Report Cards: Time for Reflection

As we approach the end of the school year, report cards loom in our students’ futures. Getting a report card can be a fraught experience for many students. How can we reframe report cards from obstacles to opportunities that can help students reflect on how they earned their grades and make concrete plans for improvement?

Julie Nariman, founding principal of the High School of Language and Innovation, describes how her school helps students see the link between their actions and their grades. Noticing that many students were content with barely passing but devastated by failing, Nariman reworded grades as Honors (90–100 percent), Passing (75–89 percent), and Borderline (65–74 percent), and changed Failing (below 65 percent) to Not Passing Yet. These categories help students see grades as part of the process of learning and not a final ending. In particular, “Not Passing Yet” encourages students to develop a growth mindset toward their work.

To support self-reflection, Nariman’s students fill out report card reflection sheets:

Students reflect on what they did to earn their most improved grade: “What is one grade you improved? How did you improve it?” They also reflect on grades that declined: “What was a grade that went down? Why?” Students then set a goal to improve their lowest grade in one class and write out two actions they’ll take to meet that goal.

This strategy, similar to tools such as SMARTS strategy reflection sheets, encourages students to think concretely about how they can improve their grades and select appropriate goals.

What strategies do you use to make report card time more constructive for your students? What other strategies do you know of to help students learn from their mistakes? Let us know in the comments!

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager