Understanding School Report Cards – Do They Tell Us Enough?

by aiims | 17th July 2016 |

For a lot of parents, understanding their child’s school report is one of the biggest challenges in a school year. The school report is a parent’s window into their child’s academic progress. It should provide vital updates on how students perform in each subject as well as areas of weakness that need to be improved on. Teachers are expected to accurately grade each student based on their abilities and to provide valuable comments to support these evaluations.

What is a School Report?

Parents should be able to read their child’s school reports and clearly understand how they are performing inside the classroom. Yet this is not always the case. With an increasing reliance on technology and software to help generate school reports, Deputy Headteacher David James acknowledges the detrimental effect of this in writing effective and meaningful reports. When teachers have to write hundreds of school reports within a tight deadline, it is no wonder that “many choose to copy and paste rather than write finely polished prose for each student.” This can make it rather difficult to understand anything in a child’s school report as often it can contain information that is irrelevant or too broad in description.

James argues a new system must be put into place whereby teachers can truly use school reports for their actual purpose – to inform parents and be useful in tracking the progress for each student’s learning and development.

Heather Fehring, a Professor at RMIT University in the School of Education believes that a good school report should tell parents what their child knows about the subject and should also detail how the teacher plans to support the child’s learning. We couldn’t agree more with the Professor. In this opinion piece, Professor Fehring also mentions the importance of keeping parents in the loop with regards to children’s social skills development, as “13-plus years is a long time to be going to primary and secondary school”.

Here, at Global Education Academy we often get asked by parents to help decipher their child’s school report. Below, we help to breakdown the main sections and show you how to understand a school report.

The A to E descriptions of achievement

There is now a statewide curriculum standard across all NSW schools whereby the “A to E descriptions of achievement” will indicate how well students have achieved subject objectives. These grades show how well a student has understood and applied their knowledge based on the statewide standard for that subject.

A – Outstanding achievement

B – High achievement

C – Sound achievement

D – Basic achievement

E – Limited achievement

These graded ratings show how well students are grasping and using concepts rather than a ranking of their performance. The “C” grade means a student is performing at the expected level in his or her peer group. An “A” shows exceptional understanding and ability that is well above what is expected whilst
an “E” indicates a low level of achievement and one that is well below the statewide standard. Students who receive this need further assistance in their learning.

Simply being told how students compare to an expected learning standard is not enough. Parents need to be told more about their child’s ability and learning process. If a child is averaging ‘A’ and ‘B’ grades – how do we help them maintain this as they enter the next year in school? Similarly, if we know a student is performing poorly, more insight needs to given as to how and where in a subject does the student have difficulty?

Achievements in components of a subject

This section shows parents how well their child is engaged in a subject. Components will be specific to each subject (e.g. Reading for English, Numbers for Maths). Students are measured via the following ratings:

  • Outstanding achievement
  • High achievement
  • Sound achievement
  • Basic achievement
  • Limited achievement

Parents will notice here the exact same categories used in the previously mentioned “A to E desciptions of achievement”, which can understandably cause confusion. There is no grading system for this section – parents are simply given a snapshot of their child’s “achievement” level within specific areas of focus in each subject. This is somewhat more useful than an “A to E” grading system but only just. What does it mean when a student has basic achievement in say ‘Writing’? How does one go about helping to improve this? It has only helped to locate a weakness without offering any further insight. To continue with this ‘Writing’ example, there are many aspects such as grammar, composition or sentence construction. Where is the weakness?

The Comment Section

This section will detail a teacher’s thoughts and will contain what they feel best needs to be communicated to parents. It is by far the easiest part to understand in a school report but is it the most valuable? Parents should expect to read constructive feedback that further support the grades and ratings provided earlier in the school report, but as we have found and discussed above, this is not always the case. Time limitations and technological advances have seen to that.

 

Is there a Better Way to Understand our Children’s Performance?

School reports are a good way to be informed on how our children are performing academically but it seems there is a limitation into how meaningful they are. Confidence is low and many parents just simply don’t understand their child’s school report. This article summarises quite well the confusion and lack of faith in this yearly documented ritual.

As parents, you cannot change this system. But there are other ways to find out how your child is performing.

At Global Education Academy, we aim to consistently provide value to our students and parents. Before we even start to work with you, we need to know more about students than what a school report tells us, and we do not have the luxury of time that most teachers have had in the classroom.

For this reason, our initial assessments are conducted for new students in literacy and numeracy. We go beyond how each child is performing at their expected age and delve further into strengths and weaknesses as well as patterns in logical thinking and reading/writing fluency. After pinpointing what these are, our assessments show us exactly in which areas these need further development. We don’t simply tell you what is missing but show you where the work needs to be focused and how we will be doing that. An in-depth discussion where we show you what our assessment results mean and how it translates into what the next steps should be.

A recommended course of action is provided and this is completely catered to each student. Unless it makes sense to do so, they are not simply placed into a class with other students of similar level as we recognise no two students are the same.

To book an appointment with us or to take our inhouse assessment, simply get in contact with us.

 

 

 

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