Hard Copies

Hard Copies

Earlier this week we received the packet of information that comes from our school district regarding registration for the upcoming school year. Now that I have two high schoolers (soon to be a sophomore and a senior), a single packet arrives with the materials. You can imagine what is inside – school photo forms, parking pass forms, a list of the stations you and your teen will visit when officially registering in August – for yearbooks, PE Shirts, food service payments, as well as health forms and census forms to review and update.

For years now, we have not had schedules mailed to the students. At both the high school and middle school level,  the schedules have been handed to the students during registration. This year that will not be done at the high school.

Instead, since our secondary students now all have been supplied chrome books to use during the school year, they have been instructed to go to their infinite campus account and print a copy of their schedule.  They are not yet available, however.

You know, I have a slight problem with this. It is the same problem I have with our students not getting a printed report card any longer. Since our district became digitalized over the last several years, our students no longer receive a copy of their grades in the mail. We have four terms and two semesters, using a block schedule at the high school. But, I cannot remember the last time a report card arrived in the mail. It has been years.

Personally, I think not having hard copies of things like grades and schedules devalues the importance of schooling in general.  Everything is online. Yes, grades are available – available 24/7.  If desired, a student and/or parent can see every little blip up or down in course grades. Final term and semester report card grades are available online within a week after final exams and the term ends.  But, who is looking?  I am not sure of that answer.

Yes, the conscientious students are looking. Yes, the conscientious parents are looking. What if  a student does not look or a parent does not look and consequently does not know how their child is doing?  Nothing arrives in the mail. It can be overlooked. Sure, mail can be overlooked, but it is harder. An envelope from an institution your child attends most likely will be seen as it enters the house. If it does not arrive home, questions will be asked, eventually.  The paper report card has to be consciously ignored. Unlike the digital end of term grades, available only on the internet, it takes more effort not to open that piece of mail. By not seeing something signifying an end or accomplishment, it is more easily ignored. And, such are the digital grades. They seem less important. (Please do not think that I feel this is so, because I do not.)

Likewise, with the schedules. There used to be anticipation, and maybe some anxiety, regarding the receipt of your assigned teacher and/or schedule for the upcoming year.  I think that the anticipation is missing when you are not asked to pick up or take the piece of paper that has your assigned schedule when attending registration.

I am all for being green and reducing waste, but I think we are letting important pieces of the educational process get lost by going paperless. Maybe, I am just old-fashioned. Maybe, I have a point. I am not advocating for the digital grade books to be closed. I think they open a window for those who want a real-time glimpse into their student work – especially if more of a portfolio application is pursued which includes teacher comments regarding student effort or performance is coupled with examples. However, I still would like a paper copy of at least the end of year report card and a paper copy of their schedule  sent out by the school.  Schools need to use, not abdicate, their authority in the education of our students. When everything, including grade reports and schedules, are dumped in the family’s lap, a portion of that authority is lost.

Currently, all I have is this feeling that not receiving paper copies of important documents is not right. I have begun to investigate the subject, just out of curiosity about what is done with the old hard copy, snail mail, report card or schedule, after a system digitalizes. It is a difficult subject to sort out. Part of this is due to the fact that many systems are not only changing delivery of their report cards but also moving from a traditional grade based reporting to a standards based reporting using more examples of student work from portfolios. How the reports are sent out is not the focus. Still, I am interested enough to put in some time researching the subject. An update will be made in a future post.  For now, we will print our student schedules and report cards at home.

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