Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 14/14.5.1

Report Cards:Good or Bad?

Amanda Burke

Learning Targets Edit

  • The reader will identify the pros and cons of using report cards to measure student progress.
  • The reader will identify alternative ways of measuring student progress.
  • The reader will be able to define the School's Report Card.

Introduction Edit

It is fifteen minutes until class is dismissed. The teacher has waited all day to hand out the item in his hand. He wanted to avoid the chaos that goes along with it, this small manila envelope containing, for some, the most anticipated and others the most dreaded thing of the school year. Report cards! The deed is done. Each student responds in a different way. Some can't open them fast enough, eager to see the list of As and check marks, but others hold it slowly in front of them take a deep breath and hope to some higher power that they somehow will not be grounded for the next six weeks. Report cards have long been the standard of communication between school and home. These reports are meant to show the students progress in the classroom, and display the grade that the student has earned in each subject. There is also usually a section that reflects the student’s motor, social, and behavioral skills as well. Some schools also use midterm reports to help students judge where they stand and make improvements to grades before the next reporting period. These report periods are usually every six to nine weeks. Educators, however, are starting to question if these reports are in fact the best way to judge a students’ progress. Some also question whether or not report cards, that are strictly grade based, are more harmful than helpful to the student. We will look at both the pros and cons to these issues, and also some alternative ways to assess student progress.

The Good Edit

Report cards are a great way for parents to know how their child is performing in school. "The purpose of report cards is to convey information from the school to parents about a student's educational progress."(Friedman,1995)They do just that. Traditional report cards show either the numerical grade earned, or it may be converted into a letter grade: A,B,C,D,or F, with A being top performance and F failing. This serves as a great communication tool for parents. Straight letter grading can also help teach responsibility in the student. If they fail to turn in assignments or do poorly on other assessments, then this greatly affects their grades. This in turn helps teach students that they are responsible for their actions and motivates them to meet future goals. Letter grades can be assigned in many ways to help students overcome any areas of poor performance. The Association for Physiological Science discusses different types of grading to best benefit the student. These include "weighted letter grades, accumulated points, definitional assessment, median grading, or holistic grading." (Zlokovich, 2001) (Click to see more information about each style.[1]) Each of these grading styles can result in an accurate letter grade that corresponds with mastery of a state standard, and indicates if the child is showing progress. Letter grading is seen by some as the most fair way to grade. If there are a number of points available for an assignment then every student has the same chance of scoring the highest grade. This method of grading promotes accountability on the student's and parents part. Not everyone agrees that report cards are beneficial. Let's look at some of the cons associated with report cards.

The Bad Edit

There is much concern that traditional report cards are not successfully showing student progress.There has been much debate as to whether or not teachers should award only a letter grade. Many see the act of assigning a letter grade as being inconsistent. Some teachers may assign grades based on mastery of standards, and some assign grades in comparison to other students in the class. (Francis,2006)What this means essentially is that a child may be able to deliver a particular grade for an assignment, but he may not have mastered the material. The opposite may also occur. Maybe he knows the standard but was not able to perform well enough on an assignment to earn a grade reflective of this. This lends to an unfair grading system, and no proof of improvement or ability of the students. Another problem surrounding use of traditional grades is that students and parents may not understand exactly what the grade means. (Francis,2006) They may see Cs or Ds and think their child is falling behind, but the teacher may view that student as just being slightly below average compared to other student's performance. Traditional letter grading can be too subjective. Students may earn high letter grades, but perform poorly on standards tests, such as the Virginia SOLs.(Delisio, 2007)There is also the belief that letter grading can have a negative effect on students self esteem and motivation. If they repeatedly see themselves failing or performing lower than their friends they may begin to doubt their ability. This in turn could set the student up for even greater failure, or develop a situation of learned helplessness, in which the student feels they cannot do it and will not even try. It could also foster negative competition between friends at school or between siblings at home. Instead of focusing on learning the material, the student may be more focused on trying to beat a brother, sister, or friend by earning higher grades to impress them. This, again, could be a situation where the student may score well but not retain the information given. A student may also feel pressured to perform by parents who expect nothing short of straight As. This is a learned reaction because of the tradition of report cards. The parent was expected to earn high grades when they were a child, and may not fully understand what a letter grade means in today's education system. Although communication is needed to keep parents informed, it for these reasons that traditional report cards are often considered bad. There have been some alternatives addressed to help mend these concerns and still keep parents informed with a more accurate report.

The Alternatives Edit

Many people argue that traditional report cards are not an effective method of measuring student progress since the focus has shifted more to state standards and accountability. According to Education World, "a report card revolution has been gaining momentum in the U.S., started by state standards, and accelerated by the testing and accountability provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act." (Delisio, 2007) There have been many alternatives proposed to traditional letter grade report cards. Some of the alternatives suggested are age appropriate skills checklists, narratives added to traditional report cards, pass or fail grading systems, or a combination of two or more of these. Skills checklists would indicate if a student has met a state standard, or SOL. Narratives would still support a traditional report card, but would give an opportunity for teachers to prove students have improved since the last report. (Francis, 2006) Pass/fail or met/not met is simply what it states a student has either passed the subject or met the goal being graded. These types of reports could help alleviate the concerns surrounding report cards. Checklists and narrative reports take the guess work out of determining how a child is progressing. They will clearly show whether the student has met the goals established for them. Even if a letter grade still exists, a narrative could clearly explain what that grade means. Pressure to perform and low self esteem issues when a desired score is not reached could be a thing of the past for today's students. With the face of education changing, many schools have already chosen to change their method of assessing student progress. These alternative reports are appearing in more and more schools across the country. As education is changing so is the face and role of assessments. Below are some samples of different types of report cards.


