The Most Overlooked Report Card Truths

If you are like most parents with school aged children, you have either received a child’s second report card recently or will be receiving it very soon.  For some of you, this will be a time of joy and for others; a time for concern.  I have been through the highs and lows of report cards.  As a former teacher, I obviously had to give them to each student.  As a parent, the only thing that has changed is that I am on the receiving end.  Today’s post is meant to highlight what this particular report card really means and how to help your child get a jump start on the next term no matter the final grades.

The first thing a parent should determine is whether the grade reflects the quality of work the student gives and why.  How are his/her test grades?  How well is the child doing with the homework?  What about the in-class work?  Those things should be coming home to you almost daily.  If you haven’t been seeing these things- why not?

The second report card is critical.  There’s only one more report card to come (in most cases) before the end of the school year.  At that point, either the child knows the material and is ready for the next grade or the child will go into the next grade behind (unless summer school is involved).  It’s that simple.  The time to act is now.

If a child’s grades in a particular subject are poor, it’s critical to find out why.  Many subjects build on each other.  Therefore, the next term will be even more difficult if the material form the last term isn’t known.  Once you know which areas the child struggled, it’s important for you to go over this material with the child on your own.  Don’t assume the teacher will do it because they are very busy preparing for the material they still need to teach.  If you don’t feel comfortable working with your child on their school work, a tutoring service should be looked into very seriously

If you take my advice to heart on the previous point, the report card grade won’t change but the opportunity to do better in the next term go up significantly.  Now allow me to move on with the children who did well on their report cards.

The first thing I ask myself when my child does well in a class is “does it matter?”  Here’s what I mean.  I have had classes where 3/4ths of the students were significantly behind grade level.  Therefore, if a good student received an “A” in my class; it wasn’t a huge deal.  What I had to do for those students was to give them the material beyond the class work. The parents appreciated the effort and the above average student continued to thrive.  But I had to assess (and give report card grades) based on the class work I was giving everyone else.

Another way to assess the significance of a report card is by looking at state/national testing results.  For example, my child took the Terra Nova test last year.  I take that test more seriously than I do my child’s report card because the test assesses how well my child is doing against others in his grade level nationally.  What I learned was that although he received the top grades in Science and Social Studies by his teacher- they were his weakest scores on the Terra Nova.  Therefore, although my child’s report card has been strong in those areas this year, I decided to devote extra time to Science and Social Studies on my own to prepare my son for his Terra Nova at the end of this year.

To sum up this difficult topic, a lot of parents I have worked with view report card grades as the end of the conversation when it comes to school work.  The truth is any forward thinking parent will view a report card grade as the START of a new conversation.

Feel free to drop by next Friday for another article.  To make things easier, you can also enter your email address on the right side of this page.  My posts will then come as soon as they are published.  Best wishes to you and your family!




  1. Jenny says:

    This was a great post. I think it is important that parents understand how it all works!

  2. Interesting post. As a child I dreaded Report Card day and now as a parent I still dread it even though my kids are doing pretty well in school. It's important for parents not to see the Report Card as the final judgement on a child's progress. I particularly like the line that says it's more about starting a new conversation. Very true.

  3. Raquel says:

    Wonderful info! I have learned a lot reading all of your posts! I have a 3 and a half year old daughter and look forward to reading more info!