School Behavior

Q: “My Student’s Daily Report Card Isn’t Working!”

“Daily report cards are among the most powerful evidence-based tools that educators have to encourage better behavior in students. A strong report card system has a few key elements that make or break its effectiveness.”

Report Card on Refrigerator
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Q: “We’ve recently started a daily report card with one of my students with ADHD to improve their behavior, but we haven’t seen any changes yet. What can we do to make this tool work more effectively?”

Daily report cards are among the most powerful evidence-based tools that educators have to encourage better behavior in students. A strong report card system has a few key elements that make or break its effectiveness.

1. Well-Defined Goals

Your student’s daily report card should list a few clearly defined target behaviors. The following are some examples of well-defined daily report card goals for students with ADHD:

  • Follows class rules with no more than three reminders per class
  • Completes assignments within the designated time
  • Completes assignments with 80% accuracy
  • Complies with teacher requests with no more than three instances of noncompliance per class
  • Engages in no more than three teasings per class
  • Follows lunch rules (<3 violations)
  • Follows recess rules (<2 violations)

Avoid listing vague goals like “I was well-behaved in class today” or “I had a good day today.” The daily report card should be clear so that everyone — educators, parents, and the students — understands what’s expected.

[Read: Behavior Problems at School — a Complete Problem-Solving Guide for Parents]

2. Well-Calibrated Behavioral Goals

You know you have a well-calibrated report card when the student has earned more Yeses than Nos on it at the end of the school day. If the student is getting mostly Nos and failing to meet goals, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Even if the goals that are currently on the report card are well-defined, the point is to set goals that are reasonably attainable for the student now. These goals can become more challenging once the student has demonstrated that they can consistently achieve them.

Bear in mind that, when starting a new behavioral support plan, it’s not uncommon for a student’s behavior to get worse before it gets better. A behavior analyst may be able to identify additional strategies to decrease instances of challenging behaviors.

3. Immediate Feedback

You should praise and compliment your student for demonstrating desired behaviors, but you should also provide immediate feedback — privately — if they break a rule reflected in the report card. If rule-breaking happens, say, “This is your first reminder for following class rules.” This framing works because it keeps students on track. Once a student gets close to the limit, they typically button down and really focus on following the rule.

4. Parent/Caregiver Involvement

Caregiver accountability is by far the most important aspect of the daily report card. Daily report card review will help parents or caregivers notice patterns to their child’s behaviors and intervene quickly with the help of the school if needed.

[Read: How to Team Up with Parents — Tips from Teachers for Teachers]

Caregivers must also implement home-based privileges or consequences tied to their child’s report card performance. The child can earn three minutes of screen time, for example, for every check mark they earned toward the goal behaviors. If screen time matters that much to the student, they will be more focused on meeting daily report card behavior goals throughout the school day. If setting up home-based rewards isn’t feasible, school-based rewards may fill this need.

Behavior Report Card: Next Steps

The content for this article was derived from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, “ADHD Understanding and Services in School Settings: An Evolution in Education” [Video Replay & Podcast #461] with Gregory A. Fabiano, Ph.D., which was broadcast on June 28, 2023.

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