Are report cards enough? Why parents need support understanding their child’s grades

"Relying on report cards in isolation could prevent parents from initiating crucial interventions on behalf of their child's academic progress," a new Gallup report reads.

If you were to ask parents how they think their child is performing academically, nine in 10 would tell you that they’re performing at or above grade level— specifically in reading and math—if their only measurable indicator is their child’s report card. However, we know this isn’t the case as many students continue to struggle as pandemic-related learning gaps persist in our nation’s schools. How can leaders help paint a clearer picture for parents about their child’s grades?

The previous statistics come from new research conducted by Gallup, which reveals that parents often have trouble accurately describing their child’s academic standing. The researchers argue that report cards alone aren’t enough to keep parents informed. With better information, parents are more likely to take action.

“[R]elying on report cards in isolation could prevent parents from initiating crucial interventions on behalf of their child’s academic progress,” the report reads.

According to the data, 64% of parents say report cards are “an important measure” in understanding their child’s academic status and are their primary source of such information. While 79% of parents report that their child receives good grades—mostly B’s or better—other methods of measurement prove otherwise.

For instance, only 40% of 12th-graders achieved proficiency in reading on the ACT in 2023, 30% achieved proficiency in math and just over half (51%) in English.

It’s a similar situation in lower grades as well. According to the 2022 Nation’s Report Card (NAEP), roughly one-third of 4th- and 8th-graders were proficient or better in reading. Only 26% of 8th-graders were also proficient in math.

“Children’s academic progress is nuanced,” the report reads. “Evaluating their knowledge and skills requires decision-making about what is important for a child to know and do and how those things should be measured. For this reason, report cards are just one method that schools and teachers use to understand how a child is doing and whether they might require more academic support.”

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The researchers also asked parents to rank what they view as the most helpful sources of information that they use to judge their child’s grades. Here’s what they said:

  • Report card: 64%
  • Written or verbal feedback from the child’s teacher: 49%
  • Parents’ observation: 40%
  • Results from tests and quizzes administered by their teacher: 40%
  • Feedback from the child: 33%
  • Results from benchmark tests in reading or math: 26%
  • Results from child’s year-end state standardized tests: 21%
  • Homework assignments: 16%
Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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