My 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 .