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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

I'd give this report card comment an N (for needs improvement)

November 18, 2008

A friend in Northern Virginia sent me the text from her son's third grade report card comment. Her e-mail message to me said this: ??????????????????????????????

I've typed the text below, and would love to hear your thoughts. Is it clear? Does it make sense? Are there things parents might need more information about?

Comment in with your suggestions for improvement or with your own experience with report card comments. Next week: I'll combine our ideas to write a revised (interpreted) report card comment for my friend!

Jack's currently reading at a Rigby level 18. At this level with narrative text, Jack's reading is fluent (75 WCPM) and he has adequate comprehension. With expository text, however, Jack's reading becomes disfluent (60 WCPM) and he's unable to answer implicit comprehension questions. We will continue teach strategies such as DRTA and graphic organizers to help assist Jack's comprehension. In spelling, Jack is a within word speller. He's currently studying long vowels and ambiguous vowel patterns. Thank you for your support at home. Daily reading will support the work we're doing here at school.


Thanks for the comment 'rbs' - I'd love to hear about anything you do as a literacy coach to train your teachers to communicate clearly with parents!

I'm a literacy coach and a parent. In my opinion, the comments on the report card were too "professional", almost as if they were copied from a manual. The coach in me had to dissect what the comments meant and look up the Rigby level compared to DRA and Fountas and Pinnell. We, as teachers, should ensure parents can easily understand where children are performing and what their strengths and weaknesses are. It's not the parent's job to critque the report card to find out.

I've had parents beg for specifics like the original post. I think parents need to make it a point to learn the assessments being done at school. You may not speak Chinese, but everytime you eat at a Chinese restaurant you know exactly what dish to order in Chinese. School language is something parents should make an effort to learn. Had the clueless parent gone and inquired about those teacher "terms", it would have been the first step to learning the school language your child will be exposed to throughout his/her education.

As an elementary teacher, I can relate to the comments as we feel we have to justify every instructional decision that we make. We have become so focused on the assessments and data - that I'm afraid we are forgetting that we also should be concerned with the children as whole beings. Does Jack like to read for enjoyment? etc. These comments also are work for the teacher to come up with - but many feel that is what we should be producing as that is what administrators are also wanting - justification for instruction and grades. The pendulum has swung too far and needs to come back towards the middle.Rant off.

Haha.. At least the parents won't understand enough to get so defensive of their child.

At my previous school (which happens to be in Northern VA!!!!), we had a list of "required" information we were to provide in report card comments. I always felt that I was forced to include information that was out of the scope of most parents' understanding (and often it was A LOT more than parents wanted to hear). We were told it had to be on the report card as documentation. Thankfully, most of us were able to write it in "human" language vs. "teacher" language. However, for many who were struggling to learn new assessments and programs, it could often be tough to dicipher and translate the information for our parents. It is so tough when such specific comments are required, then teachers end up having to spend a great deal of time explaining them to the parents. Seems like there should be a BETTER, more effective way. With that being said, surely your friend's teacher should have known better than to simply regurgitate data in the comments. Talk about creating a huge divide between most parents and the teacher. UGH!

Thanks, Alex. I love posting items for comment too - without professional conversations, it's tough to move forward and make progress! Keep 'em coming!

Hey. This is *great*. Parents whine about disconnected teachers who are clueless. Then a teacher puts some frickin' thought into an assessment and then all of a sudden we tell the teacher to dumb it down for us? What a bunch of hypocrites. I say bravo to the teacher who wrote this.Whichever parent emailed this to you has access to email ... to the Internet right? Have they ever heard of Google. sheeshthank you for posting interesting things to read on this website. i love checking it out

That's completely unnecessary for report card comments. If the teacher did want to share those numbers, maybe she could have brought it up during a conference when she could explain them thoroughly. I would never just spout off "teacher terms" like that at my poor parents! Report card comments should just be a basic rundown of things not reflected by the grades, and maybe a suggestion on how to help at home. It is important for parents to be aware of their child's standing, but that dense paragraph could have been translated into 3-4 simpler (and more effective!) sentences.

Schools seem to make a real effort to offer foreign language translators for parents who need them. This report card is totally written in "teacher" and in desperate need of translation to "parent!" Even if these strategies and assessment tools were explained at an earlier parent-teacher conference, the parent can't be expected to remember what it all means. The teachers at my son's school for the most part speak and write "parent," and the PTA has tried to help by including information in all kinds of places that will help parents understand how their kids are being taught and assessed. For example, our school calendar offers a glossary that explains the different tests given throughout the school year.

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"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln