Reading Secondary Report Cards: Talking about Learning

Reading Secondary Report Cards: Talking about Learning

by Liz Andrews, Secondary School Principal

On Friday January 29 the Grade 6-11 semester 1 reports will be available online from 4pm. These report cards provide an update on progress in student learning. Report cards can trigger different emotional responses for students and their parents, particularly in our current situation where uncertainty both locally and globally can impact how we respond to official information, such as report cards.

It was lovely to have over 80 people join us on Tuesday morning for an online workshop about our report card structure. The slideshow presentation used at the workshop is available for all parents. Our goal with the report cards is to share information on each child’s progress in learning in a developmentally appropriate way. Consequently, Grades 6-8 receive narrative reports that describe the skills and concepts they are developing. Their progress is not described with levels of achievement. This is intended to keep the focus on the skills as described in the teacher and student comments. In Grades 9-12 students earn levels of achievement and these are shared on the report card. This is in recognition that students build their transcript throughout high school and it is useful for them to see and understand how their progress contributes to this. All students write a reflective comment and this is a great place to start the conversation.

Thinking about how to discuss this progress in learning is time well spent. One essential piece is that your child knows that your love and support are consistent regardless of the progress in learning. We often recognize that criticism can be harmful; but so can excessive praise that is only focused on outcomes or numbers rather than progress and skills.  It’s okay to share in a child’s disappointment or pride as this gives the message that you care and take notice, but don’t leave it at that. Move the conversation toward strategies for development. It is not your job to fix the concerns for your child. It is their job to turn those concerns around with your input and support.

Choose a constructive time of day for these conversations. (Often not right before dinner or right before bed) If possible do it one child at a time so that everyone shares in the same conversation. If you find it easier to concentrate and respond supportively with a cup of tea or coffee, get that ready beforehand so you can sit down for a nice chat with your child. Arrange a location where everyone can sit down together with the child and their report at the centre. The couch or the dining room table often serve well for this. Avoid distractions including interruptions from phones or potentially disruptive media. The message is that the child is the priority. 

During these conversations emphasize:

  • Positive Self-Reliance - communication that emphasizes effort and progress, as opposed to ability or fault, and independent achievement. Increasing authentic self-esteem and pride in accomplishment and overcoming problems.
  • Safety - promote risk taking and experimenting with different approaches.
  • Trust - preserve your role as a helpful resource the child can continually come to for assistance. 
  • Team support - help your child develop their own concrete strategies for responding to suggestions and areas for growth. 

When thinking about how to start or elicit conversations, you could use phrases like:

  • Tell me about your skills in two of your subjects ....
  • What are some of the things you are proud of from semester 1? Tell me about them...
  • What kind of pattern do you see in your report card? Describe it to me...
  • What have you noticed about how you learn and organise yourself in the different models we have had to use over this semester?
  • What part of the tutor comment means the most to you? 
  • Based on this comment what is one thing you would like to work on going forward?

Semester report cards are only one trigger for conversations about learning with your child. Progress reports, assignment feedback and conferences such as Middle School Student Led Conferences (Feb. 25) and Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences (Gr. 12 on Feb. 10 & 11; Gr. 6-11 on Apr. 1 & 7) are also opportunities to learn more from your child about their progress in learning. Should you have any questions about your child’s report card, start a conversation with them about it. If there is something in the report card you do not understand, please do contact your child’s tutor or subject teacher.