How to Use a Daily Report Card Program
by Harvey C. Parker, Ph.D.

What is a Daily Report Card?

Daily report card programs are commonly used in schools to help manage behavior and academic performance of students. The daily report card program is a form of behavior modification. Teachers have applied the principles of behavior modification in classrooms for many years. Behavior modfication is based on the assumption that teachers can increase, decrease or eliminate specific behaviors of their students by manipulating responses that follow those behaviors. Three types of responses can affect behavior: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment or response-cost.

The daily report card is specifies the behaviors the student is required to exhibit and the rewards (points) the teacher will provide contingent on the behavior. We have provided three types of daily report cards in the treatment tools section of a primary version for children in preschool through first or second grade, an elementary version, and a middle school version. They differ in the number of behaviors that are targeted to improve and the frequency of ratings the student receives each day.

Most children in elementary school will be able to use a single rating daily report card because they will be evaluated by one teacher one time per day. Those elementary school students who require more frequent daily ratings, due to high rates of inappropriate behavior, or because they are evaluated by more than one teacher each day, will need a multiple rating card. Middle school students, who usually have several teachers in one day, will need to use the multiple rating card.

Regardless of whether the child is evaluated one or more times a day the target behaviors will often differ from one child to the next. Below are some examples of commonly targeted behaviors:
• Paid Attention
• Completed Work
• Completed Homework
• Was Well Behaved
• Desk and Notebook Neat

The student may rated on a five point scale (1=Poor, 2=Improved, 3=Fair, 4=Good, 5=Excellent). When a category of behavior does not apply for the student for that day, e.g. no homework assigned, the teacher marks N/A and the student is automatically awarded 5 points.

Below are examples of daily report cards. You can find the actual forms in the Treatment Tools section of

1. Paid attention      
2. Played nicely      
3. Followed rules      
Teacher's Initials      
1 = Try Harder                2 = Better              3 = Great Job
TARGET BEHAVIORS (Enter teacher or subject in each box) Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
1. Paid attention in class          
2. Completed work in class          
3. Completed homework          
4. Was well behaved          
5. Desk and notebook neat          
Teacher's Initials          
0=losing, forgetting or destorying card
1= poor  2=needs improvement 3= fair 4= good
5= excellent
TARGET BEHAVIORS (enter teacher or subject in each box at right) .        
1. Paid attention in class          
2. Completed work in class          
3. Completed homework          
4. Was well behaved          
5. Kept desk and notebook neat          
Teacher's Initials          

0= losing, forgetting or destorying card  1= poor   2=needs improvement  3= fair  4= good  5= excellent

STEP 1: Explaining the Program to the Child
The daily report card program may be introduced to the child by his parents alone, together with his teacher, or with the assistance of a health care professional. The program should be described in a positive manner as a method by which to help the child achieve more success in school.

1. The child is instructed to give the daily report card to his teacher(s) each day for scoring.

2. The teacher(s) scores the card, initials it and returns it to the student to bring home to his parents for review.

3. Each evening the parents review the total points earned for the day. If the child is using the single rating card, it is to be brought to school each day for the rest of the week to be completed by the teacher. If a mulitiple rating card is used, then the child should be given a new daily report card to bring to school for use the following day.

4. Encouragement is offered to the child by the parents in the form of verbal praise and tangible rewards for his successes, while loss of privileges is applied for point totals below a prescribed amount each day (see below). It is important that a combination of rewards and consequences be utilized since children with ADHD are noted to have a high reinforcement tolerance. That is, they seem to require larger reinforcers and stronger consequences than non-ADHD children.

5. Explain to the child that if he forgets, loses, or destroys the daily report card he is given zero points for the day and appropriate consequences should follow.

If we are to expect complete cooperation from the child then both parents and teachers need to demonstrate a strong involvement with the program through daily evaluation by the teacher and nightly review by the parents.

STEP 2: Setting Up Rewards and Consequences
When using the daily report card program be careful to set your reinforcement and punishment cut-off scores at a realistic level so that the child can be successful on the card provided that he is making a reasonable effort in school. Although individual differences need to be considered, we have found that a daily report card score of 17 points or more per day is an effective cut-off score for starting the program.

