Deciphering Report Cards: What those Letters and Numbers really Mean

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Report cards may seem easy to read, but there are are a number of new grading scales parents may find difficult to decipher. If your child is getting a C, what percentage are they getting and what does this translate to in terms of needing improvement? Knowing exactly what progress your child is making is the first step in effectively providing support. Its not only that reports provide less than detailed information, some schools use A,B,C,D and F while others have dropped the D altogether. Some use numbers from one to five and still others rely on E, S, and NI or ‘novice’ to ‘proficient’ to explain your child’s progress. If you’re a little confused, don’t be— we’ve got this!

Moving away from traditional report cards
With the letter system so entrenched, some educational institutions have chosen to move away from giving A’s and B’s so that teachers are free to give more accurate scores. Most teachers feel that they can’t give anything less than a C (most schools have done away with D’s so their only other option is F). C traditionally represents the average, but when teachers can only jump to an F, they often give below average students a C. For this reason, some schools have opted to go for numerical values from one to five so that teachers can award more accurate scores.

Modern educational institutions are moving away from the traditional bell-curve class marks and even away from grading students according to how they fare against their classmates. Modern grading systems hope to grade students on the amount they have learned during the semester and the skills they have acquired.

Letters E, G, S, NI
This is a classic example of a system that is moving away from the traditional A,B,Cs. While E is for excellent, G is for good, S is for satisfactory, and NI is for needs improvement, don’t simply substitute your traditional letters for these new ones. This is intended to be a performance review to help parents and students to identify areas that need work. If your child is getting an NI in math, it may be time to get a tutor.

Numbers
Still other schools use a 1-5 grading system. Here again, resist the temptation to convert 1 to A and so on and instead discuss exactly what each number represents with your student’s teacher. Older students get averages from 1-100%.

The best way to get a good picture of your student’s performance is to discuss their results with them and with their teacher. Together you can review the semester, celebrate achievements and discuss ways to improve in the upcoming semester. The report card should be the platform for devising learning goals for the future that all of you agree on.

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