Report card grades aren’t the best way to measure academic achievement, says study
Is your child doing well in school? To be certain, you’ve got to look past their report card grades. Source: Santi Vedrí/Unsplash

Parents often rely heavily on report cards to see how well their child is performing at school, but recent research suggests that it may not be the best barometer of students’ academic performance.

In the US, a study titled Parents 2018: Going Beyond Good Grades by non-profit Learning Heroes suggests there may be a disconnect between grades in report cards and actual academic achievement.

Their report notes that two-thirds of teachers say report cards do not only reflect mastery of grade-level content, but also effort, progress, and participation in class.

“Though nearly eight in 10 say achievement or mastery of concepts factors into report card grades for their students, nearly seven in 10 also factor in progress over the grading period, (the) effort put forward over the grading period, and participation or engagement in class,” noted the report.

This research comes after findings from the last three years have shown that nearly nine in 10 parents, regardless of race, income, geography, and education levels, believe their child is achieving at or above grade level. However, national test scores indicate only about one-third of students perform at that level.

The report notes that parents’ confidence that their child is meeting grade-level standards seems to stem from their heavy reliance on report card grades as their primary source of information.

Unsurprisingly, 58 percent of teachers indicate report cards and annual test scores together are the best way for a parent to understand how their child is doing academically while 64 percent of teachers agree that parents focus too much on report card grades alone.

Conversely, the report notes that neither parents nor teachers put annual state tests, which can be a more objective picture of performance, on equal footing with report card grades.

“When asked to choose the most and least important items in assessing how well a child is doing in school, both parents and teachers rated results from the annual state tests at or near the bottom,” said the report.

“Still, a majority of parents (53 percent) and teachers (53 percent) agree that the results from annual state tests indicate where students have done well and where they may need some additional help. Forty-six percent of teachers agree that state test results help them to tailor instruction for their students.”

Report card grades are a source of pressure for teachers

Many teachers struggle to let parents know about their child’s poor academic performance. Source: Shutterstock

“Many teachers report feeling pressure from administrators when it comes to report card grades: 56 percent say they are expected to let students redo work for additional credit, and 34 percent are expected to avoid giving too many low report card grades,” said the report.

Teachers said the pressure comes from many sources, including from their principal (47 percent), school district (41 percent) and from other administrators at their school or from parents (32 percent).

Nine in 10 teachers feel it is important to ensure parents know how their child is achieving academically, including when their child is struggling.

“More than eight in 10 teachers say they are expected to contact parents when their child is not meeting grade-level standards, or is in jeopardy of or is receiving failing grades.”

However, this isn’t always easy as parents may blame the teacher when their child fails to perform at the appropriate level; parents may not believe the teacher, especially if the information contrasts with what the parent sees at home; they may fear that the problem will be elevated to the principal, creating more problems for the teacher; in addition to teachers not being given the proper support from school administrators to relay this sort of information.

To boot, 53 percent of teachers have no formal training or workshops on how to have difficult conversations with parents, while a measly 29 percent are satisfied with their support in these situations.

As each student comes with their unique set of challenges, hopefully, this report would shed some light for parents to look at the bigger picture when it comes to their child’s report card grades.

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