What Do Report Card Comments Really Mean?

Understanding Report Card Comments

what report card comments mean - teacher with students
Those report card comments mean something, but what?. Camille Tokerud/Getty Images

Report card comments have come a long way from the days when all parents were told was that Johnny wasn't working to his potential or Jane needed to try harder. Today's teachers work hard to make sure that report card comments are polite but accurate descriptions of a child's performance and personality.

Ideally, your child's teacher will say exactly what she means, but politeness sometimes masks the true meaning, making it harder to know what those report card comments really mean.

Here are some commonly used phrases decoded.

What Those Report Card Comments Really Mean

Comment: _______'s work habits are improving.
Translation: While your child is doing better at following the directions and completing his work, he may have gotten off to a rocky start in terms of organizing his work time or being a distraction to other children. The teacher is seeing improvement, but thinks your child still has a way to go before he's working at the classroom standard.

Comment: Has a lot to offer in class discussions and is eager to share his knowledge with the rest of the group.
Translation:  Your child is eager to learn about new topics and an active participant in her education. However, her eagerness may be getting in the way of her taking her turn in discussions, waiting to be called on or remembering to raise her hand.

Comment: Is anxious to complete assignments in a timely fashion, sometimes at the cost of accuracy.


Translation: Your child completes his work quickly which, while not always a problem, may be causing him to make careless errors. He needs to slow down and check his work.

Comment: Does well when s/he focuses on a given task.
Translation:  This is a variation on the stereotypical "has potential" comment, meaning your child is very capable and performs very well, but seems to be having trouble focusing on her work.

(This comment may require a little follow-up on your part. You may want to ask the teacher whether this is limited to specific subjects or whether your child is exhibiting an overall lack of focus that requires more evaluation.)


Comment: Is becoming more confident in her abilities.
Translation: Your child is starting to participate more and feel good about his work habits. If your child is particularly shy, it may also mean that he's starting to reach out socially.

Comment: With encouragement, _________ interacts well with other students.
Translation: Your child is hesitant to initiate interactions with other children or is interacting in inappropriate ways. The good news is the teacher doesn't see this as an overwhelming issue as, with some adult guidance or redirection, your child is still playing with other children.

Comment: Is a social leader.
Translation: Your child is very popular with other students and tends to be right in the center of things. This comment could also mean that your child is a little bossy and likes to have other children follow her lead.



Comment: Has difficulty transitioning from outside activities.
Translation: When the students come back in from recess, lunch or specials (such as Music or Art), your child is having trouble settling down and getting back into the classroom routine.

Comment: Seems to be having difficulties adjusting to the rules and routines of the classroom.
Translation: This comment is pretty straightforward, but requires follow-up on your part. Your child isn't following the rules and routines like the other students, but you need to find out whether that means she's being defiant or is having learning-related difficulties.

Comment: Could benefit from your support in learning/practicing ___________.
Translation: Your child may not be completing his homework, practicing his spelling words or doing enough reading outside of school. He's not having enough trouble to warrant any school-based interventions, but needs to spend some time studying at home.

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