  • Click here for examples of a traditional letter grade report card.[2] or [3]
  • Click here for an example of a skills checklist report card.[4]
  • The above photo is an example of a Met/Not Met/Improvement report card.

These three examples show the unique differences between a traditional report card,a skills checklist that is specifically tailored towards state standards, and a met not met report. Notice on the traditional cards only the subject being graded is listed and on the skills checklist each standard is listed for that individual subject. This is thought by many to be a more effective way to measure student progress. The met/not met card simply shows that they have met the goal, not met it, or needs improvement. I consider these to be great examples of three varying types of assessment reporting.

What is the School Report Card and the Nations Report Card? Edit

In addition to individual report cards given to students the state also issues a report card for each school and school district. We will look specifically at Virginia as an example. "The Virginia School Report Card provides information on student achievement, accreditation, safety, and attendance for the state as a whole and for individual schools"(VDOE,2008).As part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, each state is required to meet certain federal goals and standards. Each state releases a school report card to show their progress towards these goals. The Virginia Department of Education claims it will have meet these goals when:"All children achieve high academic standards and are proficient in reading and mathematics, all children of limited English proficiency become proficient in English, all children are taught by highly qualified teachers, all students attend schools that are safe, drug free, and conducive to learning, and all students graduate from high school" (VDOE,2008). This report card is intended to show the federal government, parents of students and the public that our schools are meeting and/or working hard to meet these goals. Visit the Virginia Department of Education to search for individual schools or district report cards.[5] Another report card is the Nation's Report Card. [6](Click to visit)This a report of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. "NAEP reports information on student performance for the nation, states, and in some cases, urban districts in a variety of subject areas." (NAEP,2008) Not every student participates in this exam. students are selected to provide the most accurate sampling possible. There is a sampling taken from different schools and states across the nation. Students are tested in various subject areas. The intent of the NAEP is to make streamlined comparisons between states, a hard task due to the different standards each state requires. The results are compiled and published as the Nation's Report Card. This is available to the public to see where our education system stands, and can also be used by policy makers, principals, educators and teachers in decision making processes. (NAEP 2008)

Quiz Edit

1. What is a state school report card?
A. Assessment report of SOL given to individual students each year.
B. Final transcript given for graduation purposes.
C. State school budget report.
D. Yearly report of school's accedemic progress.

2.Which act has forced educators to reconsider the traditional report card?
A. American Reporting Act
C. No Child Left Behind Act
D. West Coast Research Act

3.This note appears next to a C on a students report card and is an example of what: Timmy has made great improvements in the last 9 weeks. He has met each SOL for social studies, made a greater effort to turn in assignments, and has improved overall one letter grade.
A. Met/Not Met
B. Narrative
C. Passing
D. Skills Checklist

4.A met/not met type of report card would best be suited for what grade level? A.Fith

Answers. 1. D 2.C 3.B 4.B

References Edit

Delisio,Ellen.(2007)What Will Your School's Next Report Card Look Like? Retrieved Oct 25,2008 from Education World. Website:

Francis, Ryan.(2006)Report Cards:Do They Make the Grade?Retrieved Oct 25,2008 from Education World. Website:

Friedman, Stephen and David Frisbie. (1995,February)The Influence of Report Cards on the Validity of Grade Reported to Parents.Educational and Psychological Measurement (55)5-26 Retrieved Oct 26,2008 from Wilson Web Website:

National Assessment of Educational Progress.(2008)An Introduction to NAEP. Retrieved Oct 26,2008 from the US Department of Education. Website:

Virginia School Report Card, The. (2008). Retrieved Oct, 23 2008, from Virginia Department of Education.Website:

Zlockovich, Martha.(2001, January)Grading for Optimal Student Learning. APS Observer 14(1)Retrieved Oct 25,2008 from Association for Psychological Science Website:

Reader ResponseTbandy001 (talk) 21:19, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

I personally like the topic that you picked, I have never been a fan of grades and report cards because I felt like it doesn't display what it is intended for. Report cards are supposed to asses out knowledge but I believe they don't. Report cards take away from the initial point of learning, instead you'll have a lower grade because you missed too many days or you forgot to turn in an assignment or you were sick so you didn't get a chance to take in all the knowledge so when it comes to taking the test, you are unprepared. You made it clear what a report card was and what it is intended to do. I liked the fact that you clearly elaborated on the fact that some believe report cards are negative feedback not positive. I also agreed with your alternative methods in regards to the report card. I thought the checklist in regards to a persons age was a really smart idea. I think that is the best idea thus far in regards to cirriculmn.

Rate This!