Report Cards – Then and Now!

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Written by Jill (Teach Starter)

“I remember when report cards used to be a tick box and one sentence at the end.”

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I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, or possibly even exclaimed it yourself! It’s true, actually – I found my report cards from when I was in primary school recently and they were indeed a tick box for performance and application for each Key Learning Area and a tick box for consistency in cultural areas and work habits. We were slightly off, though – there were three sentences about me at the end of my report cards!

Then I moved on to my high school report cards. These were written by hand… using a pen… and a hand! No thank you! Imagine having so many students and writing a paragraph about each of them by hand. No cut and paste option, there. These reports again consisted of a tick box for effort and participation, then a breakdown of my overall position in the class. This was the section that we eagerly looked at to see where we were ranked in relation to our peers – no, I’m not competitive or anything! I will say though, the comments certainly weren’t as complimentary as my primary school reports!

Now, as a teacher, when I say that I can’t catch up for a while because I have to write report cards, my friends don’t understand what all the fuss is about. For them, they are remembering the tick box and the one or possibly two sentences that were written on their primary school report cards all those years ago. It’s an understatement to say that report cards have grown quite a lot since then. At times, it feels like you are knocking out a Harry Potter sequel!

As a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed new teacher, I found myself writing my first set of report cards. I was asked to write a rather lengthy paragraph about each of my students in every KLA, as well as a behaviour comment and a general comment. I arrogantly thought, What is everyone stressing about? How hard can it be? Well, reality smacked me hard and after countless early mornings, late nights, long weekends and bouts of tears, I finally finished my first set of report cards. I had to print them out for my admin representative to proofread – 78 doubled-sided pages, in small print! I don’t know when the change came in, but report cards had multiplied in size since I was at school. In addition to this, for most people without an education degree, they were also very difficult to comprehend. Comments like – {Name} needs to consolidate his understanding of subitising in order to competently connect numbers and their various representations. Are you kidding me? I wondered if this type of comment was useful for parents and carers and provided them with the information they needed to effectively assist their children!

I decided to talk to several of my teacher friends about report cards and they have been telling me that there is indeed a change afoot in the report card air. One of my friends has been instructed to provide comments that are in bullet-points to make them easier for parents and carers to read and understand. Another has been told that they only have to write general comments and behaviour comments. All of the KLAs will have a generic comment for each year level. I can see both pros and cons for each of these scenarios – but, at the end of the day, report cards are intended to provide parents, carers and our students with information about their learning, their aptitude and any areas that they can improve on. Whether this information is written in large, wordy paragraphs, bullet points or generic comments, we need to hit that sweet spot for both teachers and parents and carers.

I’m interested to know; how do you write your report cards? Is your school trying something different? Do you think report cards effectively provide information to parents and carers the way they are? Do you use comment banks?

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