Parent Support for and Understanding of the Outcome-Based Report Card: A Case Study from Yellowknife Education District No. 1

Regions: North Slave Region

Tags: education, teachers, students

Principal Investigator: Maguire, Deborah J (1)
Licence Number: 15512
Organization: NorthCentral University
Licenced Year(s): 2014
Issued: Jul 18, 2014

Objective(s): To investigate parent support for and understanding of the outcome-based report card within the Yellowknife Education District No.1.

Project Description: The case study design will address its four research questions to investigate parent support for and understanding of the outcome-based report card within the Yellowknife Education District No.1.:
Q 1. What is the level of parent support for the outcome-based report card?
Q 2. How do parents understand the shift to outcome-based report card?
Q 3. What are the concerns and opinions that parents express with regard to strengths and weaknesses the outcome-based report card?
Q 4. What resources or strategies would be helpful for parents to understand the use of the outcome-based report card?

Parents of students in Grades 4-8 will be selected to share their thoughts around the outcome-based report card using four structured focus groups of 5-7 parents each. Parents will receive a copy of the focus group questions the month before the session is held. Consideration has been made to ensure that no threatening or emotionally painful questions will be asked. To ensure that everyone has a chance to speak, norms will be set so that only one person may speak at a time. Finally, as long as the movement does not disrupt the discussion, parents may move around the room and access refreshments. If more data is needed, additional sessions will be scheduled. Each focus group will take about one hour to complete depending on the amount of dialogue and conversations that is triggered from the questions. This author will facilitate the focus groups alone so there will be no need to involve any other person and risk inappropriate disclosure of information.

Data gathered from focus group interviews will be triangulated with descriptive summaries of related data extracted from available historical/archival surveys. These historical/archival surveys are from 2006-2011. The data are publicly available and all identifiers have been removed so no special permissions have been required to access it.

The focus group data will be analyzed via author identification of emergent themes and Computer Assisted/Aided Qualitative Data AnalysiS (CAQDAS). Historical/archival survey data in the form of descriptive summaries will be used as a way to triangulate and verify the focus group interview data. The focus group interview protocol provides a clear set of directions with a scripted beginning and specific assurances to the participants. Following this is a list of questions, each with a specific purpose in mind. It should be noted that the participants will be provided with the list of interview questions in advance but they will not be provided with the purpose of the questions as written in parenthetical notation below. The targeted questions include:
•an icebreaker question: “Can you tell us about an experience, positive or negative, that you have had with assessment, evaluation, or both?” (Addresses the need for participants to get to know one another in a non-threatening way through a brief sharing of experiences related to the topic at hand.)
•an introductory question: “Can you describe your understanding of the outcome-based report card?” Probing questions: “How do you see the strengths and weaknesses of the card?” and “Can you read the report card in such a way as to identify your child’s learning outcomes and progress?” and “What parts of the report card are difficult to understand?” (Addresses the research questions “How do parents describe their understanding of the outcome-based report card?” and “What are the concerns and opinions that parents express with regard to strengths and weaknesses the outcome-based report card?”)
• a transition question: “Can you describe the discussions that you have had with your child about the information within his or her report card and how he or she could do better?” (Addresses the research question “How do parents describe their understanding of the outcome-based report card?”)
•a focus question: “Can you tell us about your thoughts about the outcome-based report card?” (Addresses the research questions “What are the concerns and opinions that parents express with regard to strengths and weaknesses the outcome-based report card?” and “What is the level of parent support for the outcome-based report card?”)
•a focus question: “What do you think would help parents understand the outcome-based report card?” (Addresses the research question “What resources or strategies would be helpful for parents to understand the use of the outcome-based report card?”)
•a summary statement: “Are there any last thoughts or ideas that you would like to share with lead educators in the Yellowknife Education No.1 about how well the outcome-based report card is supported by parents and what can be done to help for parents better understand the outcome-based report?” (Addresses the research questions “What is the level of parent support for the outcome-based report card?” and “What resources or strategies would be helpful for parents to understand the use of the outcome-based report card?”)

This questioning route is sequenced, moving from general to specific questions. Suggested prompts for the questions are noted so that it may be possible to probe deeper into the thoughts and experiences of the participants (Liamputtong, 2011; O'Sullivan, 2004). Explicit and matching instructions will be provided to each focus group so that each focus group session will follow the same standard procedure. Participants will be required to sign a consent form. Finally, the focus group interview protocol will be tested with a group of individuals similar to the sample to ensure that the focus group is a valid tool and to provide this researcher with practice in facilitation. Participants of the trial focus group will be selected through a similar process as what is used for the data collection focus group sessions. By using the same process, anonymity will be protected to the extent possible for the data collection focus groups.

Data from the focus group process will be triangulated with the historical/archival descriptive summaries retrieved from parent surveys in Yellowknife Education District No.1. From 2006-2012, the Yellowknife Education District No.1 distributed occasional surveys to parents to assess their support for and understanding of various school initiatives, including those related to assessment and reporting. Response rates varied from survey to survey. Although no firm numbers are available to know how many surveys were distributed, if the entire parent population of the district were targeted, that number would equal approximately 650 parents (Statistics Canada, 2012). In 2011, 181 responses were received for an estimated response rate of 25% (Yellowknife Education District No.1, 2011). The parent surveys investigated elements of parental support (that is, home-school communication, home support for learning, and parental support for learning at school). The questions regarding home-school communication of student progress appear to be similar to those in the proposed focus group interviews.

The location of the focus group sessions will be provided by Yellowknife Education District No.1. Because it is critical that the location provide a non-threatening environment to foster a sense of open communication, a location outside of the Yellowknife Education District No.1 Board office will be selected. There are a variety of schools with comfortable areas to meet, and it is likely that arrangements will be made at Mildred Hall School in the board room. This school is in a central location within the downtown and easily accessible by public transport.

A single case study with embedded units of analysis has been selected for the in-depth analysis of a unique situation (Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1995; Yin, 2009). The Yellowknife Education District No.1 presents a unique case in that it is the only board within the Northwest Territories that is positioned to explore parent support for and understanding of the outcome-based report card after eight years of implementation of this type of report card. The selection of the case study research method will allow the author to capture the complexities of the organizational phenomena as it relates to the analysis of multiple parental viewpoints around the use of the outcome-based report card (Yin, 2009).

Results of this project will be through summary information to YK1 leaders and participants, and
through the Principal Investigators dissertation publication access.


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 19, 2014 to December 31, 2014.