Mixed signals over report cards need not be a concern

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 July, 2012, 12:00am


We received our daughter's Year Three report recently and I feel it does not reflect her ability or personality. The comments and grades don't really relate to things that were said by her teacher at the parents' evening. Even though we read with her a lot at home and the teacher seemed pleased with her reading at the parents' evening, her reported grades for reading are low.

You are obviously disappointed and slightly shocked. You should definitely have been given a clear picture of your daughter's strengths and weaknesses at parent/teacher consultations earlier in the school year and this exception does seem strange. But misunderstandings do sometimes occur and things may not have been communicated as clearly as they could have been.

It is important to remember that report grades for effort and achievement are very different entities. The teacher may have been very positive at the meetings about your daughter's effort levels and her individual progress in different areas of the curriculum. However, depending on her ability level, this does not necessarily translate into high grades for achievement.

But whatever her ability, her effort and attitude are both key factors to her future success. If she has tried really hard this year and should, therefore, be near to reaching her full potential at this stage in her education, it is vital that she gets praise even if her achievement levels are lower than you expected. If she picks up negative signals from you, these would likely be very discouraging, possibly affecting her self-esteem and willingness to try hard in the future.

It can be difficult for parents to gauge the ability levels of their children. The teacher has the training and experience to understand how well a child is performing and also has an overview of the whole class and age group. Perhaps your daughter's performance has changed since you saw her teacher. But a drastic change that has not been communicated to you is unlikely.

An extra meeting with the teacher would be helpful to clarify points you are unsure about. Discuss how your daughter can make a positive start to the next school year and look at her next steps so if she is struggling in certain areas you are very clear about how you can help her.

Make sure you discuss the different aspects of reading, as this transdisciplinary skill is vital to success in other areas of the curriculum. For example, a child's mechanical reading skills may be excellent but their inferential and literal comprehension may be at a much lower level. They may find it challenging to answer even basic questions about a text or, at a higher level, infer meaning (read between the lines). Some children perform well in one text type but not others. Although a generalisation, girls typically tend to prefer fiction and boys often choose factual texts.

The teacher may not have expanded about all these areas in the limited time a parents' evening offers. Verbal comments are not always as clear as written ones. Your daughter is still young, and you may find that her reading suddenly takes off for no apparent reason. Educators sometimes refer to this as 'reading readiness'.

Try to read to your daughter every day. Modelling is very powerful. The more enthusiastic she is about reading, the more she will want to read herself. At this age, picture books are still highly relevant as well as early chapter books. Talk about the books and pictures, as this can be a valuable bonding experience between parents and children. You could also take her to the public library and let her browse freely and choose some books.

Sometimes, parents and teachers do have different views of a child. Some children behave differently at home and at school. After the disappointment of this report, it is important that you and your daughter learn from it and look forward positively. Try to help your daughter feel good about herself by sharing positive areas of the report, while discussing points to work on. These may become specific targets.

Focus on her individual progress and try not to compare her with other children. All students develop at different paces. Praise her personal achievements and support her in every way possible.

Julie McGuire teaches at a Hong Kong primary school