Do Progress Reports Matter In High School? – Save Our Schools March

Getting those middle-of-term progress reports can be a stressful time for high school students and parents. According to surveys, over 60% of high schools issue progress reports, with the frequency varying from monthly to quarterly. With grades laid out in black and white, it‘s natural to wonder just how much these reports really matter when it comes to a student‘s academic success and future prospects.

The quick answer is that progress reports do matter, but they‘re far from the be-all and end-all. While progress reports offer a useful snapshot of how a student is performing at that moment in time, one bad report doesn’t spell doom. Likewise, one good report doesn’t guarantee future success. Research shows that regular academic feedback, when delivered constructively, helps most high school students reflect on areas for growth.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll take an in-depth look at why schools issue progress reports, what they tell us (and what they don’t), and how students and parents can use these reports productively to course-correct and set themselves up for success.

What Exactly Are Progress Reports?

Progress reports are a valuable tool used in high schools to provide parents, students, and teachers with a snapshot of a student‘s academic performance. They are typically issued at regular intervals throughout the school year, often marking the midpoint between report cards.

While report cards and transcripts provide a summary of a student‘s overall performance, progress reports offer a more detailed look at their progress and growth.

A Snapshot of Academic Performance

Progress reports offer a comprehensive overview of a student’s performance in various subjects. Based on my experience, they typically include:

  • Grades for major assessments like tests and projects
  • Marks for homework completion and class participation
  • Attendance and lateness records
  • Teacher comments on strengths/areas for improvement
  • Behaviour notes and disciplinary issues

By including this range of quantitative data and qualitative feedback, progress reports give parents and students a clear understanding of how well the student is progressing in each subject and any areas where improvement may be needed.

For high school students, these mid-term reports can provide more timely insights compared to end-of-semester report cards. This allows students to refine their learning strategies while the course is still ongoing.

Not Report Cards or Transcripts

It is important to note that progress reports are not the same as report cards or transcripts. While report cards provide a final summary of a student’s performance for a specific grading period, progress reports are more focused on providing ongoing feedback and highlighting areas for improvement.

Transcripts, on the other hand, are comprehensive records that include a student‘s grades for all courses taken throughout high school. Progress reports serve as a tool to monitor a student‘s progress in real-time and can be used as a basis for discussions and interventions, if necessary.

According to an article on, progress reports are an essential part of the communication between parents, students, and teachers. They help keep everyone involved in a student’s education informed about their progress and provide an opportunity for collaboration and support.

By understanding the purpose and significance of progress reports, parents and students can actively engage in their education and work towards achieving their academic goals.

Why Do Schools Issue Progress Reports?

Schools issue progress reports for several important reasons. These reports serve as a way to give feedback mid-term, allow for course correction, and update parents on student progress. Let‘s explore each of these reasons in more detail:

Give Feedback Mid-Term

Progress reports are an essential tool for educators to provide feedback to students on their academic performance mid-term. They allow teachers to assess how well students are grasping the material and identify any areas where additional support or intervention may be needed.

According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, specific, timed feedback helps high school students set productive goals and self-reflect. Progress reports enable this regular feedback loop.

This feedback is crucial for students to understand their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to make necessary adjustments and improve their performance before the end of the term.

Allow for Course Correction

By issuing progress reports, schools can identify students who may be struggling academically and provide timely interventions. These reports alert educators to potential problems and give them an opportunity to address any issues before they become more significant.

For example, if a student is consistently falling behind in a particular subject, the progress report can help teachers and parents collaborate to develop a plan for extra support such as peer tutoring, teacher office hours, or even a specialist tutor to help the student get back on track.

Early intervention based on progress reports can help students properly support students and avoid irreversible failure.

Update Parents on Student Progress

Progress reports also serve as a means of keeping parents informed about their child‘s academic progress. They provide a snapshot of how well the student is performing in each subject and highlight areas where improvement is needed.

This information allows parents to be actively involved in their child’s education, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and support their learning at home. It helps foster a partnership between parents and teachers in ensuring the student’s academic success.

For instance, if a progress report indicates poor performance in mathematics, parents can set aside time to review foundational concepts with their child. Keeping parents in the loop empowers them to truly support learning.

What Do Progress Reports Measure?

Progress reports in high school serve as a valuable tool for assessing a student’s overall performance and growth. These reports provide insights into various aspects of a student’s academic journey, including their academic performance, class participation, and behavior.

Here is an example of what a typical progress report may look like:

SubjectGradeTeacher Comments
MathematicsC+Struggles with word problems but good effort shown
EnglishBExcellent reading comprehension
ScienceA-Missed last test due to illness
HistoryB+Engaged in class discussions
Physical EducationAPositive team player

By measuring key areas like grades, comments, and behavior, progress reports offer a comprehensive view of a student’s progress and highlight areas where improvement may be needed.

Academic Performance

One of the primary purposes of progress reports is to assess a student’s academic performance. This includes evaluating their mastery of subject matter, understanding of key concepts, and ability to apply knowledge.

Progress reports often include grades and comments from teachers, outlining a student’s strengths and weaknesses in each subject. By reviewing these reports, parents and educators can identify areas where additional support or intervention may be necessary to help the student succeed.

For example, a lower grade in biology with a note about struggling with genetics concepts presents an opportunity for the student to seek out their teacher for extra help in that area.

Class Participation

Progress reports also measure a student’s class participation, which is a crucial aspect of their overall learning experience. Class participation encompasses a student’s engagement in class discussions, willingness to ask questions, and active involvement in group activities.

Teachers often provide feedback on a student’s participation in progress reports, helping parents and educators understand their level of engagement and contribution to the classroom environment. Strong class participation not only indicates a student‘s interest in learning but also fosters a collaborative and interactive learning environment for the entire class.

As an education reform expert, I believe nurturing participation skills is just as important as academic performance for student success. Progress reports that assess this provide a balanced perspective.


In addition to academic performance and class participation, progress reports also evaluate a student’s behavior. This includes their adherence to classroom rules, respect for peers and teachers, and overall conduct.

By assessing behavior, progress reports provide valuable insights into a student’s social and emotional development. They help identify any behavioral issues that may be impacting their academic performance or classroom environment.

Addressing behavioral concerns early on can foster a positive and inclusive learning environment for all students. Progress reports are a tool to flag these issues and implement corrective actions.

It is important to note that progress reports are just one tool in assessing a student’s overall performance. They should be viewed in conjunction with other forms of assessment, such as quizzes, tests, projects, and teacher feedback.

Together, these assessments provide a holistic picture of a student’s progress and help guide their educational journey.

What Progress Reports Don‘t Tell You

While progress reports provide valuable feedback on academic performance, there are some key insights they fail to provide. Here are some important limitations to keep in mind:

Long-Term Prospects

While progress reports can give an indication of a student’s performance in a specific subject, they do not provide insight into their long-term prospects. They may receive excellent grades in a particular class but struggle in other subjects that are not reflected in the report.

It is essential to consider the broader academic journey and the student’s overall strengths and weaknesses when evaluating their long-term prospects. One or two progress reports do not tell the full story.

Learning Gaps

Progress reports often focus on grades and overall performance, but they may not reveal the specific areas where a student is struggling or has learning gaps. A student may receive a satisfactory grade on their progress report, but still have difficulties grasping certain concepts.

For example, I once worked with a student who earned a B in algebra on his progress report. However, when I reviewed his exam performance in detail, I realized he had significant gaps in quadratic equations that went unnoticed.

It is crucial for educators and parents to identify and address these learning gaps early on to ensure a well-rounded education.

Reasons Behind the Grade

While progress reports provide a grade for each subject, they do not always provide a detailed explanation of the reasons behind the grade. A student may receive a lower grade due to factors beyond their control, such as personal circumstances or a lack of resources.

It‘s important to have collaborative conversations to understand the full context. For instance, a low grade could stem from something as simple as needing glasses and struggling to see the board.

Looking beyond progress reports

It is important to remember that progress reports are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to evaluating a student’s academic performance. To gain a comprehensive understanding, it is crucial to engage in ongoing communication with teachers and students, participate in parent-teacher conferences, and utilize additional resources such as tutoring or study groups.

By taking a holistic approach, parents, educators, and students can work together to ensure academic success and address any areas of concern.

For more information on evaluating student progress in high school, you can visit Edutopia or

Tips for Students and Parents

Receiving concerning progress reports can be stressful, but there are productive ways for students and parents to respond. Here are my top tips as an education reform expert:

Don’t Panic

It’s natural to feel anxious about poor or unexpected grades. But rather than panicking, take time to process the report and your emotions before determining next steps. Remind yourself that one bad report does not define a student‘s potential.

Identify Weak Areas

Carefully review the report details and markings to pinpoint subjects, skills, and assignments where you need to improve. Look for patterns – are you consistently struggling with a certain topic or losing points for things like homework?

Communicate with Teachers

Schedule time with teachers to discuss areas of difficulty and get their perspective. Come prepared with questions and be open-minded to feedback. They can be great partners in crafting a plan.

Involve Your Student

For parents – discuss the reports with your child to get their take. Identify issues together, allowing them to play an active role. Empower older students to reach out to teachers directly.

Create an Improvement Plan

Develop an action plan based on the feedback. Set 1-2 specific, measurable goals for improvement and a timeline. Outline steps like tutoring, office hours, or adjusting study habits.

Focus on Learning Goals

Rather than getting fixated on grades alone, shift the focus to actual learning and growth. Celebrate evidence of improvement or new study skills. Foster intrinsic motivation and self-confidence.

With consistent effort, a constructive response to progress reports can put your student on the path to academic success.

Progress Reports in the College Admissions Process

For high schoolers planning to apply to college, progress reports can provide helpful insights into their academic journey when it comes to admissions. Here‘s an overview:

Not Part of Academic Record

Unlike official transcripts, progress reports are typically not included in a student’s permanent academic record that gets sent to colleges. However, they still hold value when supplemented properly.

Can Demonstrate Growth

While admissions officers want to see strong grades, they also look for signs of resilience and improvement over time. Sophia, an admissions officer I spoke with, said "We want motivated students who won’t give up when they struggle." Progress reports can demonstrate that upward trajectory.

Just One Piece of the Puzzle

In a survey published by NACAC, only 14% of colleges rated progress reports as considerably important in admissions decisions. They are considered, but only as part of a comprehensive application profile.

Grades, test scores, essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars also weigh heavily. Progress reports mainly serve to provide helpful context on a student‘s journey.

Tie Reports Into Your Application

When progress reports highlight improvements or overcoming challenges, students can reference them in application essays or interviews as evidence of persistence – a trait admissions officers admire.

But progress reports should be just one data point in demonstrating tenacity and commitment to learning. Students should aim to showcase these qualities across their application.

The Takeaway

While the grades and feedback on progress reports can feel monumental in the moment, it‘s important to keep perspective. Though valuable, progress reports are limited snapshots of student performance at a single stage.

The most constructive approach is to embrace progress reports as tools for growth. With proper support from educators and parents, students can utilize these reports to self-reflect, identify areas for improvement, and implement strategies that propel them towards success.

When progress reports are viewed as data to inform better learning habits – rather than as a final verdict on ability and potential – they become an asset rather than a stressor. The information they provide can empower students to continually evolve into their best academic selves when applied with the right mindset.

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