report card

report card

The Importance of Report Cards in Education

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1. Introduction

Secondly, we should define what is a report card. This is also achieved through different mediums, but it seems that a simple definition is not available. There are various different ideas and ways to present what a report card is. One definition is that a report card is a detailed precursor to a parent-teacher conference, with information about behavior and learning coming directly from the source. Another is that it is a tool by which colleges have a chance to evaluate a potential student. All of these ideas seem to resonate with the concept of keeping detailed records of student achievement in a way that it’s a link between home and school and then evaluation for use in meeting future educational goals. Through these different ideas of what a report card is and what it should be, there is no wrong answer. But it’s clear that a report card is a means to give parents about a child’s learning, attitude, and behavior in school. This is done through the message grades convey to a parent, but more importantly through the comments written by a teacher about his/her student.

It seems that the importance of report cards is an area that needs to be explored. This is attained through different mediums, one of them being through paper, written by various people or mediums, such as that by Jennifer Landis, “Why Kids Should Use Their Report Cards as a Learning Tool.” This author suggests that report cards are not only reflective of a child’s academic success, but should be a detailed record of things noticed by the teacher and the child concerning the child’s learning habits, abilities, and attitudes towards their education. This skill is not yet mastered, and Derek Bok contributes an article “What’s in a Grade” to The Chronicle of Higher Education stressing how much emphasis is put on the grades themselves and not the actual learning of the material. All of these are mediums in which we can evaluate the expectations and reality of what is the importance of a report card.

2. Benefits of Report Cards

The benefits of report cards are so numerous, the reasons to have them far outweigh any other considerations. There are obvious benefits to report cards and then there are the not-so-obvious ones, yet they underlie the major benefit of a report card. Report cards serve a multitude of purposes. Primarily, they are intended to inform parents about their child’s progress. According to the School Act, a report must be provided for every student at least two times during the school year. This is vital for the student, because it keeps them and the parents informed about the student’s progress and his position within the school. If a student is not doing well in a certain subject, early identification will help take corrective steps and the student will find it hard to fail if he has a series of ‘poor’ grades as the parents and the school will ensure he gets the extra help now mentioned in the previous advantage. The main purpose of report cards is to provide parents with a snapshot of their child’s learning. Report cards are intended to be a reflection of each student’s performance and learning during the year. They are a measure of the student’s success towards the learning outcomes/standards. Knowledge, understanding, skills, and attitudes in relation to the Alberta Programs of Study are what the teacher is assessing and what is reported. It gives the parent a clear understanding of how their child is doing in regards to his learning.

3. Components of a Report Card

Components of academic performance are separated into specific areas of study and evaluated through grades and comments. The composition of a report card is a topic of interest and concern to educators because it is the communication link between home and school. Report cards provide something tangible for students and parents to know where a student is having problems and may need extra help, and where a student is excelling and should be challenged further. Report card grades are an important tool that is used to determine the success a student has achieved in mastering the subject matter, learning the specified skills, and gaining knowledge in the designated area of study. Due to the consequential nature of report card grades, they are the most heavily focused on component of the report card by parents, students, and teachers. However, report card grades are vague when viewed through the eyes of an inquiring student or parent who needs to know what to learn from successes and failures and how to apply it to future study. Grades are a shorthand method of indicating how well an assignment or unit of study was learned, they are insufficient to provide students and parents a full understanding of where success and failure was achieved, and what to do in the future. This is where comments written by the teacher come into play as a vital component of the report card. Comments provide a more in depth and clearer understanding to parents and students on how they are doing in specific areas of study and how to improve. Comments are an integral component of the report card but they do provide a difficult and time-consuming task for teachers to write what may seem like an endless number of comments to report on student progress and habits in all areas of study. Comments do have varying degrees of usefulness and effectiveness and are seen as a component of the report card that may need improvement. Another newer component of the report card is the addition of effort grades. Effort is a fairly subjective area of student activity and is not easily evaluated. Despite this, it is a common agreement amongst teachers and parents that high effort will usually lead to high achievement and that low effort will usually lead to low achievement. An effort grade can provide an awareness to students and parents about the relationship between effort and achievement and what changes in effort may have to be made in the future.

4. Effective Communication with Parents

According to Marzano (2006), communicating student progress is the most important thing a teacher can do to help create a quality learning experience, pointing out that the simple act of reporting student progress has been shown to improve student achievement. This is consistent with the findings from Henderson and Berla (1994), who found that when schools foster partnerships with families this can lead to increased parent involvement which can result in a number of positive outcomes for students. Division two of the Australian Association of Teachers and the US National Parent Teacher Association (2008), both state that improved student learning is the overall goal when it comes to reporting student progress to parents. In order to improve student learning, the communication between home and school regarding student progress must be a frequent, constructive and two-way process (Division two of the Australian Association of Teachers, 2004). In a study conducted by Sanders and Sheldon (2010), teachers and parents were asked which factors contributed to effective parent-teacher communication. From the teacher perspective, the two most significant communication events were student-led conferences and parent-teacher interviews. Both these methods of communication provide the opportunity for a two-way flow of information to take place. Sanders and Sheldon (2010) found that the factor which had the biggest impact on changing parent communication behaviour was the changes in reporting practices to parents. This suggests that the way teachers are reporting student progress has the potential to engage parents in their involvement in student learning. With increased technology and social changes, report cards as we know them tend to be obsolete and the research suggests that a change to more current and continuous reporting practices will lead to improved parent-teacher communication (Elek, 2009 and Sanders and Sheldon, 2010).

5. Conclusion

Report cards, in some sense, serve as a relevant and efficient tool to communicate both the strengths and areas of improvement found in an individual student’s recent performance. Its simplicity in both its appearance and the way it conveys its information makes it so varied groups can determine its meaning and draw valuable information from it. And although report cards typically come with stress and anxiety for both the one receiving and the one giving out, it serves as one of the most important factors responsible for the success of a student. Through student knowledge of their performance, adjustments can be made for a more successful next term. This concept of positive and negative reinforcement is important to student development. Since report cards are primarily judgment of student performance, it is only natural for them to want to influence the decision that is made. Whether to keep up the good work, or to show improvement after a lesser performance, the will to do better is surely one of the greatest factors in a student’s success. This will most likely influence the student to work harder in both school and their everyday lives, having a clear understanding of the expectations put forth by the ones giving out the report cards.

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