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How to Read and Respond to End-of-Year Report Cards

How well your child did in school may seem like a big deal, but remember that final grades are only one measure of academic success, and how hard your child worked, what he learned, and how he grew need to be looked at over the year as a whole. Here are some guidelines to help you understand the big picture and encourage and foster a positive attitude towards learning that will last through the summer.

  • Interpreting 
    Hopefully, your child's teacher has explained how students are evaluated. If the marks at year's end are still a mystery, or you need a refresher, check your school's Web site or that of the local PTA which often have how-to-read guides just for parents. If the report card doesn't include information about the entire year, pull out report cards from previous quarters/semesters and see what has changed. A "satisfactory" or B grade may be a significant improvement from an earlier streak of "below expectations" or C grades and should be recognized. Also spend time reading teachers' comments to inform you of the shades of accomplishment within the black-and-white world of numbers and letters. Last, look for trends in which subjects your child thrives upon and which give him trouble.
  • Responding
    Start off by praising the positive. Congratulate your child not only on As but also on getting better grades in subjects he has difficulty with. Ask him which grade he is proudest of and why. Involve him in discussions about his successes and challenge him to explain how he got a good grade. It's easy to ask, "What went wrong?" when looking at an "unsatisfactory," but it may be far more useful to ask, "What went right?" for a good grade to see how that achievement can translate to other more difficult areas.

    When talking with your child about problem areas, don't yell or blame her for the grade. Focus on discussing the class itself. Ask her if the work was too difficult or the class went too fast. If she says she was bored or "hated it," find out if she thought the class was too easy and ask her to explain her dislikes and try to address them. For example, if math is "useless" and "dull," find ways in the future to show her how math is used in subjects she loves, from space exploration to shopping to computer games.

    Second, ask about homework. Was he getting enough time to complete it or were extracurriculars taking up too much after-school time? Was he distracted from completing work at home? If your child doesn't have a special homework area, spend some time over the summer with him brainstorming and creating a new study space for back to school.

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