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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Report Cards May Send Wrong Message To Parents

Everybody fears report card time. Students because they may be getting F’s and parents because their children may not be good students and learning. Some schools view report cards as necessary evils which do not add much to the educational process. There must be a better way especially when some disappointed parents abuse their children over poor grades. Report cards have not changed over the years even though the winds of change are everywhere else in education.

Reporting student progress should be a positive process. The teacher needs to know what the student has learned or failed to learn so that she can plan his future program. The student needs to know how well he has mastered the material in order to take the next successful step. The parent needs to know in order to support and perhaps supplement the student’s program. In other words, grades should be viewed as tools to help the student progress. In this scenario, the grades the student receives should not come as a big surprise to either the teacher, the student or parent. If they do, adjustments need to made in the program so that the student is more successful.

In the present scenario, poor grades are seen by schools, students and parents as punishment and good grades as rewards. Many parents give money to their children for A’s on the report card. Other parents beat their children for F’s on the report card. The National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, a group in Chicago, has a national awareness campaign to stop “the report card reflex of abuse”. The Brennan Middle School in Massachusetts has a warning on the report card which reads: “Under no circumstances should this document be considered as a basis for drawing broad-based conclusions about, or result in negative actions, especially physical, on the learner.” This warning will have little effect on a frustrated parent. Since schools see the need for such a warning, they also need to take more responsibility for their reporting techniques .

Sometimes schools use report cards as a way of protecting themselves. The rationale behind this thinking is that if the school reports to the parents that their child has failed, it no longer is responsible. The school has offered a program but the child has not been successful mastering the curriculum offered so he must be failed. Parents have been informed by means of the report card of this failure. It is now the parent’s problem.

Negative report cards give stressed and frustrated parents little hope that their child will ever be successful at school. No wonder children are beaten. The schools, at the very least, could write a short narrative stating what concrete steps might be taken by the school, student, and parent to help the child be more successful the next reporting period. There has to be something which leaves the parent and student with some hope for success in school in the future.

If your child is bringing home report cards with failing grades, it is time to take action. Ask for more concrete data on what your child is failing in school and why. A grade is very abstract and gives little information either to you or to your child. If your child is going to change and do better, you and he need to know how to do that. In all cases, look upon the report card as a means of communication between you and the school for the purpose of bringing about change, if necessary, and not as a condemnation of your child as a learner.

Photo credit: Pjern / Creative Commons 2.0

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