Monday, December 04, 2006

Conseils de classe

Last night I attended my first two conseils de classe. The first one was for a sophomore class, the second was for a junior class. The purpose of these meetings is to finalize the grade report which will go out to parents. Individual teachers arrive at their own course grades but it remains for the conseil de classe to compose a global evaluation/observation regarding each student’s overall performance.

To do this, the entire teacher team for each "classe" of students (roughly thirty kids) reviews the grades of each student…the prof principal summarizes the comments entered by each teacher (comments or “observations” are required for each student and they are considered a vital component of the reporting process) noting apparent strengths and weaknesses. Everyone present is asked to make intitial observations about the classe as a whole.

After having sat in two conseils I can say that there both general agreement and divergent perspectives expressed by those present. One group was pretty unanimous in characterizing a classe as pleasant if not necessarily high achieving while the second group seemed split as whether the classe in question might be at riskl. Also in attendance at the conseil is an administrator, a parent delegate, and two student delegates all of whom participate actively in the proceedings.

Next we examine each student one at time. The prof principal is armed with the previous year’s grade reports (including those from college or middle school!...a sense of history and continuity prevails here) which allows for a truly global view of student progress. More than once a student's middle school performance was cited to put his current status in context. The prof principal then proposes a recommendation for each student and each time he does so he pauses for comments from team members. Sometimes there is discussion about the appropriate tone to strike…does this student need to hear some hard truths or does he need more encouragement, should comments be tailored to a specific domain such as homework or oral participation, is there a sense of the student having made a good faith effort or of him having settled for something merely passable, has he made progress from the previous year or is this a repetition of familiar patterns?

I found the exercise intriguing…granted, everything for me is intriguing these days and I can easily see how this sort of thing becomes routine for veterans…nevertheless, it seemed like a very good and useful thing for all of us to devote 90 minutes to try to fashion a consensus about thirty students, pronouncing all their names aloud, examining their grades, hearing each other’s impressions, juxtaposing our own evaluations with those of fellow team members…often we were in harmony with each other but not always. Sometimes the differences were familiar …strong in languages, middling in math/science or vice versa….

In both conseils de classe, it was the French teachers whose grades typically brought the overall averages down. By far the most common refrain I heard was “francais fragile” (French grade – borderline). At the undergrad level in lycee, French (for those of you at home, think ”English”) is perhaps the preeminent piece of the academic puzzle. Student’s academic and even career prospects reside in no small measure on their competencies in reading, analysis, and written expression.

I left the last meeting this evening, exhausted….my day began at 8:00. I taught a full slate of courses and then participated in two consecutive conseils de classe of 90 minutes each, concluding after 7:00 in the evening. Plus, we have them every night this week...a long haul. On the other side of the coin, I felt as if I had gained a wider view of my students, a truer picture of them and of how my own judgements squared with those of my colleagues. Good and valuable information, well worth the time and effort, I think.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Kevin, what can you tell me about custodial services?

7:42 AM  
Blogger kc said...

I've actually made the acquaintance of one of the custodial people here and I have every intention of picking his brain for info about his end of the buisiness... thanks for the reminder.

10:08 AM  

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