What Do Report Cards Tell Us?


We have seen many schools move away from traditional grades and report cards in order to deliver more meaningful feedback to students and parents. This has brought an influx of standards based report cards, and the replacement of letter grades with simple numbers or student levels which are meant to show growth when compared with the traditional averaged number.

As I’ve been involved in transitioning to standards based report cards in several districts, and have now started to get these at home for my own children, I simply need to ask the question:

What do report cards tell us?

We know that traditional letter grades based on averages, can be problematic. We’ve seen issues with participation, homework, and extra credit unfairly inflating or deflating “grades.”

The idea that standards based report cards are the answer might not be accurate. I’m sure there are many schools who do them well, but there are also many who don’t. The numbers can be as foreign to parents and equally as meaningless. When I look to see that my child rated a “2” for Collaborates with Classmates, I’m not quite sure what that means.

So, how do we provide meaningful feedback and information for students and parents? A simple answer might be a detailed narrative for each student. Let’s ask each teacher to write a 1 page narrative detailing what a student is specifically doing well or listing the areas in which they may need additional help. Or let’s ask teachers to have a meaningful discussion with parents on regular basis to let them know just how a child is doing. Let’s provide useful tips and strategies for helping to move a student forward as well.

Report cards should tell us something. The information should be meaningful and actionable. Right now, too many of us are left asking, what do report cards tell us? Somehow, we have to fix this.


Rich (@RACzyz)

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