How to Read and Respond to Report Cards

Learn how to be mindful of how you interpret and respond to your child's grades, no matter how they fared.




How well your child did in school may seem like a big deal, but remember that final grades are only one measure of academic success, and how hard your child worked, what they learned, and how they grew need to be looked at over the year as a whole. Here are some guidelines to help you understand the big picture and encourage and foster a positive attitude towards learning.

How to Interpret Your Child's Grades

Hopefully, your child's teacher has explained how students are evaluated. If the marks are still a mystery, or you need a refresher, check your school's website or that of the local PTA, which often have how-to-read guides just for parents. Pull out report cards from previous quarters/semesters and see what has changed. A "satisfactory" or B grade may be a significant improvement from an earlier streak of "below expectations" or C grades, and should be recognized. Also spend time reading teachers' comments to inform you of the shades of accomplishment within the black-and-white world of numbers and letters. (Here's how to make the most out of your parent-teacher conference!) Lastly, look for trends: Which subjects does your child thrive in, and which ones give them trouble? 

How to Respond

Start off by praising the positive. Congratulate your child not only on A's but also on getting better grades in subjects they have difficulty with. Ask them which grade they are proudest of and why. Involve them in discussions about their successes and challenge them to explain how they got a good grade. It's easy to ask, "What went wrong?" when looking at an "unsatisfactory" marker, but it may be far more useful to ask, "What went right?" for a good grade to see how that achievement can translate to more difficult areas.

When talking with your child about problem areas, don't blame them for the grade. Focus on discussing the class itself. Ask them if the work was too difficult or the class went too fast. If they say they were bored or "hated it," find out if they thought the class was too easy and ask them to explain their dislikes and try to address them. For example, if math seems "useless" and "dull" to your child, find ways in the future to show them how math is used in subjects they love, from space exploration to shopping to computer games. Here are five smart ways to keep kids motivated to learn.

Second, ask about homework. Were they getting enough time to complete it, or were extracurriculars taking up too much after-school time? Were they distracted from completing work at home? (Here's how you can stop homework struggles before they start.) If your child doesn't have a special homework area, spend some time brainstorming and creating a new study space over the break.

And of course, if you have any questions, talk to your child's teacher. Together, you can find solutions to make sure your child thrives and grows during each semester at school. 

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