A report card is a measure of a student's performance. In most places, the report card is issued by the school to the student or the student's parents twice or four times yearly. A typical report card uses a grading scale to determine the quality of a student's school work. Throughout North America, the grading scale consists of grades scored in classes taken by the student.
In many elementary schools in North America a "Check System" is used in the primary grades (kindergarten to third grade) in place of letter grades. Teachers give a Check for at grade level, Check Plus for advanced, and Check Minus for behind grade level.
Report cards are now frequently issued in automated form by computers and may be mailed to parents and students. Traditional school report cards contained a section for teachers to record individual comments about the student's work and behaviour. Some automated card systems provide for teachers' including such comments but others limit the report card to grades only.
Additionally, in the United States, progress reports are issued to track a student's performance in between report cards. They are typically issued at the midpoint of a grading period, (for example: 4 1/2 weeks into a nine-week grading period, or three weeks into a six-week grading period) and contain essentially the same information as the report card. These reports allow students and their parents to see if school performance is slipping and if intervention is required to bring up the grade.
In elementary school, students typically receive three report cards. The school year is separated into three terms (Sept-Dec, Dec-Mar, Mar-June) and at the end of each term the students get a report card. It is often followed by a break of some sort. Example: First term Christmas Holidays, second term March Break and third term Summer Holidays.
In secondary school, students receive two report cards at the end of each semester. They also get mid-term report cards midway through the semester. The semester goes from Sept-Jan and Jan-June. This does not count for Summer School.
As a result, the Grade Average is also stated for each term. Social Studies is also dissolved into History and Geography. Other than these changes, the Grade 7-8 report card is exactly the same as the grade 1-6 report card.
"Report card" is used to describe any systematic listing and evaluation of something for information. For example, many states in the United States have their education departments issue report cards on schools' performance. Political advocacy groups will often issue "report cards" on legislators, "grading" them based on their stances on issues.