The Three Buckets of Reporting

Reporting student progress to parents is tricky and the daily work to make it happen can be laborious. Fortunately, making sense of the whole picture doesn’t have to be. The three buckets of reporting is a simple way to think about the three main modalities we have as teachers and schools to report to parents, with the buckets bein; report cards, individual pieces and portfolios. Considerations that go with each include if and how to use each, what medium to use and more. How does your school stack up? Do you have the macro picture in mind and is your communication supporting your students? Here are a few questions and ideas to help you organize how much you pour into each.

What to Pour in Each Bucket?

You simply cannot tell parents everything that you want them to know while using a single bucket. For example, report cards don’t provide much detail without growing incredibly long, portfolios are hard to share regularly and individual pieces are hard to use to show growth from one point to another. The next time one of these modalities gets airtime in a meeting, stop and systems model the whole picture and ask yourself, “What belongs where at my school to be most effective with communication?” and “What overlap or missing pieces exist that need addressing?”

There is also a need to think about the type of lessons being taught, the focus of the school and the products that students are making when considering what needs to be formally reported, put into a collection and sent home with little context. Each school will sort out student production differently and make local decisions, but when teachers are left to create that balance on their own is when a school is likely to appear disorganized and disjointed. A school together can ask, “What is effective for us to put on a report card?”, “What is important for us to send home right away?” and “What should we add to a collection to tell the story of growth over time?” Finally, a well organized school can be more thoughtful of how to best provide student agency in allowing them to help with this sorting question, guided of course.

Calendar Time

Is there a wave of communication during different times of the year at your school? Make a calendar and set expectations for all three buckets to avoid a huge splash of information followed by periods of drought. Perhaps more importantly, doing a calendar mapping of your communication from all three buckets to consider how formative and action oriented your reporting is. Good reporting can allow parents to partner better with the school, keeping them in the loop with timely and actionable information will help make them the partner you are looking for.

What Medium Fits Which Product?

Are all three buckets a paper experience for parents or is everything digital? Tools like Seesaw are amazing, so why is most of our official school communication still through email? Email is our student’s snail mail. Sometimes it is helpful to ask ourselves in what form is the work or information we are sharing best communicated?

The analogy of three buckets and what to pour is a simple frame to make a systems model from so that you and your colleagues may organize a collective effort efficiently and effectively. A teacher’s time is a precious resource and incredibly finite, therefore, finding ways to maximize the impact of how we communicate learning to our stakeholders is a valuable tool. Get now mapping to discover the story of your school community.  

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