Understand the Document
A lot has changed since we were in school. Many schools have done away with the traditional percentage based grading system in lieu of standards based or checklist grading. While percentages (one letter grade per subject) can be easier for us to wrap our heads around and are considered more quantifiable, you will want to get more information as to where specifically your child's strengths and weaknesses lie. Standards based grading or checklists can give you more specific feedback as to where your child has specific strengths and weaknesses in a certain content area. If you're having difficulty determining your child's proficiency on a checklist report card, ask your school for more information. Schools should have resources and guides available for understanding this new method of measuring progress.
Many schools schedule conferences around report cards to help teachers paint a bigger picture of your child's academic profile. If this isn't the case, reach out to the school and ask to meet. If you have specific questions, share those with your child's teacher ahead of time so they have time to pull work samples and assessments to drive the conversation.
Examine the Bigger Context
Report cards are documents that exist in a larger context, and many things can be a factor in your child's progress. First, have a look at your child's work and assessments to help you gain a more insightful picture. Elementary schools should be sending homework with your child regularly, but older students' work might need to be accessed through online platforms.
Second, talk to your child about their report card and how they felt the last semester/trimester went. Some questions you might ask are :
- Do you feel like this report card accurately represents who you are as a learner and what you've accomplished?
- What are you finding the easiest/most difficult in your classes?
- What work are you most proud of?
- What types of lessons do you enjoy the most?
Third, look at the content that has been covered in the grading period. Oftentimes, students' grades can fluctuate based on the material being taught. For example, your child may have performed better in math during the previous semester when addition and subtraction were covered, but now that they've moved onto geometry, your child is showing less proficiency. Remember, students have various strengths and weaknesses in each subject area that might explain certain changes in grades.
Last, if you notice a significant shift in your child's report card, think about what has been going on in their personal life. Have there been any big changes? These could range from starting a new after school activity, a family hardship, an illness that caused them to miss a week of school, or new braces which cause daily headaches. A decrease in academic performance can sometimes be a reflection of outside factors as opposed to a lack of understanding.
Try Out New Methods
The main thing to remember is the report card is only one snapshot of who your child is as a learner. While this assessment of your child's learning might be temporary, you do want to take it as a time to reflect and try out some new things that might help your child succeed.
One thing to examine is your child's homework and study habits. Are they staying on top of their classwork and studying for assessments? Do they need a more structured and quiet homework environment? If your child is not fully grasping the content presented at school, work together with the teacher to come up with a plan. Are there small groups available before or after school? Should you think about tutoring? Ask your child's teacher what it is specifically you can help with at home to compliment their efforts at school. Whatever new things you try at home, remember to give it time. It can take several weeks to start to notice improvements.
If your child's report card shows severe misconceptions across all subject areas, or if after six to eight weeks of additional support at home and school your child's academic performance is not showing growth, it might merit a bigger conversation. Your child's school support team can help you decide if additional services or testing are needed moving forward. There are times when a school based team might not be enough, however. This is why Parallel offers support services to supplement school services.
A report card is one piece of the puzzle in your child's educational career. While it doesn't paint the whole picture of who your child is, it can be a great tool to communicate how your child is performing in school and as a jumping off point for more in depth conversations.