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Is report writing really worth the headaches? Not according to my Parents!

Currently down here in the land of Oz nearly all teachers are busily stooped over their laptops daily and nightly, reading and rereading, testing and re-testing to finalise reports before we all take a well earned break over a long hot Aussie Summer.

Some teachers I work with claim to putting in over 3 hours per student in writing time alone to get them done to a standard they are happy with.  Personally, I find that a little ridiculous and put in considerably less time, but I can say that after completing my masters last year that writing a semesters  worth of reports for a class was more time consuming and stressful than completing a postgraduate unit of study which had a 6 month time allocation versus around 1 month.  Doing both was not much  for anyone.

Surprisingly, a survey completed at my school 2 years ago to all parents uncovered that the majority of parents spent less than 5 minutes reading reports and the bulk of that time is spent looking at the progression points ( or Grade Points for our international audience) and reading the summary section only.  Nearly every parent I have spoken to from a range of schools were not satisfied with their child's reports branding them impersonal, uninformative and uninteresting no matter what style and approach they had.

So it would appear from the very small amount of data I have at my finger tips that teports are not pleasing parents or teachers to any great lengths and the information contained within them can often raise more questions than they answer.

Are reports just the burden of teachers to balance out the benefit of frequent holidays?  Or is there a better way?  Is there a smarter way?

Personally, I send home a digital portfolio with my reports with hundreds of samples of work, photos, student reflections and authentic assessment pieces such as videos of classroom presentations.  Unlike reports I am not obliged to do this but I find it far more effective in telling mum and dad what little Johnny has been doing at school and it is a genuine record of 6 to12 months work versus a couple of months of intense testing.

So I am asking you to take my grain of salt survey results in the global scheme of things and let me know if I am the only one in this boat? And,  if so what am I doing wrong?  And more importantly what could we all do to make reports more effective for all involved. 

If you agree and have similar stories to tell either as a teacher or even parent I would love to hear them too.