Progress Reports

The school year is in full gear, and by now, most schools on a traditional school calendar are hitting the halfway point of the first quarter. That means it’s about time for progress reports.

Progress reports used to be mailed out around mid-quarter (or mid-marking/grading period) to students who were at risk of failing. However, these days progress reports are more and more common for all students, not just those at risk.

With the advent of online grading technologies such as Powerschool (my favorite) giving parents and students daily access to grades, attendance, and various other records, it may seem that there is less need for formal mid-quarter progress reports. On the contrary, I believe there is still a value add for official progress reports.

1. Even though online technologies offer parents and students a daily view of progress, not all parents/students access the records. So a paper progress report is still a useful tool for communication.

2. A paper progress report is an official school document, which schools use not only to notify parents/students of progress, but it also serves as a “cover-your-*ss” method for schools. Notifying parents/students of academic progress can sometimes become an issue if parents feel that they were not properly kept abreast of their child’s academic progress, particularly if the child is at risk of failing. A paper progress report becomes documentation that a parent/student was notified.

3. There’s something about receiving official notification from the school that can serve as a good swift kick in the rear for some students. Even if a student is checking progress regularly online, an official notification may help a student to understand what their grades would be if report cards were issued right now. And if those grades aren’t so great, it’s good to know there’s still time to do something about it.

4. A paper progress report serves as a clear marker for the mid-point of the quarter. It signals that there’s exactly half of a grading period remaining during which time students can raise and/or maintain their grades.

If you have concerns about your child’s academic progress, don’t wait for the official progress report to know. When I was a teacher I always had a couple of students who benefited from a weekly progress report. Of course, this is much easier as an elementary school teacher (who has fewer than 40 students), but it was an effective method of helping parents/students stay on top of their progress. Some parents used weekly progress reports as a way to reward their child weekly for demonstrating academic responsibility. This goes along with helping a child develop a healthy sense of responsibility.

At the middle and high school levels, I strongly recommend taking advantage of the online academic access that many districts provide. Even at the low-income schools where I worked, students were required to check their online academic progress using school laptops on a weekly basis. Because access is online, a parent/student can check at a public facility such as a library.

Ultimately, progress report grades/marks should not be a surprise. If it is, then there may not be enough communication with the teacher(s) and/or your child. Teachers are partners in your child’s education. Thus, whether your child is in kindergarten or a sophomore in high school, that communication and partnership remains of paramount importance to academic success.