Are report cards sufficient to assess a child’s education?

A recent Gallup poll conducted in partnership with the nonprofit Learning Heroes revealed a significant disparity between parents’ perceptions of their children’s academic performance and the reality reflected by standardised tests. This eye-opening revelation underscores the crucial significance of delving deeper into a child’s progress beyond mere report cards, highlighting the need for open communication between parents and educators. 

Grades have long been regarded as the ultimate indicator of a student’s academic proficiency. However, Bibb Hubbard, founder and president of Learning Heroes, warns against relying solely on grades to gauge a child’s grade-level mastery. While 88 percent of parents believe their children are on grade level in reading, and 89 percent believe the same for math, federal surveys suggest that half of all US students started the previous school year behind grade level in at least one subject.

Researchers have found that during the Covid-19 pandemic, many school districts adjusted their grading policies to accommodate the challenges faced by students. This leniency may have resulted in inflated grades, concealing the learning gaps that are evident in standardized test results. Dan Goldhaber, director of the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, emphasizes the need to consider both grades and standardized test scores to gain a comprehensive understanding of a child’s academic progress.

Recognising the impact of the pandemic on students’ learning, districts across the country have allocated federal pandemic relief funds to various academic recovery programs. These programs range from intensive tutoring to summer academic initiatives. However, despite the efforts made by educators, the number of students participating in these programs often falls short of expectations. It is crucial for parents to be aware of and actively engage in these opportunities to support their child’s academic journey.

The Gallup poll findings highlight the need for increased communication between parents and teachers regarding a child’s academic progress. While half of the respondents reported discussing their child’s progress with a teacher, the percentage significantly increased to 74% among parents who acknowledged their child’s math proficiency was below grade level. Sarah Carpenter, director of The Memphis Lift, emphasizes the limitations of report cards and advocates for a more comprehensive approach that includes information about a child’s reading level.

By fostering open dialogues between parents and educators, families can become effective advocates for their children within the school system. Trenace Dorsey-Hollins, a parent and founder of the advocacy group Parent Shield Fort Worth, stresses the importance of leveraging information to demand better educational opportunities for all children. Understanding a child’s academic progress empowers parents to work collaboratively with educators, ensuring that each student receives the support they require.

Report cards, while providing some insight into a child’s academic performance, may not offer a complete picture of their grade-level mastery. As parents, it is crucial to go beyond grades and engage in meaningful conversations with teachers to gain a comprehensive understanding of your child’s progress. By embracing open communication and advocating for your child’s educational needs, you can become an active participant in their academic journey. Remember, knowledge is power, and with this knowledge, you can help shape a brighter future for your child and all children.