Individualised reports instead of grades.
Education based on academic competition has done much to create the social injustice rampant in society today. The use of grading to force achievement does little to encourage children to become responsible and independent. An individual description of the pupil as a whole person by a group of teachers characterises the child's development from a range of different view-points. What a pupil achieves is a measure of his or her own development and this changes its nature over the years. A Waldorf school report characterises a pupil's individual experience of the key developmental stages. It describes the child's level of engagement in his or her own learning, in the peer group and generally in relation to the world. It is a statement of what the child has achieved in clear, comprehensible, comparative terms, and it sets tasks for the individual for the future. It summarises the present position, but is orientated towards the future.
At the end of a school year pupils receive a written report. This is the teacher's personal, individual description of what the child has done and achieved throughout the school year. The greatest achievement of school children is to develop. The report therefore describes the child's achievement in terms of his or her development.
In the first years of school teachers give an individual description and characterise the child to the best of their ability. A class teacher works with his or her class day by day and week by week on a number of different subjects. The report documents what has been done. For each pupil, there is a description of the way the subjects were worked on individually, and what developmental steps were initiated in the process. It is also concerned with the child's social situation and involvement in the class and in the life of the school.
In addition to this written evaluation, the pupils are sometimes given a brief verse which the teacher has found with a special view to the child's situation and the challenges it presents. These words can encourage him or her to find specific short term or long term goals that will have to be tackled in the general direction that lies ahead. In this way the report also speaks directly to the child.
Teachers of subjects outside the class teacher's range – languages, eurythmy, handwork and craft work, gardening, sports and music – add an account of the child's activity from the perspective of their special subjects. These reports complement the class teacher's account. Reports are written in layman's terms so that parents and older pupils have a clear and comprehensive picture.
On leaving the school each pupil is given a detailed final report. It describes the work done in all subject during the final year. The report is centred on what the young person has done with the capabilities at his disposal and what tasks he has set himself. It is as if the young adult were regarding himself and his past work in a mirror.
Where state requirements of evaluation and assessment are at odds with the approach implicit in the Waldorf report, representatives of the Steiner Schools usually strive to find an appropriate compromise with the authorities, guaranteeing access of Waldorf pupils to higher education. Most Waldorf School pupils sit the relevant state examinations and accommodate their syllabus requirements into the school timetable. Some countries even recognise the Waldorf Leaving Report as sufficient evaluation for an application to study at university. It is hoped that this enlightened policy becomes more widely adopted.
Gerd Kellermann/Martyn Rawson