Progress Reports


Below is a letter I have written regarding recent progress reports for Dec 2012.

Dear Parents,

There seems to be an unusual amount of low grades as well as stress about the grades, and I think I can help shed some light, especially since very few students got their progress report. Sorry this is so long, but please bare with me.

This is the first year for me to use the online grading for 100% of the class grades. In my assessment, the online grading does not fit a project oriented class very well. It is more suited for classes that have lots of daily grades, etc. On the other hand, I appreciate and value how parents and students alike can see exactly the grade at any given moment.

Previously, as far as the progress report grade, I would assess a student's progress based on a personal assessment of the students work with grades maintained in an Excel Spreadsheet, and then post that average grade online. But, now, with the online system and PSS, the grade is literal. In other words, I can't easily assign a progress grade to more realistically reflect how a student is actually doing at the 3 week interim. With my previous system of offline grading, it was normal for students to be working on projects during the course of the 6 weeks, and get it all finished by the end of the 6 weeks.

Historically, I have a very large percentage of students with near perfect grades by the end of the 6 weeks with more than 50% of my students ending the semester with a 90 or better. Yet, at the midway point, it can look pretty drastic.

So, do not be overly concerned with a low grade at the 3 week interim, but PLEASE do keep following up with your student. Many students keep asking what their grade is right NOW without understanding the impact of a few number of small grades by the middle of the 6 weeks. As the 6 weeks progresses, more grades will minimize the impact of a zero on a small homework assignment like the MSA or a simple Rough Draft. However, the grades at the end of the 6 weeks, with projects factored in, count more. So please help make sure the big projects are adequately in progress. For example, if a student fails to do the homework Magazine Selection Assignment, a 100 point assignment, prior to the 3 week interim, it can result in a failing progress report grade. But, by the end of the 6 weeks, it is only 100 of 1500 points. To help, two small grades are in the first half of each 6 weeks to help make sure students are on track for the larger final project grade at the end of the 6 weeks.

Currently, the grades appear to be lower than previous years despite no changes to the curriculum other than a few refinements and better explanations and tweaks to make things easier. In other words, I have dropped and/or simplified requirements.

The only visible change is the way all of the assignments are being posted to the grade book early in the 6 weeks so parents & students can see exactly what assignments will be on the gradebook that may make it seem worse. Parent Self Serve is essential for this to be effective. But regardless of PSS access, a list of all assignments for any given 6 weeks for the entire year is here: . So, students and parents should be able to determine what is due based on the assignment page. I have worked diligently ensuring that everybody has a complete picture of their assignments BEFORE the 6 weeks even begins. Therefore, it is NOT prudent, nor possible, to take class time to discuss grades individually with a student. The question of what a student is missing is inappropriate when the information is so readily available not to mention that a student should be keeping up with what they should have turned in on-time.

The challenge many students face is that prior to this class, students are engaged in much more immediate task orientated classes, with worksheets and daily homework, etc. In this vocational class, there is little homework as most of the work is done in class. And most of the homework is early in each 6 weeks, like the Magazine Selection Assignment, Rough Drafts for the computer projects for the 6 weeks as well as proof of outside shooting for the print display project.

A few observations about this year in particular, and about the class in general.

In summary, as we begin to wrap up the semester, I want to reiterate that it is important that you are following up with your student on how they are doing on their big projects. The biggest one is the Home Shooting Print Display Project. There are a lot of little details to the project, but if it is done right, the rewards are great and quite possibly lifelong. Your student will need to print two commercial 8x10s at either Walgreenís (more convenient) or Samís (cheaper, better quality). There are other places, but these are preferred. If a student has followed my suggestions, they should have pictures from Sept 1st through Dec 31st and have something worthy to be printed that they and/or the family will appreciate and benefit from printing. Brief instructions have been given in class, and more will be given next week to assist with the conclusion of this semester long project. The culmination of this project is not only work that be brought home and framed for life, but helpful for generating work for the End of Year Display and Contest at Parkdale Mall.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in anyway.


Drew Loker
West Brook HS Photography Dept