With Bill 22 now in effect, the Education Ministry has ordered superintendents to ensure that report cards are issued “as soon as possible and in the usual manner.”
But there’s confusion over how that will come about, with teachers and superintendents not necessarily on the same page over what information needs to be included and the timing of report cards.
The directive – contained in a March 27 letter from deputy minister James Gorman to school superintendents – comes as the dust has yet to settle over Bill 22.
That legislation, passed March 15, imposed a six-month cooling off period. Teachers launched limited job action last September and went on a three-day walkout in March before Bill 22 made further strike activity illegal.
“To receive this letter – I think it was the first day back from the Vancouver spring break – seemed unnecessarily provocative to me,” Patti Bacchus, Vancouver School Board chairwoman, said on Thursday.
In Kamloops, however, assistant superintendent Karl deBruijn said he’s heard from teachers who want to start working on report cards and from parents and students equally keen to see them.
“The real importance of this report card is that parents know where their kids are sitting in relation to the program – but also, if there’s areas of need, we can develop a plan to support that child and help them get through the year successfully,” Mr. deBruijn said.
B.C.’s School Act requires three formal report cards a year for each student. As part of job action launched last September, teachers refused to do some work, including filling out report cards. During the job action, the ministry directed schools to distribute the first report cards, even if they were mostly blank. The province didn’t compel districts to distribute a second formal report card.
With schools back in session after spring break, the province wants to see a second-term and final report card by the end of the year.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has consistently maintained that its members have been communicating with parents and students in other ways and that students who needed grades for graduations or scholarships have been getting them.
The confusion arises over how individual districts, which have different calendars, will handle their report cards and what information must be included.
In a March 29 bulletin, the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association – the provincial bargaining agent – said some local teachers’ associations have said their districts are precluded from issuing a report card until the end of the year.
“It is BCPSEA’s opinion that this is simply incorrect,” the bulletin states, going on to advise districts to speak to teachers about whether the report cards will reflect a cumulative, year-to-date grade or separate entries for different terms.
The BCTF has said its members will not complete “retroactive” report cards and considers that “struck work” – an interpretation rejected by the BCPSEA.
Both sides said Thursday they hope the report-card issue can be resolved through discussions now under way in local districts. In its bulletin, however, the BCPSEA says “an individual refusal to perform such work would be failure to follow a lawful order and be subject to discipline; concerted refusal to do such work would constitute an illegal strike.”
As the report-card discussion bubbles in the background, the BCTF is scheduled to meet on Friday with Dr. Charles Jago. The academic and former president of the University of Northern B.C. was recently named a mediator in the dispute. BCPSEA representatives are expected to meet him next week. He has until the end of June to make non-binding recommendations.
The province says a new teachers’ contract must follow the government’s current net-zero mandate, which requires new contracts to cost no more than the agreements they replace. The two sides reached an impasse over issues including wages and classroom conditions.