Report-card language baffles parents

Report cards are confusing and tell parents little about how their children are doing, a Lower Sackville, N.S., man says.

Report cards are confusing and tell parents little about how their children are doing at school, a Lower Sackville, N.S., man says.

Marshall Hamilton has five children. He says teacher comments on the cards are impossible to understand. "I don't see my child in the comments," he says.

He points to a comment on his daughter's English Language Arts evaluation: "Has met most of the outcomes for writing this term. She is pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing and proof reading to develop uses of writing and needs to edit her work closely for punctuation and sentence structure."

Hamilton says he's heard the same complaint from other parents.

"The language doesn't really give the parent or the child any idea of critical feedback — whether they are performing well, whether they have things that need to be reinforced or whether there are things to be discouraged," he says.

"I can probably figure out more about what the curriculum is meant to do than to understand my daughter's performance in that curriculum."

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Shelley Morse says teachers agree with Hamilton, but are not permitted to make personal comments.

"Teachers want to make personal comments and we're not allowed. The report cards go to the principals; they read them over. If you have a personal comment, it is sent back to you to take it out," she says.

Ramona Jennex, Nova Scotia's education minister, says her department is concerned that report cards aren't meeting the needs of students and parents, but they are a school board responsibility.

"The department's guidelines on report cards say that teachers should provide clear, straightforward, jargon-free, student-specific information. The comments should help students and parents understand their strengths, where they can improve and what they can do to improve," she says.

"We'll work with school boards and teachers to ensure report cards meet the needs of students and parents."

Listen to the full conversation.