During the next month or so first semester report cards will be sent home. Report cards include valuable information on your child’s progress and skills. Ideally, the report card will not include any major surprises as on-going communication with the teacher and your child should have identified any concerns that need to be addressed.
For students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) it is important to look at the IEP and the report card together. IEPs are to be reviewed each term (or semester) and the information on the report card can help to identify whether any changes to the IEP are needed.
A student on an IEP may have accommodations to support their learning, a program that is modified from the grade level or an alternative program for learning that is not part of the Ontario curriculum. When reviewing the report card it is important to look at the IEP and see whether the student has accommodations, a modified or alternative program and to which subjects the IEP applies.
For a student who only has accommodations there will be no indication on the report card that the student has an IEP. A student with accommodations only is working on the grade level expectations and the marks represent their achievement for that subject. If the marks are satisfactory, and the teacher has not noted any concerns in their comments, it would seem likely that the accommodations are supporting the student adequately. However, if the student is not doing as well as expected, it may be time to review the IEP and consider whether any changes to the accommodations are required.
Student’s who have a modified program are working on learning expectations that are different to the grade level. They may be from a lower or higher grade, or may include a reduced or enhanced number of learning expectations. For these students the IEP box will be checked on the report card for each subject that has been modified. When looking at the marks it is important to know that the student achievement is related to the modified program, and not the grade level expectations.
If the student is doing very well, or not well at all, on the modified program it may be time to look at the IEP and consider whether the student’s modified program expectations need to be changed. As discussed in the article on modifications, the special education program includes an annual goal as well as specific learning expectations for each term. For a student who is doing very well the next term learning expectations may be increased or changed to increase the challenge for the student and to meet the annual goal that was established.
If the student is not doing well on a modified program, the IEP review provides the chance to look at the annual goal and learning expectations and decide whether changes are needed for the next term. The teacher comments in the report card, as well as the student marks, may show that student’s program needs to be changed and the learning expectations broken into smaller steps or goals that are achievable for the student in the next term.
Many students only have a modified program for some subjects. For each subject the IEP box will be marked on the report card and there will be detail of the modified program in the IEP. For other subjects the student will be working on grade level materials and, ideally, they are being successful. However, if there are concerns about the students’ progress, it may be necessary to meet with the teacher and discuss the challenges the student is having. These discussions may lead to changes to the students IEP that can include new or different accommodations or modifications to the subject program.
It is important to know that modifications are not permitted, or can only be minor in nature, for secondary school credit courses. If your child has been working on modified programs at Elementary school they may not have all the knowledge and skills to prepare them for grade 9 credit courses. In grade 7 and 8 you can start the conversation about secondary school and find out whether more can be done to prepare your child for high school credit courses. When planning the transition to secondary school options for a student on a modified program in Grade 8 may include locally developed and essential credit courses in Grade 9. (See article on modifications and high school programs for more details.)
Students who are working on alternative programs will have the IEP box checked on the report card and the following statement added:
“Key learning, growth in learning, and next steps in learning are based on alternative learning expectations in the IEP.”
Alternative programs or courses are not from the Ontario curriculum but are individualized for the student. Any marks related to alternative program must be based on a clearly articulated assessment tool (e.g., a rubric) for the learning expectations of the alternative program. More often there are no marks and instead comments will be used to describe student progress. Some students may be on alternative programs or courses for all of their learning activities and their progress may be reported on an alternative format report card.
More information about report cards and the IEP can be found in the resource guide:
- Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools – First Edition, Covering Grades 1 to 12
- Growing Success – The Kindergarten Addendum, Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools (2016)
- Supporting your Child’s Learning through Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting
- Report Card templates