10 Tips from Teachers to Successfully Navigate Report Cards

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10 Tips from Teachers to Successfully Navigate Report Cards

Report card time often generates questions for families, especially with changes in format and grading dependent on point of time they arrive home in the school year (fall, winter, or spring). Parents often ask us how to navigate it all. Not to worry, the Teachers on Call in-person and online tutoring team is here to help. Our tutors are certified elementary and high school teachers (including special education specialists and guidance counsellors) who know all about student learning assessments and have valuable ideas to share. Read on to learn how to maximize report card time to translate into meaningful growth and development for your child. 

Provincial report cards are important tools when it comes to understanding how your child is progressing in school – but sometimes they can be a bit daunting! This is a topic our online and in-person tutoring service writes about extensively. For anyone looking for help on decoding and translating your child’s report card, we recommend checking out our past blog on a parent’s guide to deciphering report cards. In this blog, we share new tips from the Teachers on Call online and in-person tutors (who are also certified teachers) to help you understand your child’s report card and determine considerations to finish the school year strong!

Tip #1: Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions.

There are no silly questions, and this is true across all grade levels. However, this advice is especially relevant for families in major transition years with new reports or changes in grading systems, such as kindergarten (receiving communication of learning reports for first time), grade 1 (receiving letter grades for first time), grade 7 (receiving percentage marks for first time), and grade 9 for entry to high school and potentially the semester system.

Tip #2: Read the Learning Skills Section First and Take It Seriously.

While first instinct may be to go straight to the academic subjects, a popular recommendation from elementary and secondary teachers (including special education and guidance teachers) is to read the learning skills and work habits section first. The 6 areas clearly articulate how your child is progressing as a learner, and a future indicator for years to come. It shows how motivated students are to complete work independently, how well they work with peers, their general work ethic and ability to set goals for themselves. 

Tip #3: Set Goals with Student to Work on Learning Skills that Receive the Lowest Results.

It is recommended to focus on areas where the teacher has provided an evaluation of Satisfactory or Needs Improvement. This is a good starting place to direct attention when setting goals with your child for the remainder of the school year. Growth in the learning skills often translates into improvement in other areas of their academic results, they are often interconnected. After all, many grown-ups find organization and self-regulation challenging. It’s important to pay attention early, as these are transferable skills that students will take with them into adulthood.

Tip #4: Review the Academic Marks and Understand what they Mean.

It’s easy to look at a letter grade and not truly understand what is signifies. To clarify, if a student understands the curriculum and can apply their knowledge independently, you should see a B grade.  This means that they can be taught something, comprehend it, and show their understanding on some class work or evaluation.  Anything below or above means that they are either having some difficulty understanding it independently (C or lower) or are well above the norm in terms of understanding and demonstrate critical thinking and strong application of knowledge (A). 

Tip #5: Understand Student’s Organization Skills.

Organization in school is a critical skill to being successful in school. Understanding your child’s organization skills are key. Consider if they can organize notes and binders effectively. This is an area that many students struggle with and becomes more prevalent and noticeable in grades 7, 8 and 9. A rule of thumb to consider, if there are crumpled papers in your child’s backpack, there is likely room for improvement in this area. If you are nodding your head, talk to your child’s in-person or online tutor as academic coaching is one of Teachers on Call’s specialties. Check out this Teachers on Call grade 9 organization student success story here.

Tip #6: Ask About Communication Skills and Ability to Understand Expectations.

Is your child focused on staying on task? Are they communicating consistently with their teachers and asking questions when they do not understand concepts. Does your child know what is expected of them to succeed in their courses? These are important considerations for your child to be successful in school.

Tip #7: Stay on Top of Courses.

Succeeding in school is similar to building a house, you want to lay a strong foundation. Teachers will tell you that it is important to stay on top of things and not to fall behind, especially with elementary reading, and high school math and science which can move at a very fast pace in the semester system. Asking for help and ensuring students understand the curriculum early on will prevent them from falling behind. Many high school math teachers notice that families are surprised to learn their child has lower marks in math, with huge learning gaps likely accelerated by previous learning disruption. Getting help from the classroom teacher and/or a professional in-person or online tutor will ensure students stay on track and finish the school year strong.

Tip #8: Understand Graduation Requirements.

Many guidance counsellors will tell you to review in grade 9 all the graduation requirements in place for students to receive their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). There are often many questions around this, so important to understand this early on to avoid major stress in later years. For example, there is a community service volunteer requirement in place to graduate secondary school in Ontario. It’s also important to stay current given potential additions and changes. Fore more information on Ontario’s new mandatory technology high school credit, click here.

Tip #9: Research Post Secondary Options Early.

Another popular recommendation from high school guidance counsellors is to backwards plan for college and university. This is especially important for grade 11 students to ensure correct pre-requisites and minimum grade requirements in place for post secondary programs of interest. For example, English (ENG4U) and Mathematics (one of Calculus and Vectors [MCV4U], Advanced Functions [MHF4U] or Mathematics of Data Management [MDM4U]) are needed for many university programs. If looking for more guidance on choosing a pathway, check out our previous blog on how to help students plan for post-secondary. Another helpful blog to check out is from the University of Waterloo on 12 questions to ask before you apply to university.

Tip #10: Be Confident to Ask the Teacher About Next Steps (even if your child is doing very well in school).

It’s always helpful to ask your child’s teacher next steps on recommendations for supporting learning at home and outside of the classroom. This tip may seem obvious for students who have areas that need strong improvement in subjects like English, Math, or Science. Yet, this also holds true for when students are doing well academically, but still have room to get to the next level. Remember, learning is a continuous journey and not a final destination!

We hope you find these educational tips from elementary and high school teachers helpful during report card season to plan for the remainder of the school year!

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