Ruminations on the modern report card

I admit I was kind of excited when my eldest child started getting report cards. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t so excited to get my own as a kid and I know for sure I wasn’t eager to share my high school reports with my parents.

But, recently, my kids and I looked at – and chuckled over – my grade school report cards. They were heavy card-stock affairs that had handwritten notes and the boxes were ticked by hand in pen (I love that the checks from each year’s marking periods were often in random, different color pens).

They not only felt personal, they were personal. On my fourth grade end-of-year report card, my teacher wrote (and I paraphrase), “I loved being a part of the Tanzilo family for another year.” (Alas, a more common, recurring note, read something like, “Robert could show better self control in class.”)

Now, my kid’s report cards are computer print-outs. There is, of course, a personal note from the teacher, which is the most useful part of the multi-page report, offering the most insight into how my child is doing on a day-to-day basis.

Otherwise, two pages are computer-ticked boxes covering a variety of subjects and performance parameters. Another page covers MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test results, expressed in not-so-clear numbers and bar graphs. A few other sheets are a letter from the principal, an explanation of the cards and suggestions for practice in subjects requiring further practice.

There is a wealth of information, and I’m happy to say that all of it is good news and I understand most of it, though parents less engaged in public education might find it a little more challenging.

But, a computer print-out still feels a little cold compared to the handwritten report cards of my youth.

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