Is your child's report card a bit boring? There's a good reason for that

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

I had three report cards appear in my inbox in the last week of school term. I look forward to report card season because it gives me an opportunity to find out exactly how my children are going at school, but there's something about report cards lately that has been bothering me: they all look kind of the same.

There is also a whole lot of official-speak that I can't help but feel has been copied and pasted from a playbook of possible report entries sitting on their teachers' desktops.

I recently sifted through some of my old report cards from when I was at school and found comments such as, "Carolyn is a bright girl but would do better if she could overcome her shyness and participated in class discussions."

Now I'm reading sentences like, "Impacts of technology over time: Thomas examined changes in technology that have occurred over time and the impact these technologies have had on people's lives."

I mean, that sounds great, but I have no idea whether my son is doing well, or is a pain in his teacher's backside.

I spoke to some other parents about it and they had mixed reviews of their children's report cards.

Brisbane mum of two primary school children Celeste Bartholomew said she was confused by all the academic-speak in the report cards.

"I just want to know if my kid can read, and I'm seeing pages of blah blah that I don't really understand," she said. "I don't want an overview of the entire curriculum, I just want the truth!"

Melanie Selleck, a mum of three children across primary and high schools in Melbourne, disagrees.

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"I love the report cards my kids bring home," she said. "I can actually see what they've been learning, where they're doing well, and what areas they might need help with next semester."

If your child's report card feels like it's following a formula, there could be a good reason, according to Louise Johnston, Co-Founder of Empowering Parents and a Director of Learning and Teaching at a Melbourne primary school.

"Some schools do write their student reports from a bank of comments," she says. "I believe the purpose is to ensure that the reports are consistent throughout a year level."

Louise also says teachers try to keep the reports positive.

"A school report is a legal document and should describe what a child can do and the teacher should have evidence to support the grade and comment given," she says. "If a report is written in this way and a parent queries an element of the report, the teacher should be able to give a clear explanation of why the report or grade was given."

Report card season is a time of extra pressure for teachers, with the expectation that reports are written while teachers also keep up with their regular workload.

"Most schools don't decrease workload during the report writing period and as a result, reports are completed outside of work hours, in a teacher's own personal time," explains Louise.

"Also, particularly in primary school, the curriculum is crowded meaning that a teacher only has a short time to teach and assess many elements of the curriculum. Combined, this places additional pressure on teachers when writing reports."   

For those parents that zone out while reading long and wordy report cards, Louise has some advice: "I would encourage parents to always read their child's report card. The learning journey is only enhanced when the school, parent(s) and child are working together and on a similar page."

These report cards might not be perfect, but Louise says they can still be used by parents and children as a helpful educational tool.

"Depending on how the reports are written at the school, having a conversation with your child around how they feel they are going at school is really beneficial. Asking age appropriate questions such as, 'What are you really proud of in regards to your learning this semester?' or 'What was something challenging you faced?' is a great way of hearing your child's perspective of their achievement at school."