Maintaining Student Records Documentation of each student’s progress, attendance, and test scores for each school year is kept in a cumulative record for that student. This information may be kept electronically or it may be stored in a cumulative folder. These records are permanent.


  • Be aware that the cumulative record for a student contains information about the academic experiences, challenges, and accomplishments of that particular student.
  • Check the cumulative record first if you have questions regarding a student.
  • Remember that the kind of information included in the cumulative record will vary somewhat by school district.
  • Check with your school on policy and procedures with regard to student records.
  • Open cumulative records and update them at the beginning of the year.
  • Student records include a lot of information, including the following:
    • Student information
    • Curricular information
    • Yearly standardized test scores
    • Individualized Education Plan (IEP) records
    • English Language Development (ELD) levels
    • Academic background
    • Most recent report cards
    • Conference information
    • Teacher comments
    • Other relevant information

Timetable for Maintenance of Student Records

Beginning of the year—Open the cumulative records to update the information.

Throughout the year—Update the cumulative records with conference information, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and English Language Development (ELD) level changes.

End of the year—Close the cumulative records for the year with final report cards, attendance, curriculum studied, and comments.

Cumulative Records


  • Each student’s cumulative record is a legal and confidential student education record.
  • By law, cumulative records may be viewed only by school officials for whom the viewing of the record is required to fulfill their professional responsibilities. Parents may request access to their child’s record in writing, and students over the age of 18 may request access to their own record in writing.
  • Check with your school on policies related to cumulative records.
  • Keep all information intact, confidential, and safe.
  • Electronic cumulative records must be protected on a secure computer. Always log out when you are finished working with cumulative records so that they are left in a secured state.
  • Paper versions of cumulative records should be stored in the school’s fireproof cabinet at all times, except when school staff is working directly with one or more of the folders.
  • A student’s cumulative record that is checked out of the cabinet by a staff member should be replaced each night to avoid the possibility of loss.
  • Never take students’ cumulative records home or leave them in your classroom.
  • Use black ink when entering information for paper versions of cumulative records.
  • Keep comments professional and positive. Instead of “Wilson hits other children on the playground,” note that “Wilson is experiencing difficulty keeping his hands to himself.”

Report Cards

A report card is a current record of a student’s scores across the curriculum and the behavior observed for the current period.


  • Many schools now use a standards-based grading system for report cards.
  • The standards-based grading system uses a numerical grading scale (4, 3, 2, 1).
  • Standards-based report cards convey information about the students’ achievement as follows:
    • 4—Exceeds grade-level standards, advanced understanding
    • 3—Meets grade-level standards, proficient understanding
    • 2—Partially meets grade-level standards, basic understanding
    • 1—Does not meet grade-level standards, little understanding
  • Older grading systems use letters (A, B, C, D, F) for report cards.
  • Educators who use standards-based grading find that it enables them to assign grades based on clearly defined expectations.
  • Some parents and students find it difficult to give up letter grades. This is especially true in the upper grades, when students are preparing to apply to colleges.
  • Track students’ progress regularly. This allows you to be well prepared when it is time to assign grades, and it provides evidence to support the students’ scores.
  • Use positive, professional comments. This is standard procedure for legal documentation.
  • Positive comments are better received by parents, often serving as an opening for conversation.
  • The school or district may provide a list of positively phrased comments for you to use.
  • Be as realistic as possible on students’ report cards, but take care to phrase comments in an appropriate and professional manner.
  • Comment on particular skills or achievements for each student, so that parents have more specific information than “Jefferson is doing well in math.”
  • Failure notices or not-meeting-standards notices should be sent home a few weeks before the reporting period ends.
  • Check to see what the policy is for your school. Check with your office about important dates related to report cards and grading, such as the following:
    • Reporting periods
    • Days in the reporting period
    • Warning notice deadline
    • Submission date
    • Conference dates
    • Conference schedule

Grading Methodologies

Anecdotal Notes

Notes and observations about a student’s progress can be kept as anecdotal notes.


  • Make anecdotal notes each day about several of your students.
  • Use Post-it Notes for anecdotal notes, and place these notes in students’ individual folders or transfer them to the student log.
  • Refer to anecdotal notes when conferencing with parents and/or assigning grades.

Student Portfolios

Collections of a student’s best work, chosen by the student, are collected in student portfolios.


  • Have students select their best work from among their writing, math, science, social studies, and art activities for inclusion in either subject portfolios or a single comprehensive portfolio.
  • Share student portfolios at conferences and/or referral meetings.
  • Refer to student portfolios when assigning grades, both for the reporting period and for progress reports.

Variety of Assessments

Both formal and informal assessments demonstrate mastery of grade-level standards.


  • Work with different types of assessments to provide multiple samples of mastery to evaluate. Limiting assessment to just one type isn’t fair to the student.
  • Remember that most curricular programs have assessments embedded in them as a resource.
  • Check with the school office to learn how your district handles periodic assessments.
  • Find out how other teachers at your grade level handle assessments.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself or your students with too many assessments.
  • Plan ahead. Don’t try to cram several assessments into the week just before your reporting period ends.