As the child improves in performance, the cut-off score can be raised a little at a time in accordance with the child’s progress. If the child receives less than the cut-off number of points on any given day then a mild punishment (e.g. removal of a privilege, earlier bed time, etc.) should be provided, however, for points at or above the amount expected, a reward should be forthcoming.

Constructing a List of Rewards
The child and parents should construct a list of rewards which the child would like to receive for bringing home a good daily report card. Some sample rewards are:

• Additional time for television in the evening after homework
• Staying up later than usual
• Time on video game
• A trip to the store for ice-cream, etc.
• Playing a game with mom or dad
• Going to a friend’s house after school
• Earning money to buy something or to add to savings
• Exchanging points for tokens to save up for a larger reward at some future time

Constructing Negative Consequences
The child and parents should construct a list of negative consequences one of which could be imposed upon the child for failure to earn a specified number of points on the Goal Card. Negative consequences should be applied judiciously given consideration for the ADD student's inherent difficulties. Some examples are:

• Early bedtime for not reaching a set number of points
• Missing dessert
• Reduction in length of playtime or television time
• Removal of video game for the day

STEP 3: Using the Program—The Parent Record Form
During the first three days of the program, baseline data should be collected. This is the breaking-in phase wherein points earned by the student will count toward rewards, but not toward loss of privileges. As with any new procedure, it is likely that either the child or teacher will occasionally forget to have the daily report card completed. Such mistakes should be overlooked during this breaking-in phase.

After this brief period it is essential that the teacher score the report card daily. The teacher should ask the child for the card even when the child forgets to bring it up for scoring and should reinforce the child for remembering on his own to hand in the card for scoring. If the child repeatedly does not bring the card to the teacher for scoring the teacher should explain the importance of daily review of the card to the child. A mild consequence may be applied if the child continues to forget the card.

Generally the best time to score the card for elementary school students who are on a single rating system is at the end of the day. Middle school students, of course, should obtain scores after each period. Ignore any arguing or negotiating on the part of the student regarding points earned. Simply encourage the child to try harder the next day.

Parents should be certain to review the daily report card on a nightly basis. It is not wise to review the card immediately upon seeing the child that afternoon or evening. Set some time aside before dinner to review the card thoroughly and dispense appropriate rewards or remove privileges if necessary. After reviewing the card parents should fill in the number of points earned each day on a monthly calendar to record points earned each day for that month. This will serve as a permanent record and can be used for students who are earning points for long term rewards.

STEP 4: Self-Evaluation Training
The self-evaluation phase of the daily report card program is important in that it offers the child the opportunity to evaluate his own performance in school and creates greater self-awareness of behavior. After the child has been successful on the program for at least one month, the teacher should ask the child to complete his own report card each day and to compare his ratings with that of the teacher’s for the day. When child and teacher ratings for a particular behavior are substantially different, the teacher should explain why the child received the teacher rating.

Continue with the self-evaluation phase if the child’s performance continues to be positive.

STEP 5: Phasing Out the Program
Initially, the delivery of rewards and the prudent use of negative consequences drives the daily report card program and provides the initial motivation to the child to succeed. When the program is working well and the child consistently brings home good marks on the Goal Card, he gains a sense of pride about his performance. The joy of a job well done becomes an even more powerful incentive to the child than extrinsic rewards or the fear of negative consequences. When such a result is achieved the parents and teacher should discuss phasing out the program so as not to build reliance on the daily report card.

Begin the phasing out procedures as soon as the student’s behavior is consistently positive for a six week period. Partial phasing out has already been instituted by the child's self-evaluating behavior (Step 4). Additional phasing out of the program can be accomplished by using the card less frequently (every other day or every other week). Teachers need to continue to positively reinforce the child for demonstration of appropriate target behaviors, even well after the program is discontinued.

Adapted from The ADD Hyperactivity Handbook for School by Harvey C. Parker, Ph.D. Specialty Press, Inc. All rights reserved. This form may be copied for use in your practice.