Elementary-school students in Ontario's three largest school boards will not receive report cards at the end of this school year, instead taking home general progress letters as teachers ramp up their work-to-rule campaign.
The Toronto, Peel and York Region school boards will issue letters informing students that they have been promoted to the next grade during the week of June 22, a few days ahead of the last day of school to give parents time to contact teachers for more feedback if they wish.
"Honestly, I think parents want to know more specifics. But it's just absolutely impossible for Peel to create a regular report card," said Janet McDougald, chair of the Peel District School Board.
Ms. McDougald said it would cost her board more than $1-million to hire either retired staff or a third-party data-entry company to input 20 to 25 report card marks each for more than 112,000 students.
"We don't have that extra money just lying around. It's already been allocated," she said.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, which represents more than 76,000 teachers, will not provide comments on students' report cards. Teachers will submit hard copies of students' marks to principals but not input them electronically.
The job action – in response to demands by the province during labour negotiations that the union says "will allow increases in class sizes, [and] have teachers' preparation time directed by others" – will not affect secondary, Catholic or French school students. However, unions for teachers in those boards are watching closely as their own negotiations continue, and secondary-school teachers have already vowed to return to the picket lines after being ordered back to work last month.
Education Minister Liz Sandals said on Tuesday that the province would not provide additional funding for boards to hire people to help with inputting grades.
"The crisis has been created by the unions not recognizing that feedback to students is a critical component of their educational success," said Ontario Public School Boards' Association chair Michael Barrett.
He is also chair of the Durham District School Board, which is working to find a way to send home report cards. "We're just trying to determine how we can do a better job than just a letter because we really don't think that's equitable for the efforts of students."
Halton, Rainbow and the Waterloo region school boards are also exploring options, although the Waterloo board confirmed that it will not provide report cards.
At least two other boards, the Simcoe County District School Board and the Greater Essex County District School Board, will distribute report cards with grades but no comments.
Care Finch, whose three children attend elementary school in the Waterloo region, said she relies on report cards for her eight-year-old daughter, who sees a tutor because she struggles with reading. "We need the progress reports to help us parlay the information back to the tutors," she said. "We can't be expecting our tutors to come with us to parent-teacher meetings."
With a report from The Canadian Press