Report card: understanding them and making the most of them

The report cards are here! Breaking their code and using them to improve our children’s achievements and skills

Here they are! We’ve just received the report cards, (“les bulletins scolaires”) or, more precisely, we got an email giving us access to our kids’ online report cards. But let’s be honest, we always open this email with the same mix of excitement and fear…

Disappointed call from my friend Emily : “My eldest’ s grades are dropping! I read grades just above the class average when he has always been very good at Math and Physics. How did we not see that coming? Now he’s disengaged… What could we do to help him out?”

I also spoke with this American Mum who admitted she is kind of lost with the 10 pages report, and she was not sure to understand her daughter’s achievement…

And this Dad’s email, really concerned because his child seems now “in progress of acquiring” a particular skill for which he was “meeting expectations”  last year…

Well, how to break the code of the report cards, and how to use them to improve our children’s achievements and skills? 

First you should never hesitate to talk to your child’s teacher :  a report card is a short story reflecting several weeks of school work, and teachers will always be willing to provide additional explanation regarding any aspect of the students work.

Then keep in mind that the “competences” (skills) assessed at school are not to be converted into grades. Indeed, a skill is defined by the French curriculum as “the capability to use one’s resources (knowledge, technical and behavioral skills) to complete a task or face a complex or unusual situation”. All of them are expected to be mastered by every student when they eventually leave school.  

However, things get more complicated because the expectations for any skill increase as the children grow in age and maturity! That’s why an item that was acquired may become “in progress of acquiring” on the following report card! Don’t worry, your child has not regressed, he or she may just need a bit more time to catch up with the new expectations. And there is still plenty of time to practice! That being said, don’t hesitate to talk with your child and to review together any assessment where he/she did not obtain an “A”, making sure he/she now understands what was actually expected. I really like about the assessment by skills because it makes it quite easy to identify any notion or method that needs to be deepened and, consequently to help our child focus on it, and improve significantly!

With older children, you may not read explicit skills on the report card, but statistics for the class may be provided. If you are disappointed in some grades and think they do not match the efforts, please take some time to review closely the comments and pieces of advice written by the teachers. They are the most useful guidelines to help children individually achieve any skill that does not yet meet expectations. And of course, those skills, even implicit, are assessed in tests and determine your child’s grades!

For example, if your child needs to improve his/her organization with homework, why wouldn’t you seat together and build a homework chart? First, estimate how long he/she should spend weekly on homework for each subject (a quick double check by email with the teachers may help!), then place these hours on a weekly calendar of your child’s free time. Of course, this would be her/his responsibility to stick with the schedule!

If a student is struggling with writing in French, you could review together any methodology document provided by the teacher, and check that your child’s essay follows all the rules. Keep in mind that the goal of any assessment is to make sure lessons and exercises studied in class have been understood…So reassure your child, remind him/her about everything he/she has achieved so far (at school and outside the school)! And OK, sometimes few questions are a bit more challenging but we all like to be challenged, right?

Keep on praising and supporting your child and get ready for the next term!


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If you think your child needs some extra support in reviewing lessons, practicing exercises or gaining self-confidence to fulfill his/her potential, please visit! You will find the attentive and experienced tutor who will help your child identify the skills that need to be improved and work them out to reach achievement. We can even help you out and find the best tutor matching your needs and expectations.

See you there!


Photo credit: Leslie Banks ©

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