Children in school


I Don’t Think Report Cards Are The Best Way To Grade Children

Mar 21, 2019

In my circle of friends there's been a lot of anxiety around report cards. Were our kids having trouble? Why did none of them seem to fit the mold required for school? It didn’t make sense.

This is not a criticism of teachers, but of the tool they’ve been given.

Any kid outside the four corners of a very precise box will have their ups and downs with school. Anxious, confident, quiet, loud, social, a loner — any of those things can make day to day in the classroom a little more complicated.

However, instead of resign to worry, I've come to the conclusion that the kids are fine. They sometimes like school and they sometimes don’t. Some of them struggle with grades and some of them don’t. And then some of them catch up. Some of them care about not being at the top of the class and some of them aren’t at all bothered. The problem is not with the children — the problem is with report cards.

Related Reading: Yes, You Should Go To Parent-Teacher Interviews And Here’s What To Keep In Mind

Attempting linear, straightforward grading on children is ridiculous. There are easy As and hard earned Bs and Cs that don’t make any sense because the kid developed their own at-home science lab to study cancer in rats, but they just happen to hate geology. Unfortunately, the grades all come out looking the same to parents: we’ve succeeded or we’ve failed.

... the kids are fine. They sometimes like school and they sometimes don’t. Some of them struggle with grades and some of them don’t.

"Different is good," our kids hear over and over — until report cards come home. Then they’re not keeping up or need "reading club" and all of a sudden different is SCARY. But has "different" even been properly identified or defined? This is not a criticism of teachers, but of the tool they’ve been given. After four years in the system, I question the accuracy of report cards.

I think we have to remember as parents that there are many ways to be smart — report cards do not define them all. Those little brown envelopes are not stuffed with my child’s future.

Related Reading: My Kids Hate School And I Don’t Want Them To Know I Did Too

The range of normal is wide. My child’s place on that range will change year to year, teacher to teacher. I try to remember what I know about my child — if they're an excellent reader, it truly does NOT matter what the report card says.

Of course, serious learning issues need to be addressed to get help when needed, but again, did I need grades on a report card to know that? Perhaps a more effective way of tracking progress would be to do away with letter grades in the primary years altogether (or maybe something similar to Finland's system?). Just leave the comments that pertain to their learning styles. We have to be able to see our children through what might just be a tough three months, or three years, and not act cuckoo bananas over a string of Cs.

Finally, maybe the most important thing to remember, is that the report card doesn’t define us as parents. We’ve placed so much of ourselves in these little beings, want them to have every success, and they will in their own ways — it’s just the reporting tool that’s a failure.

Article Author Yasmine Abbasakoor
Yasmine Abbasakoor

Read more from Yasmine here.

Yasmine Abbasakoor was a television development executive before leaving to pursue her dream job of being a stay-at-home mum. After five years of living it up in the sandbox and laundry room, she’s ready to share her myriad of musings with the world once again. Connect with Yasmine in her kitchen (she’s the one standing behind the island) or on Linkedin.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.