Thursday, November 12, 2015

Talking about The Report Card

It is important to talk with your children about their report cards!  The way a parent leads and manages the discussion will determine if it is beneficial for the child - which is the goal!  

Middle and high school students (and some elementary students) may receive their report cards online or electronically through a parent communication portal.  Be sure to check with your child's school if you are not familiar with the process for receiving or accessing report cards.  Most schools will have report card dates and procedures posted on their websites, as well. If it has been awhile since you have seen a report card, you should take the initiative to find them!

I recommend that parents review and think carefully about their child's report card before discussing it with children.  Today's report cards can look quite different from a parent's own childhood report card memories. Many schools have begun using Standards Based Report Cards which do not utilize letter grades, but rather a rating scale that ranks the student's ability to independently perform the listed standards.  These report cards will explain the rating scale, but you may need to read and study this information to correctly interpret your child's marks.  One mistake that parents make with Standards Based Report Cards is to try to equate the numbered ratings with letter grades.  They don't correspond, so read the fine print or call your child's teacher if you are having difficulty understanding how the report card is designed and what it really means. 

One other mistake parents can make when looking at their child's report card is to see it as a reflection of their parenting.  Doing this will cause you to look at the report card with a focus on yourself rather than your child as a learner.  The report card is a reflection of your child not you. Don't forget the ultimate goal of parenting is to teach the children to be functioning, independent people. Allowing them to "own" their report card is an important step in this direction.  

When my boys were growing up, I always dreaded bumping into parents who carried their child's report card around with them to "prove" their great parenting skills.  Don't be that parent!  I believe children should be allowed to decided if and how the report card will be shared with others.

Here are some steps that I think will help you prepare for the discussion with your child.
  1. Look at the report card as a whole to understand it deeply and get the big picture of your child's performance for this grading period.   
  2. Identify some strengths and weaknesses that are demonstrated in the marks and teacher's comments.
  3. Think of no more than three open ended questions that you will discuss with your child.  For example, 
    • "I see that you have improved in your math computation skills, what did you do to accomplish this?"
    • "I see from the report card that writing is sometimes difficult for you, why do you think this is so?"
    • "Which of these marks was the hardest for you to accomplish and why?"
    • "Which of these marks do you feel you can do better in and how?"
  4. Finish by asking your child if there is anything else they would like to discuss about their report card and let them lead any further discussion.  If they are done, that is fine. Be a good listener and refrain from lecturing or doing the most talking.  
Following these tips will allow you to develop a trusting and positive pattern of communication with your children and make report time beneficial for you both!  

If, as a parent, you are truly alarmed or concerned about report card marks, contact the teacher with an understanding and supportive attitude.  When a child is truly performing below grade level expectations, parents should work cooperatively with the teacher to help their children.  Below, I have posted a couple of related articles that may be helpful.

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