Understanding Your Child’s Report Card: Advice for Parents

Report cards aren’t as simple as they used to be! Here’s Tutor Doctor’s advice for understanding your child’s report card.

In the old days, students would often receive a simple report card with letter grades next to each subject. Funnily enough, this is still how we often picture report cards! In reality, modern report cards break down several aspects of the student’s performance in the classroom – and in most cases, academic proficiency is only one portion of their final grade.

Report card formats vary widely by school district and region, with specific details often being provided for each subject. A very basic report card might consist of three categories: the student’s academic grade, their work habits, and their cooperation. Work habits generally refer to a student’s participation in the classroom and willingness to contribute to discussions. Cooperation typically refers to a student’s behavior during class time as well as their ability to follow classroom rules. In addition, these types of report cards often allow teachers to fill in a comment section with additional details about the student’s performance.

However, ever since Common Core became standardized in many school districts, many report cards have moved away from this simple three category format as well. And although we understand that some parents miss the simplicity of the previous formats, these new report cards provide much more information. For example – the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is one of the largest school districts in the United States, and the newer elementary school report cards contain over 20 categories of information spread among different skills and subjects!

These newer formats are excellent for tutors and parents because they provide much deeper insight into the specific areas a student may need help. Continuing with the LAUSD example above, categories in English Language Arts range from “foundational reading skills” to “making meaning from text” to “effective expression through writing.” In the past, all these categories would have been summed up with a single letter or number – so in our view, the new Common Core format report cards are a vast improvement!

As can be expected, report card formats will also vary based on the student’s grade level. Elementary school report cards tend to use numbered formats, whereas middle and high school report cards tend to rely on letter grades (at least for academic purposes). These report cards should include the credits the student has earned for each course, which can then be used to calculate their grade point average (GPA). In most cases, an “A” grade is worth 4 points, a “B” worth 3, and so on. A simple report card might look like this:

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Report Card Breakdown
English A 4.0 3.0
Algebra C 2.0 3.0
Science B 3.0 3.0
PE A 4.0 2.0

To determine GPA, you’ll need to do some simple math. Multiply the point value by the credits to obtain the calculated grade points for each course, like so:

Calculating Grade Points per class
English A 4.0 3.0 12.0
Algebra C 2.0 3.0 6.0
Science B 3.0 3.0 9.0
PE A 4.0 2.0 8.0

Next, add up the “Grade Points” column!

GPA Summary
English A 4.0 3.0 12.0
Algebra C 2.0 3.0 6.0
Science B 3.0 3.0 9.0
PE A 4.0 2.0 8.0
TOTALS 11.0 35.0

Finally, we can divide the total grade points by the total credits (35.0 ÷ 11.0) giving us a final GPA of 3.2. Report cards will sometimes include this calculation, but it’s helpful to know how to calculate GPA on your own – especially when applying for colleges and universities!

Lastly, it’s important to remember that report cards do not provide a complete picture of a student’s progress and performance in school. To learn more about this topic, check out our blog “How to Evaluate Students Without Using Grades.”