I’m doing some research into assessment in K-12 education and in looking at formative and summative assessment tools, skimming white papers and reading about the need to fuse the 3Rs and the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking & creativity – from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org) I wondered how the report card has evolved. This came to mind because last weekend my sister in law was talking about her search for a primary school for my oldest nephew. She expressed frustration at the school web sites for supplying mostly high-level vision statements rather than sharing how they set out to achieve those visions. In researching some schools for her, one promise they all made was to partner with parents so that the education of each child was a parternship between the school, parent and child. I know this is pretty typical, so I asked my sister over in New Hampshire, USA, if she could scan and send a copy of my niece’s (a senior in highschool) report card. I went to school in the States and as I wanted to track the evolution of the report card along one system, thought that made the most sense. Sis’ did one better and gave me the log in for her daughter’s school’s web site area for parents and guardians. I couldn’t wait to see what would be there. Insightful notes from teachers would surely have to be there – how could my sister be a partner in her child’s education without communication from/with teachers? Perhaps examples of work good or bad so that she could see what her daughter has turned in? Perhaps a graph showing her improvement over time (or lack thereof) in critical skills? What I found was the same information that used to be on my white cardboard report card in the manilla envelope in the 70s and 80s: letters and numbers. True there was also data on her attendance (really handy for checking up on kids who fib like a friend of hers apparently), but nothing else. No comments at all. I at least would get some database-ready stuff like “Could work harder” or “Pleasure to have in class” So, letters and numbers. Links to the teacher’s email accounts. A history of her past grades that didn’t seem to go back too far. Course names that didn’t link to descriptions or learning outcomes. One course was “Advanced Health”. I asked my sister what that entailed – home surgery? Resurrection perhaps? She told me to ask my niece – she had NO idea. So, if parents/guardians/involved adults are going to be partners in a child’s education – shouldn’t they get more information than letters and numbers? PHOTO CREDIT: “Mark’s First Report Card” by laszlodemo, published to Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/11618809@N03/ CC (by) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en Posted via email from kerryj’s neotenous posterous


  1. I’ve also been doing some thinking around this topic:


    “So, if parents/guardians/involved adults are going to be partners in a child’s education – shouldn’t they get more information than letters and numbers?” YES!


  2. Liked your post! The sorts of comments you gave as examples would be so helpful to parents. If you know what your child needs to improve in terms of not only his/her effort but the type of skills and support THEN you can be a partner in his/her education. If all you have is a grade out of context you have no idea if that grade is on a class curve, based on the teacher’s perception of your child’s capacity/capabilities or is the result of multiple choice assessments. I know when I looked at my own report card, my grades were a mix of the three and thus had no relation to each other. Cheers for taking the time to comment Karren! : )

  3. I totally agree with you here Kerry.

    When I challenged my children’s school about the ‘tick the box’ reporting of whether my children were achieving:

    – below their year level
    – at their year level
    – above their year level

    with approximately 200 words of comments, for 6 months school work, on an 8 paged report, I was told that this is what parents want.


    I want to know how my child is achieving according to their own abilities – not according to some ‘standardised’ grading system which doesn’t take into consideration the learning needs of the child.

    Standardised report sux

  4. hehehe – I love you Allison!