Teachers use online ‘robots’ to write school reports

Teachers use online ‘robots’ to write school reports, by Natasha Bita.

Teachers are using online ­“robots’’ to compile cut-and-paste student report cards to be sent to parents over the next fortnight.

Education departments in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia permit teachers to use time-saving websites to generate report cards.

One of the most popular, ­Report Robot, tells teachers they can “impress parents’’ by producing “personalised report comments for every student” at a cost of $82.50 a year.

As a parent trying to read these things, one has to wade through a huge mass of verbiage that says very little. Nowadays I don’t even bother, which saves me from having to comprehend 400 words for each subject on each kid, four times a year. No idea how parents whose reading or English is weak cope — they probably just ignore it too. When I was a kid there was a single number (usually some sort of score out a hundred) and a few words (usually about three).

The joke is, for all their voluminous words, when it comes to choosing which kids can go to the selective high schools, the public education systems just get the kids to sit tests for an hour or two, from which the produce a single number that determines which high school the kids can go to.

Teachers were using verbose report cards to “say nothing well … The problem is the blandness of most reports.’’

Professor Hattie said some schools were reluctant to upset parents with negative comments.

“They don’t want to tell you your kid’s below average,’’ he said. “It’s a public relations exercise.’’

It’s obviously a PR exercise. But it is also a drain on everyone’s time, and only succeeds to the extent it misleads.