Reports Cards: Then (1939) & Now (2017)

KHO Grade 5 Report Card 1939Grade 1 to 8 Ontario Report Card

While going through my mother-in-law’s belongings, I came across her Grade 5 report card from 1939. So given report card writing is pending, I have decided to deconstruct how much report cards have changed in 78 years!

Beside the addition of subject and learning skill comments, report cards have not changed that much over this time. In both report cards, students still get a letter grade or percentage. The big difference is that the students are ranked by placement in their class or school – this meant that evaluations could vary based on the academic level of the students’ cohort. Students’ evaluations were very similar and yes, students get an “I” for incomplete work in both 1939 and 2017!

The subjects have changed moderately. The subjects listed are reflective of societal needs of worker skills. Reading and writing is still listed in 1939 and 2017; students did not get a communication or a media mark in 1939 … because the Internet was not invented yet. Communications meant writing a letter to your grandparents or sending a telegraph. Phones were still pretty expensive. Even in the early 1970s, my great aunt, living in Markdale, Ontario, still shared a party line. The students in 1939 needed a overall understanding of mathematics which probably focused on number facts and calculating – because they were not carrying around computers in their pockets! In 1939, social studies dealt with geography and British History, no Canadian history. When I went to school in the 1970s, we studied American and world history … no Canadian history either. In 1939, the arts meant drawing and science was nature studies. There was no assessment for physical education, only health. Both girls and boys studied manual arts – home economics for girls and trades for boys.

Learning skills and work habits are a little more sophisticated in 2017 compared to 1939 but we could still apply the categories used in 1939 for “General Conduct” and “Attitude to Work”. Both report cards keep track of lates and absences as this is where school funding originates.

In 1939, Teachers reported to parents more often with monthly Lates, Days Absent, General Conduct, and Attitude to Work. Standings in Subjects, Rank in Grade, and Number of Pupils were reported every two months. Class size has not changed that much in 78 years. KHO’s class had class sizes between 32 to 37 students. When I taught grade 5, my classes varied between 23 to 33 students. With recent changes in class size, the cap of 25 students is more of a suggestion than a limit as students inevitably show up after schools’ reorganization day.

Overall, in 78 years, I know we’ve improved our reporting to parents. The 2017 report cards are more specific for learning skills and work habits and what is being covered in subject areas. Even though it takes a great deal of time to complete these report cards, the format is an improvement. Using my professional judgment, I work very hard to capture my students’ progress … and I’ll say it again … it’s a lot of work!

But I personally believe that if we can give parents and students a good snapshot of their progress, it’s worth it.

Report Cards Then and Now Chart pic


Report Cards Then and Now Chart


Updated: October 15, 2017 — 9:47 pm

The Author

Deb Weston

I love teaching. I’ve been teaching over 20 years in Ontario. I’ve taught grades 2 through to grade 8, including split and contained Spec Ed classes. I am an advocate/ally for issues dealing with Special Education. I sit on ETFO's Special Education Standing Committee. I hold a PhD in Education Policy & Leadership. I am learning disabled! I believe that when working collaboratively, teachers are better together. My opinions are my own, usually supported by peer-reviewed literature and law. Follow me on Twitter @DPAWestonPhD

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2019 The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario | ETFO Website | RSS Feed | Login