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Who is your child's report card really intended for?

What is the intended audience of your child's school report card?

Is the intended audience the parents?

Or is the intended audience the students?

Perhaps the audience is other teachers or the principal?

Perhaps it’s all of the above.

As with any written text, knowing who the audience for your text will be is important. It sets the tone of the communication and ensures that the content is pitched at the correct level, using appropriate language.

Typically, report cards are intended to be read by parents. The tone of the language is often formal and direct. The data is presented in a numeric system that is best understood by an adult audience familiar with reading similar types of texts. Unless your school has specifically designed their report cards to be student friendly, it’s probably not fair to share the contents of report cards directly with your child. I’m not suggesting that shielding children from the “truth” is necessary (and I use the term truth loosely when it comes to report cards), but if the delivery system isn’t accessible because the language is too sophisticated or the information is simply not useful for them to know, then don’t share it in that format.

In an ideal world, student data would be available for parents and students to see all year round in a format that is accessible and friendly to everyone in the intended audience group. Some schools are doing a great job of this! Some schools involve students in the assessment and reporting process to the point where students even sign their own report cards and lead their parents through the data like personal statisticians.

But if your child’s report card is the more common, sterile and formal document, dripping with rating scales, grades and generic comments cut and paste from banks of comments written so as not to alarm, offend or really say much at all, you might like to remind your child that report cards are an adult to adult communication. By all means, paraphrase the content into an accessible format for your child and discuss the report but please don’t let your child reduce themselves or their value as a learner down to a 5 point rating scale and a paragraph of generic statements cut and paste from a comment bank by a tired teacher who is clawing their way towards a well earned holiday period.

Please also remember that report cards are not statistically accurate nor comprehensive measures of your child’s actual abilities. They are, at best, a subjective estimate based largely on anecdotal notes or flawed assessment tools which do not reflect the whole story of your child’s learning experience.

Look at your child’s report card with calm and informed perspective and then pop it in the drawer having taken from it what you need. That year 4 report card is going to mean very little in the greater scheme of things. Take what you can from the information shared and move forward with a positive plan of action focused on progress and lifelong learning. Focus on progress, not grades.



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