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Home Report
Card Program

(Antecedent Interventions)
Classroom Interventions for Children with Attention Deficit Disorder


The Home Report Card Program is a home-based reinforcement technique for building up and maintaining appropriate classroom performance and behavior.  Typically, parents, teachers, and sometimes a consultant cooperate to design a note that targets specific behaviors for change.  These notes are accurately completed by the teacher on a daily basis and given to the child to bring home to the parents.  The parents incorporate this daily feedback about their child's school performance and behavior into a positive reward system in the home.

Sending notes to the parents about a child's school behavior appears to be a common practice.  While giving parents feedback about their child's behavior can be helpful, without a structured system of implementing feedback, the feedback can become inconsistent and over emphasize inappropriate behavior.  One survey found that 79% of teachers reported sending a note home for appropriate behavior at least "just a little," whereas, 96% reported sending a note home at least "pretty much" for inappropriate behavior (, Taylor, O'Leary, & Sanderson, 1990).  Furthermore, sending notesd home on a daily basis can become a burden to teachers if the behaviors targeted for change are not clearly specified and the format of the note is unstructured.  For example, some teachers might write marrative notes describing the child's day and the behaviors that occured.  This may take as long as 15 minutes and a teacher is unlikely to have the time to provide this type of feedback on a daily basis for a period of weeks.  Home report card programs can provide more consistent feedback in an efficient manner than unstructured notes.


There are seeral advantages of using a home report card program.  First, it is a collaborative effort between  parents and teacher and promotes communication in a constructive manner.  Parents often feel frustrated by reports about school problems because they are not present at the time the behavior is performed and, therefore, cannot do anything about their behavior.

Second, the home setting has a greater variety of rewards available than the school setting.  Parents can utilize powerful rewards in the home report card program.

Last, a home report card program requires minimal teacher time, relative to in-class reward programs.  A well-designed note will take only a few seconds to complete each day.


There are some limitations to a home report card system.  First, a home report card may not be as powerful as in-class programs because the time between the behavior and the actual reward may be too long.  In order to minimize the effect of this delay, praise and verbal feedback from the teacher should be given to the child frequently throughout teh day.  For example, the teacher can let the child know what percentage of work was completed at the end of each class period and provide verbal praise for achieving the goal set for the day.  For younger children, stickers can be placed on the home report card as a secondary reward and a reminder of the child's progress toward the daily goal.  However, for children with a moderate to severe level of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms, an in-class program may be needed.

Second, the success of a home report card program is dependent on the teacher providing accurate feedback each day.  For example, if a home report card program is designed to improve a child's percentage of work accurately completed, then the teacher will need to take the time to calculate the accuracy and percentage of work completed before the home report is sent home.  Failure to provide accurate feedback will quickly decrease the effectiveness of a home report card program because the administration of  rewards would not be consistently dependent on the child's behavior.

Third, a home report card program requires that the consequences at home be administered consistently.  Parents must assure that the rewards are meaningful and powerful.  In addition, they must monitor their child's home report card and immediately provide the promised rewards.  Some parents may benefit from consulting with a person trained in child management, like a psychologist, to assist them in implementing the home portion of the program.


There are several steps to the successful implementation of a home report card program.

Step One:  Conduct a parent-teacher conference.

Successfully implementing a home report card program will require the cooperation of parents and teacher.  An initial meeting of all interested parties should be conducted to discuss the child's appropriate and inappropriate school behavior.  The purpose of this meeting should be to enlist the cooperation of parents and teacher and to specify the behaviors targeted for change.

While behavior interventions sound simple, they can be quite difficult to implement.  It may be  beneficial to have an outside consultant assist in the developement of a home report card program and to provide the teacher and parent with feedback regarding proper implentation.  A consultant can also serve as an objective intermediary in conflicted parent-teacher relationships.

Step 2:  Define behaviors targeted for change.

Based on the information disscussed in the parent-teacher conference, both parents and teacher should agree on the school behaviors that they would like to change.  It is best to start off targeting two to four of the most important behaviors.  As the child's behavior improves, additional behaviors can be substituted.

Here is a list of several
Characteristics of a Well-Defined Behavior:
Characteristic: Recomended Examples: Not Recomended:
*  Define in clear, specific, and
    observable terms

*  Positively staed when

*  Represent academic
    products rather than
    classroom behavior or

"Turned in homework on time"
"Obeyed class rules"

"Played well with the other children"

"Percentage of math completed"
"Percentage of acuracy completed reading?

"Was good toady"
"Had a bad day"

"Hit the other children"
"Unprepared for class"

"Stayed seated"
"Stayed on task"


The first characteristic is that the behavior should be defined in a clear, specif, and observable manner.  The behavior should be defined in such a way that it is clear to the child and everyone else involved when the behavior occurrs.  A good rule of thumb is:  if the behavior can be counted and two different people counting the behavior have high agreement, then behavior is probably well-defined.  Vague target behaviors make it difficult for teachers to monitor them and children to know when they have performed them.

Second, the behaviors should be stated in positive terms. A home report card is designed to be a positive motivational program, focusing on increasing desired behaviors.  Therefore, behaviors targeted for change should be defined in positive terms.

The third characteristic relates to targeting classroom products rather than conduct or process behaviors.  Behavior programs targeting disruptive behavior or academic "process," such as staying on task, sitting still, or staying seated, are successful in these behaviors, however, they do not necessarily lead to increased work performance.  Whereas, targeting the products of academics can lead to increased productivity and improvements in behaviors (Barkley 1990).  It should be acknowledged that teh behavior of some children with ADD can be quite disruptive to the classroom and may need to be target of change.  It is recommended that targeting behaviors involving classroom conduct  should be focused on only after a period of rewarding academic productivity (Kelly 1990).

