School Report Cards Can Help Parents Support School Improvement

January 31, 2004
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

For most parents, the issue of school accountability ends with campus, district, and state report cards, which are usually mailed to parents once a year. But accountability actually begins with these report cards –they provide valuable information to help parents influence school improvement.

One of the key findings in A New Wave of Evidence, a synthesis of the research on how families and communities can connect with schools and produced by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is that the responsibility for children’s educational development is a collaborative enterprise among parents, school staff, and community members.

As members of this collaborative, parents can help promote and support educational programs based on the needs of the school or the district as reflected on the school report cards and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports.

According to Parents for Public Schools, "Parents have a role in helping schools improve student and teacher performance. Information taken from school report cards can help parents determine the kinds of support schools and students need to improve their performance."

If a campus’s AYP or school report card reflects improvement needed in reading, parents, as stakeholders, may want to push for an increased schoolwide focus on reading strategies. Or perhaps improvement is needed in math; as members of a school’s site-based decision making team, parents may want to change a school’s improvement plan to reflect an emphasis on math, either through increased staff development or an increase in instructional time dedicated to math.

School districts, as well as local campuses, frequently survey parents and community members to get a sense of their perceptions regarding the work schools are doing. This is an excellent opportunity for parents and community members to provide that feedback needed for making improvements based on data obtained from AYP reports and district and school report cards.

But a parent does not need to be an active member of a decision-making body to use information found in these report cards. The National Educators Association (NEA) suggests that parents ask questions about the school report card, the AYP report, or their child’s results on high-stakes testing. Parents can ask questions like:

  1. How does the material my child learns in class relate to the results found in the school report cards?
  2. In what other ways does the school — and my child's teacher — measure how well my child is learning?
  3. How much time does my child spend taking tests during the school year?
  4. Does my child's performance on state-required achievement tests match his performance in the classroom? (If an achievement test is not well matched to what your child is being taught at school, he could score poorly on the achievement test while still making good grades.)
  5. How does the school — and my child's teacher — use these results?

SEDL is a nonprofit education research and development organization that you can turn to as a source of information about research and practice in family involvement; school improvement; improving teaching in reading, language, mathematics, and science; integrating technology into teaching and learning; and connecting disability research with practice.

For more information and resources regarding family and community involvement, you can access SEDL’s National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools at


A New Wave of Evidence, SEDL

ASCD Education Update, Making Parent Involvement Meaningful

Texas Education Agency web site, Adequate Yearly Progress Reports

National Education Association, A parents guide to testing

The Effects of Parent Involvement in School Governance, NWREL

The Facts...about Getting Results, Ed.Gov/NCLB

Parents for Public Schools, Accountability: Setting Expectations, Measuring Performance and Providing Support

About SEDL

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit