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Report Cards: Guidelines for Every Stage

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This year, the report card might not look like report cards from previous years. After all, education and learning has been very different this year. How can students be graded on standard expectations when learning has been anything but normal?

Students of all ages students adapted to online learning and to disruptions to their regular learning routines. It has not been easy. Not seeing their friends and missing out on extracurricular activities. The pandemic has certainly been a challenge for student mental health!

Even in the face of all the changes and challenges students faced this year, learning carries on.

Pandemic Reporting Recommendations

Even though learning has been very different this year, report cards are still being sent home. According to the Ministry of Education of Ontario, school boards should consider adding the following statement to all outgoing report cards:

This reporting period reflects learning that has occurred in a modified learning
environment as required by the provincial public health guidelines. As a result, the
rate of progress described on this report card may differ from previous years due to
the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on student learning. Ongoing communication with
your child’s teacher will provide additional information pertaining to student progress
throughout the term.

Here’s what to look for on report cards instead:

Kindergarden to Grade 2

  • Social Progress and Behaviour: From the ages of five onward, children are learning to adjust to an academic setting. Report cards tend to report on student’s behavioural and social progress, such as how they are getting along with their peers, and whether they can stay focused on a task.
  • Reading and Basic Skills: Academically, young children are being introduced to the basic skills that they will use to build all future learning upon. Reading progression is critical during the early years. Students should be continually meeting, if not exceeding, the reading progression standards.
  • Incremental Improvement: Children are changing greatly during the early years, and what was a problem today, may not be a problem tomorrow. Even if a particular area might be of concern, parents should watch for incremental improvement from one report card to the next. Always discuss report cards with the teacher, who can give a better picture of a child’s progress.

Grades 3 -8

  • Building Skills: While the early years focus on behaviour and development, the middle years are very important academically. Children are introduced to increasingly difficult academic skills and their ability to learn these foundational skills is very much the focus of report cards.
  • Consistency: Low grades on the report card are not as much of a cause for concern as grades that are dropping. Consistency is key on report cards during the middle years; children should not be going down in grade points.
  • Feelings About Learning: At this stage, emotions can begin to have an impact on how well students learn. Self-confidence and motivation can have a big influence on academics. Students should have a developing belief in themselves as competent learners to help them face challenges, academic and otherwise. School should be fun and learning new subjects should be exciting, for the most part.

Grades 9-12

  • Continual Progression. In high school, report cards are the biggest indicator of academic performance and progression. The first report of the school year is a warning flag—if there are issues, students should get help as soon as possible. There is plenty of time for students to improve grades before the second and final report cards.
  • Having Goals: In high school, students’ grades should reflect their short and long-term goals in life. Students need to consider the long-term outcomes of what their grades will mean to them based on what their future goals are. Whether large or small, setting goals is important at this stage.
  • Managing Stress: The pressure is on: high school students are moving quickly on the fast track towards higher education, and every mark and grade counts. Students should seek extra help as soon as they realize that they need extra support, whether in a particular subject or in study or homework skills. The sooner that students get the support that they need, the less stressful that report cards become.

Success, Despite Everything

Despite all the challenges they faced this year, students kept learning. They adapted to online learning, social distancing, and wearing masks in class. No matter what report cards might say this year, students did a great job in a less-than-ideal situation. One thing we can all agree on is that students of all ages have shown amazing resiliency and determination this year. For that, they deserve a high five!

When the report card comes home this year, be sure to make time to sit down together and review it as a family. Discuss the highs and lows and make a plan for returning to more regular learning routines next year.

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