Report card discourse and the construction of meanings by teacher, parents, and students

Jennifer Amy Tuten, Fordham University


Report cards are a textual intersection of schools, teachers, parents, and students. Teachers face challenges in completing them. Parents bring to their readings of report cards a wide range of experiences and expectations. Report cards impact students' self-images and inform their understanding of school. This study examined a specific report card in use. It explored a fourth grade teacher's perspectives concerning the report card form she used and analysis of the form, the comments she selected, and the comments she composed. Fourth grade students and their parents were interviewed to investigate their understandings of the form. Critical discourse analysis (CDA) methods were used to examine the discourse patterns and how knowledge was created in the report card texts. Similarly CDA was used to identify situated meanings of words and the cultural models recruited by participants as they read and discussed the report cards. Hypotheses generated from the investigations were: (a) The teacher's discourse in the comment section echoed, in syntax and content, the report card form discourse; (b) very generalized performance referents did not fully address the teacher's perspective of the depth and breadth of the curriculum; (c) the teacher viewed the report card writing and distribution procedures as overly controlled by her supervisors; and (d) while the teacher spoke with specificity about students' academic progress, she did not include the same kind of detail on the report card. Parents cared more about finding out about their children's progress in school than in the details of the report card form. Parents drew upon their own experiences with report cards and education in their discourse about their own children's education. Students regarded report cards as judgements upon their behavior and effort. Recommendations for future research include: (a) investigation of Parent/Teacher conferences; and (b) relationship between high-stakes tests and school-based assessment. An implication for practice is the involvement of teachers, parents, and students in the assessment and report card process.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Tuten, Jennifer Amy, "Report card discourse and the construction of meanings by teacher, parents, and students" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3159319.