How to Effectively Use Report Cards

What's All the Hype?

By: Dee Claire

One of the most traumatic times in the lives of children and adults is the dreaded Report Card event! We never seem to outgrow the tension that precedes the distribution of these reflections of our academic performance. Documentation, professionalism and a personal touch are among the few things to consider.

Many grades should be recorded for students to give you as the professional, a true picture of the students. A student is better at some things than others. Give them a chance and get a broad picture. Your job is not to trick them, but to evaluate what a child truly knows. Assess the way that you teach. If your expectations are to have students write essays, make sure you have taught those writing skills. If you use multiple-choice questions, make sure they have experienced this type of testing. Your purpose for testing is to make sure your students have mastered concepts. You may find that you need to reteach or review part of a lesson. Another aspect of documentation is recording your observations. Does the student seem to do poorly on written tests but does well orally? Keep a journal on your students. These observations can reveal needs that students have and address them in a timely manner. Document parent-teacher conferences, phone calls to parents, notes that you have sent home and kept on file.

Spend time with your students one-on-one. As students are completing a paper independently, take a few minutes to sit and ask questions and find out how this child is learning. While children are doing silent reading, sit and listen to them. You can listen to oral presentations to evaluate individuals. How can we give a true grade if we don t know the whole child?

How well do you know your students? Use conferences and phone calls to parents as a vehicle to learning as much as you can. By knowing them, you will know what approaches work best for them. By relating to them, they will feel that you truly care and believe more in them. As our students grow in self-esteem, they will grow in all other areas of their lives. You will find that you spend less time disciplining and more time teaching. If you give students positive attention, it may lessen their need to demand attention during class time. The more you know about your students, the better you will prepare your lessons because you will know your audience. You will know what they like and what they don t like. If a child is getting a failure on the report card, maybe you didn t get up close and personal . If you sought assistance in school with other professionals, the principal, guidance counselor, academic specialists, kept in contact with the family, and worked with the child independently then you did your part. Maybe a child needs help outside the classroom. You should know all of this information long before report cards are distributed.


This may be the most important part of the report card. What you write can never be erased. Make comments short and to the point. They should be positive and encouraging. You want to give credit and you want your students to grow in self-esteem. Tell the truth. There is something wonderful in every child. If there is improvement to be noted, phrase it with the tone of improvements to be made. Ask for a conference if you have more to say. Be cautious when you write on a report card. Even if you believe a child doesn't care, they do, and your words remain with them long after you have forgotten what you wrote.

A report card is a permanent record that follows a child for the rest of his or her life. Make sure that the grades you assign truly measure the teaching and the learning that is being evaluated.

Submitted by Dee Claire, elementary school staff developer.