A New Type of Report Card

imagesMy third grader received a new type of report card this year, referred to as a standards-based report card,. There are no number or letter grades posted on this type of report card. Instead, a standards based report card lists the most important skills students should learn in each subject at a particular grade level, and students receive an evaluation that shows how well they have mastered the state’s assigned skills. The evaluation might show whether the student is advanced, proficient, basic or below basic for each standard. Students usually get separate marks for effort and work habits, which are important for parents to keep tabs on even if these characteristics aren’t included in the assessment of the student’s academic skills.

One of the benefits of a standards-based report card is that it should provide more consistency between teachers than traditional report cards, because all students are evaluated on the same grade-appropriate skills. Parents can see exactly which skills and knowledge their children have learned, and where they can improve. This type of report card also should also facilitate communication between parent and teacher. The parent can analyze the assessment of their child and read exactly what is being taught.

Is this type of report card a better indicator of your child’s skills? A report card of this type can be very long and detailed orientated. In some schools the list of skills were 54 items (their report card was revised) which can be overwhelming for parents to understand. Letter grades are often calculated by combining how well the student met her particular teacher’s expectations, how she performed on assignments and tests, and how much effort the teacher believes she put in. Letter grades do not tell parents which skills their children have mastered or whether they are working at grade level, but are instead knowledge-based.

Do traditional grades provide a more fair and precise way to look at a student’s work? Report cards in Texas, depending on the grade level, show assignments, exams and what grade your child received, along with the class average for that particular assignment or exam. Comparing an individual’s grade with the class average can suggest whether your child understands the material, and can also sometimes highlight a problem with teaching when the whole class obviously missed the target and bombed a test.

A disadvantage of the standards-based report card is that the teacher must have a thorough understanding of the states’ mandated skills. Like other grading systems, consistency in interpreting the standards between teachers and schools across the district is vital to the standards-based report card success as a comparator. Moreover, the standards based report card is very time consuming to complete. Is the time working on the report card worth the time lost teaching?

As I fill out my end of the year survey after a year of using a standards-based report card. I like the detailed skills assessment in the standards-based report card, but I also believe you cannot argue with number grades. For me, a mixture of components from both kinds of report cards would be ideal. It is also not clear to me how children using this system can be compared with students using a more traditional report card, although this will be more important as the kids enter middle and high school, which continue to use the standard report card. Like many of the changes in education, the grades for this class aren’t in yet.

*Steinheimer, Kate. “Rethinking Report Cards – GreatSchools.net.” GreatSchools – Public and Private School Ratings, Reviews and Parent Community. Jan. 2008. 19 Apr. 2009 .


5 Responses to A New Type of Report Card

  1. Jeannie says:

    This is a very interesting way to communicate what children are learning.

    Hopefully there will be time set in the future to review, reflect and understand the many results of this type of report card with previous methods of reporting progress/report cards to see if students, teachers, teaching methods, other related educators, and parents benefit from the new style report card.

  2. Sara S. says:

    This system sure seems labor-intensive. I wonder if a report card should rather be a “snap shot” of student progress – leaving more detailed assessment for teacher conference?

    In Washington State all lesson plans have to be tied to state-crafted skills requirements – just like in Texas. However, we are so far not required to report progress in all these areas on report card.

    The standards-based card also makes it difficult to compare “apples to apples.” Parents will still be asking – is that and A, B, C? – etc.

    Finally, at the end of the day, the method of assessing whether a student is “getting it,” is based on test scores. This is how teachers can quantify whether learning has occurred. For example, a behavioral objective for third grade math, would be that 75% of students scored above an 84% on their unit test. Hence, the teachers still have the grades at hand. Why not publish these on the report card?

  3. Judy C. says:

    It is always interesting when the design of a report card is changed and teachers and families try to understand how to complete the documentation and how to interpret the information shared. I have two questions related to the efficiency and validity of these report cards. First, how are students with identified special needs or learning differences evaluated? Many students with learning differences are not at ‘grade level’ with concepts and skills. Will they score ‘below basic’ on most of the skills/concepts listed? Secondly, if a family moves from a district using this report card model to another state using a different model or to a different country, what will the impact be on the student trying to get into a top school when there aren’t any grades per se? The pendulum has swung again.

  4. Chantal says:

    I think this is a lot of detailed work for the underpaid teachers to write. This can all be discussed in person at the parent teacher conference. The child should be marked according to his own progress and show where he needs more help too.

  5. Melissa says:

    My son’s elementary school made a similar, if less pronounced, move toward a skill-based evaluation instead of a letter grade report card. I welcomed the idea, looking forward to receiving greater insight into his achievements. However, when I received the evaluation I was disappointed. I felt that rather than providing more insight, it left me feeling less sure about his progress. The “apples for apples” element was lost. In public schools where you don’t have the privilege of small classes and narrative reports, I think simplicity is the answer, complimented by the more and more elusive parent-teacher conference. I would rather see the teachers spend time conferring with parents, even if it is only a five ,one-to-one meeting, than spend hours on a new reporting system that does not necessarily deliver more information than the exisiting options.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: