For many parents, Report Card time is exciting. This is when you get to see how your children are doing at school. You have an opportunity to praise them for their hard work and to problem solve with them around things that are not going so well and turn them into learning opportunities. But for parents who have children with special education needs, this is where the real advocacy work begins. Below, I’ll share some strategies on how to use your child’s report card to advocate for an effective IEP.
First, here is some basic information about Ontario Report Cards
Regular assessment, evaluation, and reporting is mandated by the Education Act.
Elementary school reports go out in November, February and June.
There are 2 types of report cards; Provincial and Alternate (for students with IEPs that have non-curriculum subjects/programs such as communication, numeracy, social skills, etc.)
Secondary students in schools with semesters will receive report cards twice per semester.
Secondary students in non-semestered schools will receive report cards three times per year.
Report cards are for the purpose of reporting students’ progress to parents.
Report cards are formatted to provide clear information about the student’s progress.
The progress report cards that go out in November don’t have letter grades or percentage marks. Instead, they consist of comments from the teacher that say how well the child is progressing in each subject and describe strengths and areas for improvement.
The provincial report cards that go out in February and June contain letter grades for grades 1-6 and percentage marks for grades 7 and up. An “R” (Remediation) on your child’s elementary report card means that your child has not met the required skills and knowledge of the subject and extensive remediation is needed.
One section of the report card is to report progress in academic subjects like math, language, social studies, science, etc.
Another section of the report card is about learning skills and work habits. Achievements in these areas are reported as Excellent (E), Good (G), Satisfactory (S), or Needs Improvement (N). It also contains teacher comments that focus on the child’s strengths and next steps for learning improvement.
There are six essential learning skills and work habits that teachers assess. They are:
Responsibility, Organization, Independent Work, Collaboration, Initiative, and Self Regulation
On the Alternative report card (for students with IEPs who have programs/subjects which are alternatives to those in the Ontario Curriculum) achievement is reported with a number (from 1 to 4) based on performance level:
1 - Emerging - Performance of the learning expectation is inconsistent
2 - Developing - Performance of the learning expectation is somewhat consistent
3 - Accomplished - Performance of the learning expectation is generally consistent
4 - Generalized - Performance is consistent across a variety of environments and across a range of tasks.
There is also a section on the report card for the parent to add comments, sign and date. This section must be completed and returned to the school as proof that the parent received the report card.
The original or an exact copy of the report card is placed in the child’s OSR (Ontario Student Record) folder and is retained for 5 years after the student leaves school.
Regular and frequent parent-teacher communication and collaboration is highly recommended for students to reach their full potential.
Parent-teacher interviews are scheduled every time the report cards go home.
These interviews are your opportunity to ask questions about your child’s progress and to discuss any issues. But be aware that there is very little time scheduled for these meetings since they occur for every single student (unless the parent declines the opportunity to meet with the teacher).
Advocating based on the report card
If your child has an IEP, this is the time to advocate for an improved and effective IEP and to confirm that the IEP is being referred to and followed.
Compare the IEP with the report card and ask the following questions:
Does the current level of achievement on the IEP (for each subject) coincide with the report card? Has there been any improvement? Does the current level of achievement need to be updated?
Do the learning expectations outlined in the IEP coincide with the report card?
If so, have the expectations that are outlined in the IEP been met?
Are the teaching strategies effective?
Are the assessment methods appropriate?
Are the accommodations working?
Do the learning expectations need to be changed or adjusted?
Do the areas of strengths and needs have to be updated?
A separate meeting with the whole school team and supporting outside professionals (if applicable) will need to be scheduled to address these issues in detail and subsequently update the IEP accordingly.
Karen Robinson provides special education advocacy training and consulting services to parents and guardians whose children have autism and other developmental disabilities. She develops her clients into informed, proactive advocates for their children's educational needs. They are empowered by current, customized information that enables them to articulate their children's needs to school staff and school board administrators in a way that is both assertive and collaborative.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how Karen can help you advocate for your child. She provides free consulting services to Progressive Steps clients.