Reviewing your Ontario high school student's report card can be somewhat perplexing at times. This article will help you thoroughly understand what is involved in the assessment of your student. It will focus on the different ways that you can expect your student to be assessed, according to the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum documents.

Ontario high schools implement five main types of assessment tasks, in order to vary student work, and to attend to the strengths and challenges of all students:

  1. Assignments: May include essays, short answer questions, or written reflections. These types of assignments help teachers assess students' reading, writing, research, and comprehension abilities in relation to the specific course. Some assignments are marked and may be counted toward a final grade.
  2. Demonstrations: Students may be asked to present information to the entire class on a specific topic. This helps teachers to assess students' ability to effectively research and communicate course information.
  3. Performances: This type of task is usually aligned with subjects within the Arts, such as drama, dance and music. Performances will focus on assessing students' acquisition of skills learned within a unit or the entire course.
  4. Projects: Projects are often an accumulation of research, written work and/or a presentation. They are often assigned as the summative task in a subject or unit (otherwise known as an ISU, or Independent Study Unit).
  5. Tests: Tests often take place at the end of a specific unit. Your student's subject syllabus will generally indicate how each test is counted toward the final grade.

These varied types of assessments provide opportunities for students to demonstrate the full range of their learning in different contexts.

The Achievement Chart

You may often wonder what secondary school teachers in Ontario use to assess your student. What specific knowledge and skills is your child evaluated on? The clarification of this information is important, as it will help you to assist your child in achieving to the best of his/her ability.

Each discipline has a specific achievement chart, all of which focus on four standard categories of attainment. These are used to assess and evaluate students' achievement in assignments, demonstrations, performances, projects and tests.

  1. Knowledge/Understanding: Your child's assessed level in this category reflects his/her acquisition of information/skills in the given subject, as well as comprehension of the meaning and significance of the content.
  2. Thinking/Inquiry: This entails the use of critical and creative thinking skills/ processes such as planning skills (e.g. focusing research), processing skills (e.g. analyzing), and critical/creative thinking processes (e.g. problem-solving).
  3. Communication: This covers your child's ability to convey meaning through the following forms: oral (e.g. a debate), written (e.g. a report), and visual (e.g. a chart).
  4. Application/Making Connections: This category focuses on assessing the student's ability to make connections within and between various contexts using acquired knowledge and skills.

Your child may have strong skills in some of the achievement chart categories, but may find others challenging. If you have concerns regarding your child's marks, look closely at the achievement categories your child struggles with, and with the assistance of his/her teacher, look for ways to increase your child's understanding of those skills.

Report Card Learning Skills

The 'Learning Skills and Work Habits' section of the Ontario Secondary School Report Card is a good indicator of how your child is behaving and working in the classroom. This section of your child's report is not used toward calculating their percentage grade; however, their level in each of these categories often relates to their achievement of the curriculum expectations.

The four-point scale used to evaluate these learning skills is as follows: E-Excellent, G-Good, S-Satisfactory, and N-Needs Improvement. Here is how each learning skill/work habit might be demonstrated in the classroom:

  1. Responsibility: Being on time for class and showing up for lessons, taking care of school and course materials, obeying classroom rules, showing respect to peers and teachers.
  2. Organization: Using a school agenda for time-management and tracking purposes, handing in assignments in a timely fashion, coming to class prepared with all needed materials, ensuring course materials are not lost, maintaining a course binder and worksheets, maintaining an organized desk space.
  3. Independent Work: Staying focused and on task during work sessions, refraining from distracting others, accomplishing clear goals for independent work tasks in a timely fashion, doing research and assignments independently.
  4. Collaboration: Working effectively in small or large group tasks, contributing fairly to group tasks, maintaining a good rapport with peers, communicating effectively with peers.
  5. Initiative: Participating in class discussions and tasks, asking questions when necessary, gathering resources for assignments, volunteering to take on classroom responsibilities.
  6. Self-regulation: Being able to direct thoughts, feelings and actions. For example, does the student raise their hand to answer a question? Can they control emotions of frustration or excitement to an acceptable level during lessons?

Don't forget to take a look at the 'Learning Skills and Work Habits' section of your Ontario Secondary School student's report card. They are not only 'learning skills'; they are important 'life skills' as well.