Confused by Your Child's Report Card? You're Not Alone

The report card: it strikes fear into the hearts of some students, pride in others. What it shouldn't cause is confusion for parents and frustration for teachers. Yet as many schools move away from traditional single-grade report cards, they're doing just that.

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The Perplexing Report Card

If all you know about your child's academic performance is defined by a single letter grade that's updated a few times a year, then you have very little insight into what your child is learning. You also have a very narrow grasp of progress. The single-grade report card is widely considered an outdated and ineffective method of assessing a student's performance and conveying it to parents.

In recent years, many schools and districts started experimenting with new methods of tracking and reporting student progress. Often, schools try to add complexity and granularity. The goal is to provide an assessment tool that matches state standards while also informing parents with more than just the simple 'A-' or 'C+' that can be more cryptic than helpful.

The results have been mixed. There are parents who don't know what they're looking at or how to read it. There are also teachers who struggle to find that delicate balance point between providing constructive data and not overwhelming parents.

Charter schools, which have both the burden and benefit of inventing their path as they go, often lead the pack in trying to get creative with report cards. But sometimes the inconsistency from district to district and school to school only makes the problem worse. While seeking creative solutions is to be lauded, a creative report card is not inherently an instructive one, nor is it necessarily a cogent means of tracking student progress.

A Better Way

In October GOOD Magazine asked its readers to redesign the report card. The challenge included creating a new report card that is informative, inspirational and full of contextualizing information about student performance. The winning design, which was selected by the magazine's readers, was created by Polly d'Avignon.

Called 'Education Engaged,' the card d'Avignon created is an online and interactive tool that takes advantage of technology, including social media and data visualization. It uses constantly updated data from the teacher. Teachers, students and parents can all log in to view grades and monitor progress. Furthermore, it's a platform in which these three groups can interact with each other.

As any parent will acknowledge, all children are unique. Attempting to track their performances and conveying their progress in a reliably consistent manner by the means of a simple report card may be futile. Yet as GOOD Magazine is showing, there are good ideas out there. For her efforts, d'Avignon won a t-shirt and magazine subscription. But as long as students, parents and teachers strive to work together in the spirit she described, a passing grade may be in the report card's future.

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