come to appreciate the fact that they are done at all, for no extra pay.

      1. Megan: your response does not address and is inappropriate to, my comment.
        All of what I said was commentary of how our system is set-up, there was no mention of “EXPECTING” anything, but since you mentioned it, I will say it now. Maybe, just maybe, parents (and everyone else) feel the government does not adequately represent public interest when allocating education funding. This includes every facet currently being financed.
        I urge your union to continue revealing to the public the imbalances and inadequacies that need to be addressed, this might be the catalyst for improvement.

  7. Just to preface – I don’t at all blame the teachers for the current situation, I thank them for taking a stand. I also don’t give a rat’s ass about the grades that may or may not come – but the comments (that won’t come) are GOLD:

    We have been in touch with our first grader’s teacher throughout the year, so there would be no surprises on the report card – but a written report would be VERY helpful when we take her for a edu-psych assessment (per teacher’s suggestion) this summer. I can relay my own notes and impressions to the psychologist, but nothing can compete with the teacher’s own words to describe what is going on in the classroom.

    It is important to remember that report cards aren’t just a pat on the back for the students who are doing well – they are a tool to help get the right kind of assistance for the kids who are struggling.

    1. I am very surprised that there is no case conference or school based support team meeting summary to support the recommendation from your child’s school that he/she requires a psychological assessment. You should bring one of those forms with you to your meeting. Also, to alleviate your concern, the school report card is never cited in an educational assessment so your verbal understanding should be sufficient. If this is something the psychologist is asking for, I would like to point out that there are previous reports that you can share as I am sure there is a pattern in the results of said reports in order for you to show the areas your son or daughter is struggling in.

      If anything, your psychologist who completes the assessment may ask the classroom teacher to complete a questionnaire regarding your child’s abilities but this usually only takes place when it is the school board completing the assessment. The psychologist will complete standardized tests on your son or daughter that will show his/her true ability level.

      Out of curiosity, why are you having the assessment completed privately instead of through your school? There have been so many cuts to Special Education in Ontario – is the waiting list too long? You are very lucky that you can afford completing this privately.

      May you have a quick turn around in finding out about your child’s learning needs/profile and more than cut and paste recommendations on how to support him/her in the classroom.

    2. Oh yeah … I forgot … if a parent disagrees or criticizes teachers / school board they must be “bad parents” or “uninvolved”. Can we never just have a debate about the issues without labelling parents that disagree with teachers as somehow uninvolved or unworthy? A number of parents that feel this is not right are involved, good parents and just want to see our kids’ report cards! When you see your child struggle all year a report card is a great tool to sit down, discuss and identify areas of focus. I fail to see that this is an unreasonable request but I guess I must be an uninvolved parent who doesn’t deserve to have an opinion!

    3. Sasha — ask your teacher for a letter of observations for the doctor/psychologist. I don’t believe the current job action interferes with this at all. There would be no grades but academic and behavioral concerns can certainly be clarified by the teacher… some schools even offers a release of information to be signed so the info can be faxed directly to the doctor and then a copy is kept in the student’s OSR file. That information is important and psyc-ed assessments are costly and so valuable!! Ask for a letter. Truly they can probably provide better observations in a letter with that specific intent than a formulaic report card comment anyways! Doesn’t hurt to ask!

    4. Doctors and psychologists don’t feel that report cards are reflective of a students true abilities – have heard this repeatedly – even if it’s positive- the psychologist will use the results from the assessment to determine if there are any learning gaps – they are more interested in how the teacher fills out a checklist- even if the report card is opposite of what the checklist indicated, the checklist will be the piece of data that is used to make a diagnosis and the report card will mean nothing- you can go ahead with assessment because the results will trump anything the teacher has reported

    5. Thank you! These official documents are needed for psych-ed assessments. You can’t get into university saying, “My sons teacher said he got an A”

  8. do the pieces of paper that you read, with mostly the same board mandated comments really matter. I can sum it up…..
    Your child will progress to the next grade, because the board has determined it is detrimental to a child’s psychological state of mind to be held back, whether they are capable of showing understanding of the current years curriculum or not. It is more important in the social aspect of a students life to be kept with their age equivalent peers than to ensure they have a proper understanding of their grade level curriculum.
    If you believe your child is not prepared to move up to the next grade level, be ready to fight tooth and nail against the board to have your child repeat the year, they will fight you, the parent to keep it from happening.
    So, to sum up all the above….yay, you sent your child to grade school, but marks truly don’t matter until they hit grade 9. Then is when they will sink or swim. If they grasped the concepts taught in grade school, they should be ok, if they were moved along due to peer socialization, and have no clue how to spell or do math, well, they still have friends!?!
    But yes, all those worried, your children passed, and will continue, along with their age equivalent peers onto the next grade, where if they are struggling, they will fall even farther behind.
    Have a wonderful summer!

