As a parent of a child in school, you’ve probably been there: report card time. You know it’s about that time of year and you wait for the email to come with your child’s report card (Dec 6 this trimester). You have gone to school yourself and if you are like a lot of us, you are conditioned with some habits when you first see a report card: you scan down the numbers and your heart may lift when you see high marks and it may sink and you may feel upset when you see low marks.
I’m here to tell you that times have changed and there is a better way than what we are used to. Educators have grown a lot in their understanding of effective reporting, and as parents, we can change our habits too and really help our kids…
AAS joined most progressive schools around the world long ago in adopting grading practices based on standards: in grades PK-10, each subject will have specific learning outcomes measured in a progressive way throughout the year rather than a single grade for the subject. Also, grades are based on proficiency on a given learning outcome rather than any kind of comparison, average, or work completion. These are important distinctions that make a big difference in how we talk with our kids.
- Change the focus away from the numbers.
It’s so tempting to look down the line of numbers next to the learning outcomes and focus there, but that is not what is going to give you the information you need to drive productive and supportive conversations. Focus first on the comments: read what your child’s teacher says about them and highlight strengths, areas for growth, and any specific goals moving forward. Focus also on the learning habits reported for each class: perseverance, participation, personal organisation, etc. Learning habits are a stronger determiner of long-term learning success than specific learning outcome grades.
- Make time to talk one-on-one.
It can be hard to find the time in our busy lives to sit down and take some time to really reflect and talk with our children, but it is important, no matter if they have all top marks or if they are really struggling.
- Celebrate challenges and focus on growth.
In every elementary school classroom there is a poster on the wall that reads, “We value mistakes and challenges.” If your child isn’t making and appreciating mistakes, they’re missing opportunities for learning. When your child sees a low number on a learning outcome, they may likely feel some negative emotions. As parents, we can celebrate the challenges and focus on growth. Tell your child you are glad they know their areas for growth and you are excited to see where they go from here.
- Set a goal or two for the next learning period.
Consider having your child use different colored highlighters to find their areas of strength in the report card comments and to find comments they can use to set a goal for the next trimester. Write down these goals and put them in a place you will be able to find them in 1, 2 and 3 months. Try to come back to them after the winter break and check-in to see how your child is doing. Planning for future learning is the most active, positive use for report cards.
- Reach out to your child’s teacher(s).
If you come across anything you’d like more information about, model for your children how to advocate positively for their learning. Email your child’s teacher thanking them for their work, emphasising that you want to work together to support your child’s learning, and then asking whatever you are wondering about. Teachers at AAS are amazing and always willing to engage in conversations about student learning.
If your child gets a 1 on their report card, you are ready. As the adult, you’re able to process whatever feelings may come up: anger, disappointment, confusion. You are ready to be there for your child to talk with them so they know you support them. You’ll focus on the comments and the learning habits. You’ll acknowledge the challenges and focus on growth. You’ll set goals with them for the next trimester, and then you’ll reach out to connect with your child’s teachers to see how you can work together.
You are ready to do things differently and in a way that helps your children feel secure, supported, and ready for the next steps in their learning. You’ve got this!
Got questions? Please ask.
Dr. Matt Horne – Elementary School Principal, email@example.com
Mr. Eric Burnett – Middle & High School Principal, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Angela Assed – Director of Learning & Curriculum, email@example.com