Hamilton elementary teachers told to remove existing comments from report cards

While public elementary school teachers across Ontario are withholding comments in report cards as part of their union's strike action, some teachers in Hamilton are removing comments that have already been entered.

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario launched administrative work-to-rule campaign in May

Ontario elementary school teachers are removing existing comments from students' report cards as part of their union's job action across the province. (iStock)

While public elementary school teachers across Ontario are withholding comments in report cards as part of their union's work-to-rule campaign, some teachers in Hamilton are going into report cards to remove comments that they have already entered. 

The local union says it has has advised them to do so to ensure all the report cards are consistent.

We don't find them parent-friendly or student-friendly.- Jeff Sorensen, Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers' Local president

"We don't want there to be problems in the community that someone got more and someone got less," said Jeff Sorensen, president of the 2,300-member Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers' Local.

Withholding comments is part of the administrative work-to-rule campaign by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents 76,000 educators in public elementary schools across the province.

Teachers will still provide number or letter grades, as well as grades for learning skills, for students from Grade 1 to 8, but there will be no comments. Kindergartners who normally get anecdotal report cards will receive a shorter version instead. 

ETFO launched its work-to-rule campaign in early May, following eight months of unsuccessful negotiations with the province and local school boards.

The union escalated the work-to-rule campaign on Monday, which asked teachers to further withdraw from administrative duties.

Board not commenting

Teachers have been removing existing comments for the past three weeks since the work-to-rule campaign was launched, Sorensen said. Because they follow various timelines while compiling report cards, however, it is unclear how many comments have been written and then removed.  

Pat Rocco, superintendent of human resources with Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, said he could not comment on the union's job action strategy. 

Elementary teachers elsewhere in the province are also skipping comments in the report card. Beyond that, ETFO would not say if teachers in other school boards are removing existing comments. 

"Any other particular advice to our members is confidential and on a local by local basis. So to extrapolate any numbers is not possible," a spokesperson said in a statement to CBC Hamilton.

The union also said that the comments are "so standardized that they have little meaning."

P.A. Day goes as scheduled

Friday is a Professional Activity Day for Hamilton's elementary school teachers, the first one since the union implemented the work-to-rule campaign. 

Normal P.A. Day activities — such as marking school work and compiling grades — will not be affected by the work-to-rule campaign, Sorensen said. 

Education Minister Liz Sandals previous expressed her concerns about the job action's impact on report cards.

"There's a lot of information that should be in report cards other than just dropping the grades on the table and running," she said in early May. 

Despite the absence of comments, teachers are still available to discuss the report card and students' progress with parents on an ongoing basis, Sorensen said.

Teachers have reported that direct communication with parents is often more valuable than written comments, Sorensen added.

"Frankly, those comments aren't the most informative," he said. "We don't find them parent-friendly or student-friendly."


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