Do preschool report cards have a purpose?

I just finished unpacking my 3-year old preschooler’s backpack from the school day. It contained the usual, some half-dried watercolor paintings, a form for (yet) another school fundraiser, and a blueberry-stained empty plastic container from snack.

But today there was something else. Her preschool report card for the second trimester came home.

preschool report card

Report cards in preschool? That is correct.

Since it’s preschool, instead of the typical sections you would see on a report card there is social/emotional, school readiness, gross motor skills, speaking, listening, fine motor skills, art, and music. Each is “graded” not using letter grades but rather it’s more consistent with the rest of elementary school which uses exceeds (E), meets (M), progressing (P) for the assessment of each skill.

I have to wonder if preschool report cards are really necessary. Can they really mean anything?

In thinking back, I am pretty sure my son did not get a report card in preschool 4 years ago. We sent him to a progressive school so instead of report cards we had two 45-minute conferences with the teacher. Given the tuition we paid to that place, maybe we should have had some sort of written documentation of how he spent his days there, but I digress.

Something just doesn’t seem right about preschool report cards.

I think I would like them better if there were some actual commentary from the teacher instead of five pages filled with the letters E, M and P. But there isn’t. I suppose I shouldn’t blame the teacher. There are 52 areas to be graded on each report card, so multiply that by 15 students and my guess is there isn’t much time left for free form comments after completing 780 assessments. And that is just my daughter’s class. There is another preschool class she teaches, so double that. That has to be an incredible amount of effort on the teacher’s part, especially with larger classes.

Which leads me to wonder how accurate all of those assessments really are. This isn’t true just for preschool. Last year when my son was in first grade I could not believe how detailed his 6-page report card was. Some skills are concrete so it makes it easier. For example, either they can count to 100 or not, but others are really subjective. Now he gets two report cards because he is in a gifted program but the latter one is very concise and fits on one side of a sheet of paper.

With these long checklists and the rubricization of school, I just hope we aren’t trading off learning for grading. Here is why I worry about that. My son who gets his report card next week, has been bringing home separate assessments from some of his specials. So last week there was a skill rubric sheet…on bowling. He does have a Phys Ed section on his report card but according to some district policy listed on the form, there must be a rubric and 6-point checklist specifically for bowling.

In other words, yes, my 7-year old son got graded on bowling.

But back to preschool, where learning is play-based as it should be for this age group. Honestly, I think that is the real reason these preschool report cards bother me a little bit. The children are still all over the place in terms of their physical and developmental milestones which is totally normal. Shouldn’t we care more about the attainment of these milestones rather than the refinement of these skills which is really what we are measuring on a report card?

To elaborate further, at the age of 3 I care more that my daughter can sing, not how well in tune she sings. I care more that she can gallop, not how strong her legs look while galloping. I care more that she shows an interest in playing with blocks, not how elaborate, or not the structures are. Believe me, there will plenty of time later to sweat the details. But not now.

True, the report card does serve a purpose in that it can flag an area in which outside help may be needed. But I also know that if that were the case  her teacher would not hesitate to call or email me to talk about it in detail. Especially since there is no comments section on the report card, at least not on my children’s report card forms this year.

Did your children receive preschool report cards? Did you find them informative and valuable or was it just too much? Please share with a comment.

I hope you enjoyed my look at preschool report cards. If you liked this post, check out this letter I wrote to my daughter on her first day of preschool. The link is here.

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Tags: MBA Toddler, parenting

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