  9. It’s impossible to legislate goodwill, Mike, and no collective agreement can do that. I’m glad that Erika, as a parent, has recognized and appreciates the extras her kids’ teachers do. Teachers, like all other human beings, will go above and beyond when they are valued and treated well. They should be recognized for the extra things they do, not vilified when they refuse because their employer is treating them like crap. I’m tired of seeing the government and Boards treat teachers so disrespectfully. If you expect people to function as professionals, you must treat them as such.

    1. Three things Yvonne.
      1. It is not “impossible” to legislate goodwill. 40 hours of volunteerism is a legislated graduation requirement of every student in Ontario. (Isn’t that ironic?).
      2. Governments have the right to secure the public’s best interest via legislation and differentiating responsibilities from goodwill.
      3. I agree with your point on professionalism, but it does seem ETFO is playing both sides of that fence. It’s a bizarre argument that autonomy should be attained by proving that more explicit dictation of duties is necessary to achieve what the profession accepted with implied consent for eons. Is it true that teachers refused to submit marks with customary computerized programs and submitted handwritten marks at zero-hour – just to aggravate the situation?

      I am glad that lengthy wait times at today’s doctors appointments gave me the time to participate in the debates on this blog. There are really interesting perspectives on these issues.

      1. Mike, ‘volunteerism’ means VOLUNTARY. Students do 40 hours of COMMUNITY SERVICE, not ‘volunteerism’. They have no choice so it’s not voluntary. This is a huge distinction. Comparing students’ mandatory community service to teachers volunteering is like comparing a convict’s ‘community service’ to a doctor voluntarily coaching kids’ basketball.
        So I return to my argument: you can’t legislate goodwill. You can legislate bodies but not hearts and minds.
        If you wish to treat teachers like punch-clock workers, be prepared for joyless classrooms. Teachers work with human beings, not car parts.
        You can force someone to do something but you can’t force them to enjoy it. That might not matter with car parts, but it sure as hell does with human beings.

        1. You are correct in that I could have chosen my words more carefully, but let’s not obscure the gist of my point.

          What has come to be considered “goodwill” are vital components of positive educational outcomes. Children are not car-parts, yet collective agreements are written as if they are. For example, would it be reasonable to expect a teacher to be regularly available for at least a short time after school for extra-help? If they are human beings, then yes. ETFO is currently fighting to maintain the right to leave at dismissal everyday!

          Also, we know children benefit from opportunities that promote their social, emotional, and physical well-being. They also benefit from stimulating and varied learning opportunities that exist outside the classroom. But alas, that’s also considered “goodwill”.

          School relations and a positive learning environment are enhanced by community events and other EC’S, but ETFO thinks kids don’t really require this type of nuturing. For example, some ETFO members believe planning say, a trip to a special exhibit at the museum and collecting money for the trip, is all too much to ask. “It’s not my job!”

          It doesn’t stop there. Homework, marking assignments, teacher graduation attendance, communication with home, all TBD by the individuals we entrust. While this does not represent all schools what I describe is a real problem in others because we have somehow let the service provider dictate what they would like to provide rather than expect what we know makes a decent education in exchange for gold-plated compensation. Who are we looking out for, the hearts and minds of the kids, or shall we forgo their interests in favour of their extremely well-compensated teachers? Our govt sold the kids out for your votes. It’s a disgraceful state we’re in. You are so right that kids are not car parts, I wish your union could officially recognize that. The joyless classroom is of ETFO’s design and they are multiplying in Ontario.

          1. You are placing blame on the wrong people. If a hospital staffs one nurse to thirty patients and your nurse visits only once per day, that isn’t her/his fault. Same with teachers. When the Board understaffs and children don’t get adequate services or teachers don’t have time for work beyond their instructional duties (because teaching, prepping and marking is already a full time job when your instructional teaching time is 25 – 30 hours per week and you have 30 students per class), you can’t blame the teacher for not doing more. It is the Board/government who is not adequately staffing so that everyone has enough time to do the job well.

  10. Mike, since you seem to be an expert on Etfo policy could you please explain which actions by the teachers of Erica’s children would be opposed by ETFO or in violation of the teachers collective agreement. I saw lots of the things Erica mentioned also happening at my children’s school. You stated these things would not be allowed by ETFO or teachers collective agreements. Please clarify.

    1. I am no expert, and I didn’t say they wouldn’t be allowed. I said ETFO policies maintain that all those “extras” are voluntarily provided at the sole discretion of individual teachers. This even extends to homework, and providing ill, injured, or bereaved students with packages of class work missed during an absence. In other words, ETFO insists on the right to deny students and parents from receiving what prompted Erika’s support. What Erika described goes far beyond what ETFO would agree to for all it’s members in collective agreements. Some schools are rich, some schools are poor, depending who is staffing them, in spite of equitable funding and compensation. This is ETFO’s mandate and they are opposed to having it an other way.

