I have a file folder full of report cards and progress reports from my oldest son. For me, they are a keepsake. My personal connection to my kid's report cards had me reflecting on the comments I have written on student report cards, which in turn has motivated me to be more intentional with my own report card comments. Here are a few tips for creating quality comments.
Provide comments that are specific to the student and solution-focused.
Give specific examples of student progress or struggles. "Excellent job in science" is too general and doesn’t give the student or parent an idea of that students’ strengths. "Needs improvement" in reading also lacks detail and might leave a parent or student feeling frustrated. Try to be both specific and solution-focused in your comments. For example, “Michael has improved in his reading fluency. He has increased from 60 words a minute to 75 words per minute” helps both parents and the student to understand how much growth has been made. “Michael mastered 2, 3, and 4 multiplication facts, but needs practice on the rest over the summer to ensure he is ready for the next school year,” presents a need and action for the parent and student to tackle over the summer.
Consider the fact that this comment is part of a student’s permanent record.
Is morning tardiness an issue that should be addressed on the report card? Probably not. Filter your comments through the lens of a this being a record which will might be saved and looked back upon in future years. Make comments that are specific to student growth, strengths, and needs. When mentioning student struggles, try to focus on potential solutions and/or action steps.
Match report card comments to student grades.
It can very confusing to a parent to read needs improvement when the grades listed are straight As. It can be just as confusing reading positive comments and low grades. Comments should provide insight to student progress and further explain the grades awarded. Mismatches can be frustrating and confusing for both parents and students.
During this busy time of year, take a few extra minutes to provide specific and solution-focused feedback to each of your students.