Daily Report Cards to Improve a Child's ADHD Behavior

Partnering with the school and keeping lines of communication open with your child’s teacher(s) is an important part of an educational plan for students with ADHD. One way to foster this partnership is through daily report cards that track and monitor your child’s progress at school.


How to Use a Daily Report Card

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Through a daily reporting system, the teacher rates the student on target academic or behavioral goals at frequent times throughout the day and the student receives rewards for meeting goals. One of the reasons this approach can be so effective for students with ADHD is that it clearly outlines daily goals for the student and gives the child immediate and frequent feedback on his or her progress toward the goals. In addition, daily report cards are often very motivating for a child because the system rewards and reinforces positive behaviors at school.

It is important that the teacher(s), parent(s) and student work together on developing and setting up the plan. All need to be on board and consistent with the program for it to work successfully.


Step 1: Identify Target Goals

Step one in setting up a daily report card involves clearly identifying and defining the behaviors or academic goals that will be targeted for improvement. Goals need to be defined in such a way that you are able to accurately measure improvement. In other words, the behavior needs to be observable and countable in terms of duration and frequency. Start with only a few goals at a time so no one becomes overwhelmed by the plan. The narrowing focus on improvement also helps ensure more successes. And when children experience success, it feels good and helps keep them motivated to continue.

Along these same lines, when creating the plan the goals need to be set up so that they are achievable. If goals and expectations are set too high, the repeated frustration and failures the child experiences can turn him or her off the plan altogether. Instead, it becomes a frustrating system that is counterproductive. When you first implement the daily report card, you may even want to make one or two of the goals easily attainable to help hook the student into the plan. As the student experiences more and more success, you can begin to increase expectations further. You’ll continue to tweak the plan and make adjustments together depending on the student’s progress (or lack of progress) with the daily report card.

Examples of Possible Target Goals:

  • Raises hand to speak with X or fewer reminders
  • Works quietly with X or fewer reminders
  • Stays on task with X or fewer reminders
  • Uses an appropriate tone of voice with X or fewer reminders
  • Keeps hands and feet to self with X or fewer reminders
  • Walks appropriately in line with X or fewer reminders
  • Completes assignments within the designated time
  • Completes assignments at X% accuracy
  • Hands-on homework

Step 2: Generate List of Rewards

Decide where rewards will be provided—either at home or at school. Home-based contingency programs allow for more varied types of rewards such as earning time on a favorite video game, telephone privileges, or time off from chores. And when the rewards are provided at home the teacher’s workload with the daily report card system is eased. For younger students (K-1st graders), however, rewards that are provided at school are often more powerful because the positive consequences of their efforts are received more immediately.

Rewards don’t have to be large or cost a lot of money, but they do need to be motivating for the child. This is why it is important to have the child involved in generating the list of possible rewards. It often helps to have a mixture of material, social, and activity-related rewards. Keep in mind that the rewards may have to be switched up from time to time so that the child doesn’t become bored with them.

Examples of Possible Rewards:

If provided at school...

  • X minutes of extra recess time
  • Teacher helper for the day
  • Line leader for the day
  • Choose stickers
  • X minutes of free time
  • X minutes of computer time
  • Pick an item from the “grab bag”
  • Partner up with a friend for the class activity
  • Receive a positive phone call home from a teacher
  • Visit the principal for congratulations

If provided at home...

  • Earn X time on a favorite video game
  • Special dessert after dinner
  • X minutes of TV time
  • Bike ride with parents or friend
  • A day off from chores
  • Stay up X minutes beyond bedtime
  • Special one-on-one with Mom or Dad
  • An extra storybook at bedtime
  • X amount of allowance money
  • Get to order pizza for the family

Know that pro-social rewards that tie people together are very powerful. So the student may earn special privileges for the whole class. For example, if the student has made progress on goals the class might get to eat their lunch together outside on a nice day or receive extra free time. At home, the child might earn a trip to the ice cream store with his or her siblings. This way everyone benefits and classmates/siblings are motivated to help support the positive behaviors.


Step 3: Identify Criteria for Earning Rewards

Before you begin implementing the plan you will need to identify the criteria for earning rewards. Assess the child’s current level of functioning in the target areas and decide the level of improvement the child will have to meet to receive a reward. It often helps to set up both short and long-term rewards, so that your child can earn both daily rewards and weekly rewards which are larger. A weekly reward might include earning a trip to the mall, a sleepover with a friend, a family night out at the movies with popcorn, etc.


Step 4: Monitor and Track Progress

Once the goals and rewards have been identified, you are ready to set the plan in motion. The teacher is responsible for evaluating target behaviors and providing specific feedback to the student about his or her performance several times throughout the school day. The teacher will also document progress on the daily report card. Feedback is generally provided by subject or class period and this allows for more frequency in rating. It also helps to keep the student motivated if part of the day has been more difficult. In this way, there are still opportunities to “start over” in a new rating period and have more success over the course of the day. This is particularly helpful for a student who starts out the day struggling but is able to make improvement as the day moves on.

The student is responsible for putting the report card in his or her book bag at the end of class time so that it can be reviewed at home. Keep in mind that the child may need reminders and guidance to remember to put the card consistently back in his or her book bag both at school and at home. Having a special, brightly colored folder that houses the card is often helpful. Parents should have routines in place for reviewing the report card at home each day after school.

Hopefully, this daily report card and reward system will help foster positive communication between home and school and help your child make progress in areas that have been more difficult to overcome. Continue to assess and modify the plan, as needed.

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Article Sources
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  • George J. DuPaul and Gary Stoner, ADHD in the Schools: Assessment and Intervention Strategies. The Guilford Press. 2004.
  • William Pelham. How to Establish a School-Home Daily Report Card. Center for Children and Families, University of Buffalo, State University of New York.