20/20 Vision on School Report Comments

It’s time for a change, but how far can we go? In the days of open gradebooks, emails, texting and instant feedback, how do we make report cards a valuable experience for students, parents, and teachers?

The first step is admitting there’s a problem. Report cards have become an arbitrary matter for schools, but what is their value? For parents, it can be a good communication tool between them and the teacher. The grades do only say so much and the report is an opportunity to provide further detail. However, teachers can be constrained by word counts and language barriers, add to that our propensity to infuse comments with edu-jargon, is it possible that we can really provide any meaningful information? As a parent (and a teacher), I know I even have trouble deciphering my daughters’ reports. For the students, it’s all about the marks. I know that this is somewhat dismissive but it’s a rare student indeed that actually reads, processes and applies the comments with any degree of consistency. I will say that this can be a learning opportunity for students and shouldn’t be disregarded but again, is it the best way to accomplish this? For the teacher, even the mention of the comment bank opening can trigger sweaty palms and major avoidance tactics. We have all manner of systems and innovations in place to revolutionize assessments and evaluations, why not report comments? Essentially this protocol has gone unchanged since I was a student 20 years ago.

In discussions with my Head of Academics, who’s onboard (yay!), change is coming. One idea, which was his and I cannot take credit for, was instead of advisor comments, which at present simply summarize what has already been said by the teachers, advisors interview the students and they provide a written reflection on the report that is submitted to their parents. Good idea, huh? Versions of this were happening at my old school but not with any kind of school mandated support. This would address much of the concerns stated above. But what about the comments themselves? How do teachers find new and innovative ways of saying, “your daughter is doing well and I’m not concerned?” to “WHOA, Houston, we have a problem!” Should the report be the first time the parent is aware of any issues? Do we rely on these timeframes too much? Is the comment the appropriate place to address this, when schools are also quite concerned about the report delivering am overall positive message? If not, then what’s the point of report comments? Needless to say, I have more questions than answers, and they’re somewhat cyclical, but the important thing is, I’m asking.

Posted in Face 2 Face Sessions by with 2 comments.


  • Hi @wdarby,

    It’s great to hear that your Head of Academics is on board with giving students input into their own comments. Doing so gives them ownership both over their own progress, and the information that is communicated home about it. If you are interested, you may want to try to connect with @gvogt on Friday, as he recently implemented a different form of student-driven comments for our interim assessments at RLC. You two may benefit from bouncing ideas, insights, and concerns off one another.

    Good luck with your ongoing project! It sounds like you have really begun to gain traction!

  • @wdarby

    There is some really cool thinking in this space
    Check out – https://www.gettingsmart.com/2014/09/design-challenge-launched-reimagine-school-report-cards/
    and https://tech.ed.gov/essa-report-card-design-challenge/
    I know BSS reports their final report card in the form of a infograpic.
    The fact that you have leadership support is a huge step in the right direction.
    Some of the work to be done is to answer lots of great questions like
    “What is the most meaningful and clear way to report on student learning?
    “Who should the audience be for the report?
    “What learning data should it include?”
    Im looking forward to hearing how this goes.

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