Q&A with a kindergarten teacher: Understanding the kindergartner's report card

This is an example of a Sarasota County school kindergarten report card. They're different from other report cards and rely on a numbered system rather than the lettered grades used in later years. “1” is the lowest grade, and “4” is the highest. Their unique grading system and quiet, online delivery often leave parents puzzled.  

Kindergarten teacher Jonna Marchese of Bayhaven School of Basics Plus Elementary reveals how parents can decode the report card their child receives four times a year, what questions to ask the teacher, and what to do to keep them on track.

What should parents pay most attention to on their child’s report card?

The "1" grades, the lowest grade available, later on in the year.

For instance, if your child received a "1" in an area, and it's the third quarter, they should get a better idea as to why their child is receiving that grade and see what they can do to improve their scores by talking with the teacher.

Should parents schedule a meeting with the teacher about their child's results?

Not necessarily.

Maybe after the first quarter, if they have questions and want to learn more about how the teacher assessed their child.

I would recommend another meeting if there are still "1"s on the third and fourth quarter report cards.

What should parents ask teachers when they meet about their child’s results?

Ask about ways you can improve outcomes or keep up the good work. Most likely we'll tell parents to read to their child everyday and make time for educational activities like visiting the library or a museum – places where they can learn new things and feed their natural curiosity.

Also, encourage kindness and organize social activities for them. Try to keep learning fun and remember that play is learning too. Don’t make learning a chore.

What are the most common concerns you hear from parents?

The Sarasota County School report card kindergartners receive four times a year. 

The Sarasota County School report card kindergartners receive four times a year. 

"Why is my child receiving a 1?" when it's only the first quarter. The reason why is because they haven't learned that standard yet. Parents panic when they see a "1" on the report card but don't understand that the standards are cumulative and haven't yet been taught by that time. There's  always room for improvement and there are so many ways parents can keep their kids on track throughout the year. Parents think their child isn't doing great when really they are just in the learning stages. Everything that they do learning is helping them learn in the future, don’t panic.

Kindergarten report cards focus on reading and math, are those the most important areas parents should focus on while their little ones are out of school?

Science and social studies are important too, however the main focus should be on math and reading at this age since those are the basic building blocks of subsequent learning and will facilitate learning in other subjects.

Out of school, parents can always incorporate science into their everyday routine, like cooking together to show the effects of chemistry, reading about animals to introduce biology or reading about historic figures in children's books. As I listed, reading leads to more learning, that's why it's one of the major areas of assessment.

As far as non-academic outcomes, the only behavioral assessment in the report card is under the heading, “respectful to others,” do you think that misses out on more in-depth social/emotional grading?

Absolutely. I think that social/emotional is very important and should be measured more. But teachers can fill out comments on the report card to further highlight behavior since "respect to others" is very broad.

If a student is making great strides in reading but isn’t treating others well, there’s a problem. Many times a counselor can help since it most commonly originates from the home environment, but it can also be from within the school like bullying on the playground, for instance. If there’s a persisting problem, parents will probably hear about it outside of a report card assessment.

In my class, I incentivize kindness by naming a winning "caring" student every quarter. It’s informal and not recognized on the report card, but it shows the kids that kindness matters.

Based on your experience, do kindergarten outcomes predict long term academic success?

I think so. In kindergarten you learn the foundations. Without foundations you can't continue to learn.