Senior 3 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 3
Assessing, Planning, and Reporting Progress - Part 3

Reporting Student Progress

Report card periods are a time for taking stock of student learning. Report cards may be prepared on the basis of conferences in which the teacher and student

  • conduct a formal assessment of the student’s portfolio, determining the level at which the student maintains consistency in the performance of targeted learning outcomes
  • review and revise student goals

Assessment is most valid when it is based on a body of work. This stock taking cannot be conducted if the student has not completed the required work samples. When that is the case, some teachers address the problem two weeks before the reporting period by sending a memo to inform parents of missing work.

Unfinished assignments signal personal or motivational problems that need to be addressed in appropriate ways. Averaging a zero into the student’s mark for missing work means that the mark no longer communicates accurate information about the student’s achievement of the language arts learning outcomes. It is more appropriate to assign an Incomplete when the learning outcomes cannot be assessed.

Assembling Literacy Portfolios for Reporting

Portfolios are generally assembled a few weeks before the first reporting period, at which time they are reviewed in a conference between the teacher and student, and become the basis of a mark that represents student progress and achievement. They are updated before subsequent conferences and at the end of the semester or year.

Teachers need to provide students with time and support in the three-stage task of assembling their portfolios:

  • Reflecting on work and selecting the best sample to meet each requirement: Students need opportunities to confer with peers and with the teacher in making these decisions. Selecting samples requires students to reflect on their goals, their achievements, and their needs (e.g., learning outcomes 1.1.5, 3.2.3, 3.3.3).
  • Writing reflections on the various pieces: In these reflections, which are clipped to the samples in the portfolios, students explain the context in which a piece was produced and discuss their reasons for choosing it and what it illustrates about their learning. These reflective pieces can be a means of assessing learning outcomes such as 4.2.1 and 5.2.3.
  • Designing a cover and table of contents: These visual elements can be a means of assessing learning outcomes such as 4.2.3, 4.2.4, and 4.2.5.

The Purpose of Reporting Student Progress

Report cards are statements of students’ current levels of achievement. They provide important information for teachers and administrators as well as for students and their families.

  • For the teacher: Because report card periods require teachers to describe student learning, they are opportunities for teachers to look closely at the results of the learning achieved during the reporting period and to assess and adjust their programming. The information compiled has as much meaning and importance for teachers as it does for parents and students. Teachers can take advantage of these periodic reports to reflect on and revise their own goals.
  • For families: Formal report cards are just one aspect of the ongoing communication between home and school. They are more meaningful in the context of discussion between the teacher and families and in a display of student work samples. Where school division/district policy requires teachers to report by means of a percentage mark, families can be given a more complete picture of student progress through viewing
    • portfolios, which may be the focus of student-led parent-teacher conferences
    • a profile of the student’s progress with respect to specific learning outcomes (e.g., examples of the areas of greatest strength and greatest need)
    • student goal sheets and reflections on growth
  • For students: Students select the pieces of work on which assessment will be made, write reflections, and assess and revise their goals.
  • For administrators: Administrators may be able to make school-based decisions on the basis of patterns identified in student report cards.

Self-Reflection Tools for Teachers


Self-assessment entails collecting information about your instructional practice. Make observations specific and be sure to note and celebrate indications of progress and achievement.

  • Set up a video camera occasionally. In viewing the videotape, make notes with respect to a specific concern (e.g., What level of questions do you ask most often? What is the ratio of student questions to teacher questions?).
  • Ask a colleague to sit in on a class and make observations. (Do you respond differently to some students than to others? How much "wait time" do you give students to formulate answers?)
  • Enlist students to collect data of a specific type (e.g., to time the length of mini-lessons, to draw a map of interactions in whole-class discussions).

Evidence that their teacher is involved in ongoing self-assessment sets a powerful example for students.

Evaluating Student Learning

The final weeks of a semester or year are a time for summative assessment, celebration of learning, and self-reflection for both the teacher and students.

Summative Assessment

In results-based learning, evaluation is based on what students know and can do at the end of the semester or year, not on an averaging of student performance throughout the semester or year. The fact that student learning outcomes are exit outcomes means that the teacher and students need to embark on a comprehensive process of summative assessment at the end of the semester or year to determine the extent to which students have attained the Senior 3 learning outcomes.

Teachers may wish to develop an end-of-semester unit that provides a final opportunity to assess many of the learning outcomes. This unit needs to be as comprehensive as possible, allowing students to demonstrate their learning in each of the six language arts and in each of the five general learning outcomes. Teachers may individualize this unit by asking students to demonstrate that they have attained the specific learning outcomes that they identified as goals through previous assessment.

Schools and school divisions/districts may have final tests or examinations that will be taken into consideration in determining a final mark. They may decide, alternatively, to use literacy portfolios as a means of summative assessment.

Celebrating Student Learning

Celebration is an important aspect of learning and, in fact, addresses specific learning outcome 5.2.4. Teachers and students need to collaborate on the most appropriate means to share and celebrate the particular accomplishments of each student.

Portfolios can be shared in a public and festive event as a way of celebrating students’ learning and accomplishments. Portfolios may be displayed in a hallway or foyer during live student performances or during the screening of videos produced by students. Senior 3 students may assume much of the responsibility for organizing and publicizing events such as launches and readings for publications, performances, and portfolio displays.

Student Self-Reflection

At this stage, student self-assessment is not intended for formal evaluative purposes, but for personal growth. Students need to be provided with opportunities to reflect on the experiences of the semester or year, considering questions such as the following:

  • Did I reach my goals?
  • What was my most important accomplishment?
  • What could I have done differently to maximize my learning?
  • What English language arts credits do I want to complete next year?

As part of their self-reflection, students may wish to select several items each year to carry over into next year’s portfolio.

Teacher Self-Reflection

The insights teachers gain in reflecting on a semester or year are extremely important in formulating goals for the next semester or year. Along with engaging in self-assessment, seize the opportunities that the end of a semester or year provides for closure and celebration with students.

Self-Reflection Tools for Teachers

Professional Publications

Resources such as the following provide new ideas and assessment tools that you may find useful in reflecting on your own practices and programming.

  • Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching by Charlotte Danielson. This resource explores the question "What constitutes excellence in teaching?" and provides rubrics for self-assessing performance in the domains of planning and preparation, the classroom environment, instructional practices, and professional responsibilities.
  • Time for Meaning: Crafting Literate Lives in Middle and High School by Randy Bomer. This publication looks at ways of building reflection into teachers’ and students’ lives in the context of a busy school.

Other resources that teachers may find helpful include

  • The Reflective Practictioner by Donald A. Schon
  • Build a Literate Classroom: The Reading-Writing Teacher’s Companion by Donald H. Graves
  • The Reflective Roles of the Classroom Teacher by D. John McIntyre, and Mary John O'Hair


Implementation Overview: Senior 3