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Forget Report Cards: This Is What Really Matters

Report card day. For some parents it carries with it the feelings of pride and anticipation. For others it brings dread. It is the day that our children’s academic success is summed up in a single letter.

A, B, C, D, F.

Outstanding, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory.

Commendable, Proficient, Basic.

Above grade level, Grade level, Below grade level.

Four times a year we see our children’s achievement in school formally assessed and scored in black and white. For all parents this can be difficult if we don’t see that grade that we had hoped for, but for a parent of a child with special needs this can be even harder. We are constantly being reminded of the ways that our children are not measuring up to their peers, and this is just another time that brings attention to that fact.

Honestly, before I became a special needs parent I liked the idea of report cards. I felt that they were an accurate indicator of how a child was doing and a good external motivator to work hard in school. When I was a student myself, my grades were very important to me. I looked forward to getting my report card each marking period. It gave me a sense of validation, and my parents could take for granted that I would do fine. Back then I didn’t realize that for some kids and their families it wasn’t something to look forward to because of things that were beyond their control.

My daughter is now in kindergarten and this year was my first experience with report cards from the parent side of things. As we prepared for this school year I wondered what my daughter’s grades would look like. Would she perform average? Below average? Would she “follow directions willingly and quickly?” Would her work be outstanding or unsatisfactory? I didn’t know, and I was worried.

But then things changed for me. After several meetings in preparation for the year and then conferences with her current teachers, my mindset shifted. Things became more clear for me, and I looked at grades a little differently.

So, when our first report card day came around, do you know what I did? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I did not log into the parent information system to view her grades that day. I did not have any sense of urgency to do so. Because you know what? I realized that in the long run, these grades don’t matter. Grades are not the “be all and end all” to who my daughter is. No, not one bit.

Here are some things that do matter:

  • The smile on my daughter’s face each morning when it’s time to leave for school.
  • The personal greetings she receives from almost every faculty and staff member we run into at school drop off and pick up, because everyone knows Evalyn and her friendly personality.
  • The times that my daughter tells me she misses her teachers because she loves school just that much.
  • The art projects she brings home that she is so proud to have made.
  • The open and honest stories she shares when we drive home about how her day went.
  • The times that she offers to be “door holder” for me (something she has surely learned in school) and tries to be my “good helper.”
  • The picture from her friend that hangs on our refrigerator that says, “I love you, Evalyn.”
  • The new songs she sings or new dance moves (think “Whip and Nae Nae”) that she learned that day and is so excited to show off.
  • The spirit award for “good lunchroom behavior” that hangs on her backpack.
  • The times that she surprises me with a new skill that I didn’t even know that she had.
  • The kindness that she offers to others and her deep concern for those around her.
  • The self-confidence that I watch grow in her every day.
Image via Mia Carella

Yes, these are the things that matter and that make me proud. These are things that cannot be rated on a grading scale. These things tell me that my daughter is happy, caring and making progress in so many ways every single day.

I don’t care what my daughter scored in Kindergarten Social Studies. I care what kind of person she is, and all of these examples let me know that she is doing amazing.

Forget report cards. No grade can measure who my daughter truly is. She is so far beyond “outstanding” in every way to those who know and love her. I don’t need a letter grade to tell me this.

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