Teacher–Parent–Student Conferences

Regular conferences with the teacher, the parent, and the student are held during the year to discuss each student’s progress.


  • Find out how often your school or district expects you to hold teacher-parent-student conferences. A typical conference schedule will include three teacher-parent-student conferences during the school year: (1) at the beginning of the school year, or the first reporting period, (2) in the middle of the school year, or the second reporting period, and (3) at the end of the school year, or the last reporting period.
  • Set up a schedule for your teacher-parent-student conferences. Conferences typically last 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Offer parents a selection of time slots. Be flexible, because parents often have to schedule their conference time around work hours, or they may have to leave work to attend.
  • Schedule a phone conference if parents cannot attend a conference in person.
  • Remember that when you discuss negative behavior or a low score, you need to make sure to find something positive to say as well.
  • Allow students to discuss their progress. This holds them accountable.
  • Allow students to demonstrate learned skills (such as reading, working math problems, explaining a science experiment) during the conference time.
  • Ask students to identify (1) their biggest accomplishment for this reporting period, (2) an area of weakness for this reporting period, and (3) what they’d like to focus on for the next reporting period.
  • Analyze the student’s effort, interest, and self-reflection in relation to his or her progress.

Retention Request

A request for the retention of a student involves a formal documented procedure reviewed by a committee.


  • Realize that a student who is unable to achieve grade-level expectancy must be given special consideration.
  • Remember that a retention request is a last resort.
  • Check with the office about the retention policy and procedures of the district.
  • Never attempt to diagnose a student; leave that to a professional.
  • Keep evidence of student progress (or lack thereof) on an ongoing basis for use during conferences and possible retention discussions.
  • Consider retention for a student in very specific situations, including the following:
    • The student does not meet grade-level standards in three of the major subjects (reading, math, social studies, science).
    • The student consistently has difficulty completing work in class and/or homework, and academic skills do not seem to improve over time.
    • A variety of instructional strategies and differentiation of instruction have already been applied.
    • The student has been referred to the school’s Student Study Team.
    • Interventions have been applied.
    • Conferences have been held with the student, parents, and principal.
  • You must have a paper trail of interventions, referrals, parent notifications, and conferences in place.
  • Communicate with parents on a regular basis so that a discussion about retention does not come as a surprise.
  • Assessment of abilities and needs should be made by a team—the assigned teacher, an administrator, additional qualified teachers, and/or a school site representative, nurse, counselor, or school psychologist.
  • Proper remediation or developmental work should always be assigned.
  • Every effort should be made to help students overcome their difficulties in the areas of concern.
  • Consult with the parents and the student (and perhaps the principal) to ensure full understanding and cooperation with regard to the student’s placement.
  • If retention is approved and a recommendation is made, a follow-up meeting is usually scheduled at which the parent has the ultimate approval authority.

504 Plan

Students with disabilities are eligible for a 504 Plan, which is a planning document based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (with additional protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).



  • “Disability” in a 504 Plan refers to a “physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities.” This may include physical impairments, illnesses, communicable diseases, chronic conditions (such as asthma, allergies, or diabetes), injuries, learning disorders, and communication problems.
  • A 504 Plan includes modifications and accommodations for the delivery of instruction to enable students to perform at the same level as their peers—to level the playing field for them.
  • The Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are civil rights laws.
  • Consult with the special education resource teacher or an administrator to review the needs of the 504 Plan students who are assigned to you.
  • Know the background and needs of your 504 Plan students.
  • Develop appropriate education plans for these students, providing for their needs and accommodations.

IEP (Individualized Education Plan)

Students receiving resource services are eligible for assistance through an IEP, which is a planning document used in combination with the classroom teacher’s daily and long-range planning to meet their needs.


  • Students with an IEP have unique needs and goals that must be acknowledged and planned for.
  • The goal of an IEP is to support the student so that he or she will be able to function as effectively as possible in a general education classroom.
  • Students with an IEP are most often placed in a general education classroom. Their instruction involves program modifications together with additional support from the special education resource teacher.
  • Students with an IEP may leave the classroom at a designated time every day to work with a resource teacher.
  • Ask in the school office or check with other teachers to find out how your school district handles IEPs.
  • Review IEPs for students who are assigned to you. Resource and special education teachers or your administrator can answer questions you may have about specific goals in the IEP.
  • Your planning should reflect accommodations to meet the IEP goals.
  • Details of an IEP are typically noted in the teacher’s daily and short-range plans.
  • IEP goals are reviewed every reporting period, and they are adjusted or modified as needed.
  • IEP goals should be shared and discussed at parent conferences along with report cards. Typically a copy of the goals and the student’s progress is sent home with each report card.
  • IEPs are filed in the student’s cumulative record.
  • If more educational support is needed, students may be placed in a special education classroom with both direct and indirect support from special education teachers and support staff.