My decision to issue progress reports has been a long time in coming. As a younger teacher, my standard phrase was, “Oh, I don’t mind if we’re progressing slowly as long as some kind of forward progress is being made and the student is enjoying piano.” I was reluctant to create a list of minimum standards that students would be required to meet. Now, I’ve come to realize a number of things. Without some definition of what reasonable forward progress actually consists of, some students will progress at the slowest speed they can get away with. Without a definition of reasonable progress, parents may not realize that most average beginners don’t require 2 full school years to complete a Primer level lesson book. With no definition of minimum standards of achievement for a particular year of study, parents have no way to evaluate whether or not the teacher is doing a good job. I believe that parents have a right to know whether or not their child is doing appropriate work for their number of years of study.
Now, on the other hand, I do believe that one of the great things about private instruction is that it can be individualized. I don't teach students younger than first grade, but if I did, I'd need a special progress report for the younger beginner. If I have a traditional student who is truly giving her best effort to piano study but is just not capable of meeting the requirements I’ve listed as my minimum standards, I’ll create a special progress report just for her that displays the many skills she has achieved and a small number of skills that are emerging that we should work at. Even so, I believe in complete transparency with the parent. I might say, “I’m using a special progress report that I’ve created just for Susie that reflects what I expect of her, based on her capabilities.” That’s really all that needs to be said, but it lets the parent know that perhaps Susie’s capabilities are different from the average student. I really feel that the parent has a right to hear an honest assessment from the musical expert that they are paying to teach their child, and the truth is that in most cases, the parent already knows that the child's capability is different. If I seem to be avoiding or hiding the situation, what message does that carry? I actually believe that being honest about the fact that I have individualized her progress report is a better tool for showing how much I value her as a student than is giving false impressions. On the other hand, if a capable student is not meeting my minimum standards because of lack of effort, that’s a different matter. I use my standard progress report and score it honestly, and it serves as a big help in showing the parents what’s not being done.
Providing progress reports is also a great means of educating parents about the value of piano study. I’ll write more about that tomorrow.
In the meantime, you can view my Level A and Level B progress reports here, or for that matter, print them off and use them yourself. I’d love to hear feedback from other teachers about them!Piano Progress Reports