The Report Card Wow Factor

Getting a report card is no fun when you have no chance to get a good one.

Wow, we’re coming up on report cards already! And, wow, we’re still grading kids with disabilities by the same standards as everyone else! So that way, of course, they can see how deficient they are in what they’re supposed to know, thereby adversely and badly damaging their confidence, self-esteem, and desire to put in an effort in school.


I know I’ve written about this before, but can someone please elucidate the very fine reasons for presenting a hard-working child – who won’t likely ever be on grade level because of a cognitive disability – with an unsavory report of grades multiple times every year? What is the inherent message? Choose any of the following:

“Hey, Johnny – you’re really not good at anything.”

“Hey, Sally, if you’d only try harder you might improve.”

“Hey, Billy, all the work you’ve put in this year – pretty worthless.”

“Hey, Annie, you’re a joke.”

And on and on.

I believe, if grades have to be given – and in a standardized system everything absolutely, positively MUST have a number (preferably a punitive one, duh) – then the grades should be given on the basis of student effort and improvement.

Do you know that last year, one of my third grade students improved from a kindergarten to a second grade level in reading? Yes, really. And do you know that on his report card, he got a 1 (i.e. “significantly below grade level”) three separate times? Yes, really.

“Hey, kid – I think what you’ve done is amazing, but sorry, you’re still a 1.” What a message. What a killer. What a way to turn a kid off to school.

If you’re a teacher, you should believe this: it is not the destination that is most important, but the journey. We want our students to grow, challenge themselves, and improve. So then why are we reducing everything to a grade? Doesn’t anything else matter?

3 responses to “The Report Card Wow Factor

  1. I can completely understand and relate to this. It is simply not fair. *Maybe* someday when we are focused/graded on progress and growth, this could change.

  2. We are moving to a standards-based report card in K-2 in my district this year. Had this exact same discussion last week. This will be tough for kids with disabilities and their parents.

  3. We are reworking our report cards in our district to be more ‘what you can do’, what’s next idea. Want to see an example?

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