Step 3:  Design a home report card.

The home report card should be designed in a way that makes it easy for the teacher(s) to complete and the child to understand.  There are several components that should be included in designing a card.  There should be a place for basic information, such as the child's name, date, the teacher's signature, and any relevant comments.  There should be a place to list the behaviors targeted for  change and a place for the teacher to check whether, or the degree to which, the target behaviors occurred.  An important consideration is the interval in which the behavior will be evaluated.  The target behavior can be assessed for the entire day (see sample below) or in smaller intervals, such as twice a day, such as twice a day, four times per day, or the end of each period.  Once the card is designed, copies can be made.  An example of a home-report card is shown (below).  Other axamples are to follow later in this section.

Step 4:  Determine responsibilities.

In the conference, determine who will provide the notes, parents or teacher.  The child's responsibility will be to bring the notes to and from school.  "Lost" or "forgotten" cards caound as '0' points.  The parents' responsibility is to reward the child if the goal is achieved.

Step 5:  Generate a list of rewards.

The parents and the child should generate a long list of potential rewards.  The list should include daily and weekly rewards.  Examples of rewards are listed in the next table (below).  New rewards should be continually rotated into the reward "menu" in order to keep the rewards meaningful.  What may be rewarding to a child one week may be less so the next week.
Daily Rewards:

Small toy
Stay up 15 minutes later than usual
Special game with parent
Extra TV or video time

Weekly Rewards:

Go to the movies
Trip to the ice cream store
Trip to pizza store
Special activity with parent
have a friend over to spend the night
trip to the park

Step 6:  Establish goals.

The next step is to determine what goal is to be rewarded.  It is to initially set the goal at a level that is easily achievable by the child.  If the goal is set too high, the child may perceive it to be unachievable and will, therefore, not put forth the effort.  It is important that the child experience the rewards early in the program.

The best way of establishing the starting goal is to keep track of how often the child is performing the desired  behaviors for one week period prior to starting the Home Report Card program.  The starting goal should be set just above this "baseline."  This reasonable starting goal will make it easier for the child to obtain success and experience the reward of appropriate behavior.  For example, if a student was completing 40 percent of his/her assigned work before intervention, then an appropriate starting goal might be 50%.  The goal can be gradually increased over time.  A weekly goal can also be extablished in a similar manner.

Step 7:  Expalin the program to the child.

At a neutral time, the program should be explained to the child.  The behaviors targeted for change should be discussed, along with how they can be performed correctly.  Explain to the child his/her responsibility of bringing the card to and from school.  Let the child choose a daily and weekly reward from the menu.  Let the child select new rewards each day and week.  Explain to the child what is required to earn the rewards and when the rewards will be given.

Step 8:  Teacher provides feedback.

It is essential that the teacher rate the target behaviors in a consistent and accurate manner.  The teacher should be as objective as possible in completing the card.  This will allow the child to experience the consequences of his/her behavior.  The teacher should use frequent praise and social attention for appropriate behavior throughout the day and when completing the chard.

Step 9:  Parents provide rewards.

The parents should review the card each day, as early as possible.  If the child obtains the goal for the day, s/he should be given the agreed upon reward at the agreed upon time.  Parents should use lots of verbal praise and attention along with the tangible reward.  That parents can record the child's daily progress on a behavior chart as a visual reminder of the child's progress toward the weekly reward.

If the child fails to obtain the goal for the day or does not bring the card home, inform the child in a matter-of-fact manner that he/she did not earn the reward for the day.  Avoid reprimands or "corrective" critical statements.  Punishments can be built into the program, such as the child losing a privilege for failing to meat the dail goal;  however, this should be done only after the program has been tried with just rewards for several weeks.

Step 10:  Changing the program.

When the child's behavior improves to a desired level for a period of time, the card can be changed in  a number of ways.  First, the interval in which the behavior is rated with the card can be lengthened.  For example, initially the target behaviors could be recorded several times per day, then as the behavior improves, lengthened to once per day, every other day, once a week, and so on.  In addition, after progress has been made on the original target behaviors, new problem behaviors can be substituted in as needed.  When making these changes to the program, praise the child for his/her success and explain the changes and expectations.  If the child's behavior worsens during these changes, return to the previous card system.  For children with ADD, it is likely that the home report card program will need to be in place throughout the year.


Barkley, R.A. (1990).  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment.  New York:  Guilford.
Kelly, M. (1990).  School-Home Notes:  Promoting Children's Classroom Success.  New York:  Guilford Press.
Rosen, L., Taylor, S., O'Leary, S., & Sanderson, W. (1990).  A survey of classroom management practices.  Journal of School Psychology, 28, 257-269

Examples of Home Report Cards

Example 1:  John (kindergarten) was having trouble with getting along with others and following class rules.  The response scale has three levels and is rated at the end if the day.

Example 2:  Jane (young elementary age) was frequently out of her seat, completed little of her assigned work, and often blurted out in class.  She earned a sticker for performing target behaviors, which provided an additional reward.  She needed feedback about her performance at least twice per day in order to sufficiently motivate her.

Example 3:  John (3rd grade) had difficulties with inattention and disorganization.  He often failed to remember his homework assignments and turn it in during class.  The card provides for feedback about homework assignments.

Example 4:  Richard (4th grade) was displaying excessive symptoms in class.  A more simple card, rated at the end of each day was not sufficient to motivate him.  The card was designed to provide more frequent feedback (at the end of each class period).  During the parent-teacher conference, the parents expressed an interest in more immediate feedback about his grades, therefore, this was incorporated into the card.  The card also allows for parent comments to facilitate communication between parents and teacher.

Next Page: Selective Use of Teacher Attention


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