  11. Hang in there, my teacher-friends. You are fighting the good fight and I stand in solidarity with you. And to the parents who are actively involved in your kids’ education, who keep an open dialogue with your children’s teachers and who can see through government rhetoric to understand WHY teachers are fighting, press on! Our system needs advocates like you!

    Karen
    BC teacher

  12. I can count on my hand the number of things I “learned” from a teacher. Everything I learned, I learned from my parents and myself. Which wasn’t much. I was an A student who hated school. I asked a principal about it later. He said a principal’s goal is to get those not showing up, to show up and to get those barely passing to a C level. That’s it. There’s such variation in the support that kids have at home. One person said earlier that grades show whether kids are slacking or trying hard. THAT is the comment of a moronic parent. Curiosity is something in children that needs to be fed and grown. Many kids, like myself, were entirely disinterested the day they stepped foot inside and watch the clock until they left. I remember the one class that piqued my curiosity…one day…I remember how sunny it was, how alive my teacher seemed when he stepped outside for a science class. The education slate needs to be wiped clean. STEM needs more emphasis, but it also needs far more time with far smaller classes where teachers can teach and not tread water. Children need to be studied in depth to at least try and figure out their learning style. A teacher can have ten YouTube teachers to supplement their style. So the kids learn the lesson from the teacher and learn it a second time sitting at their desks via one of the online teachers. If it still doesn’t fit they have 9 more options with the help of the teacher. But all of this is pointless if kids don’t want to learn or are curious about learning and the world.

  13. The nitpicking of report grading and class sizes and sick leave is obscuring the fact that these are tough economic times. Teachers are asking for a 3% increase in salary for each of the next 3years and this in a climate of major cutbacks in all of the public sectors such as health care. I think that this is a bit much.

  14. I think the (sad) irony in this discussion is that the very things that some of the parents are commenting on – meeting after school, detailed reporting, regular communication, school community events – are all the things that absolutely should be part of every child’s school experience but are less and less so because the workload from large classes simply makes it impossible. When unions (ETFO or otherwise) establish workload limits such as minutes of instruction, the voluntary nature of extra curricular, and so forth, it is typically a response to constant pressure for excessive work that can get to the point of total burnout. I teach in British Columbia and in my school district one in ten teachers is off on a stress leave over a five year period. As a secondary teacher, our case loads are upwards of 200 students (7 classes of 30 students per class). I once had a parent ask why I didn’t provide regular lunch time tutoring for her child and tried to explain that with 200 students, even if I gave up every single lunch hour of the school year that is only one per child. The simple fact is that as classes get larger and larger, it becomes physically impossible for teachers to do it all – the after school help, the extra curriculars, the specialized curriculum for students who struggle, the meetings and communications not just with parents but also the social workers, counselors, administrators and others that is required to genuinely assist students who struggle with learning and other difficulties. The sad fact is that in many, many schools less and less of all these activities are happening because teachers are on the verge of collapse. An hour of instruction typically takes an additional hour to prepare the lesson and do the associated marking and feedback – and this is for a homogeneous group, which no classrooms today are anymore. So that’s 50 hours a week before adding the meetings, writing notes home, calling parents, providing after school help, running clubs and sports teams. Not to mention providing individualized programs for students with learning disabilities who are now (rightly) integrated into the mainstream school system.

    When teachers go on strike (or take other job action) to reduce class size, this is precisely so that they are able to do all these other things that indeed are so essential to provide quality educational environments for children. It is indeed unfortunate that it should take job action – trust me, no teacher actually wants to go without salary or wants to be working in a job action that puts them in conflict with other members of the school community. But when we don’t, governments and boards that keep cutting funding more and more just keep asking teachers to add it all in and the work week just gets longer and longer. For two decades, school systems have been asking teachers to fill in these funding gaps by doing more and more and teachers simply can’t do it anymore. I have a colleague who teaches grade 2 who has so many children at different reading levels that she has to prepare 8 different sets of lessons and curricula to meet their needs. She works sixty hour workweeks all year. This is insane and unsustainable.

    Teachers across the globe are facing this intensification of work and it is no surprise that there has been an increase in teacher strikes because it is becoming an intolerable job in many places. In the US it is so bad that the average years of experience in some schools and districts has gone from ten years to one.

    What we need is for parents and teachers together to be working to restore the levels of funding that our schools had in the 1990’s – before the cuts to transfer payments and the endless rounds of budget cuts to school boards. The best way to guarantee both adequate funding and manageable working conditions is class size limits. Hard caps force governments to provide more staffing when student numbers increase. And that makes teachers then able to do all the extras beyond the instruction in the classroom that are so necessary.

    When school boards do things like refuse to put in the extra work to get reports out that teachers have written, they are just playing dirty politics. They are trying to drive a wedge between parents and teachers because they know that when parents and teachers both insist on the levels of funding needed for genuinely quality schools (think: the same as what a private school would provide), they are a force to be reckoned with. Our challenge is not to fall into the trap of these divisive tactics and instead support each other to win the schools children and teachers deserve.

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