• Care to comment
    Each grading period, teachers write or select comments to add to students' report cards. What do these words collectively reveal about what we value? Do they reflect what families hope to know and understand? How do our biases emerge?
    For this data story, we analyzed the text from 3,694 freeform comments written about 2,862 K - 5 students on their winter report cards. We also looked at 3,614 comments for 3,412 students in grades 6 - 12.
    About the display
    There are two boards: One for elementary and one for secondary. At the center of the display for elementary is a word cloud representing the 50 most frequently used words on K - 5 report cards. The size of the word corresponds to its relative frequency. That is, larger words were used more often than ones shown in smaller fonts.
    Outside the word-cloud are four pairs of lists. Each list contains those words which were found only in comments related to that particular group. For example, which words were used for students who identify as male. In this way, a contrast between items in common to all groups versus those unique to a population can be observed. Words on the lists are ordered from most to least used. It is important to note that many of the words on these lists were used very few times. Therefore, they should be considered as a group.
  • At the secondary level, teachers select from lists of pre-determined comments. Each building has its own unique list of comments. Teachers can assign up to two comments per student per class per grading period. In theory, students could receive up to 24 comments per semester; however, during the fall semester of the 2018 school year, no student received more than 21. Use the links below to view the comments available at each building, as well as how often they were used.

    Bush Middle School  |  Tumwater Middle School  |  Black Hills High School  |  Tumwater High School

    On our board, we show the distribution of the total number of comments for each school, as well as lists of the most and least frequently used items.

    Frequency charts and lists of student comments used at secondary schools

    We have also provided a space for visitors to leave comments of their own. Comments could include questions, observations, or general feedback.

    Ethics statement
    Data were collected by Tumwater School District staff between April 6 and April 14, 2018. Report card data were retrieved using reports in Skyward, our student information system. Student demographic and program data were retrieved from Homeroom, another of our student information systems. Microsoft Excel was used to match data from the two sets. Excel was also used to produce the charts that appear on the display, as well as the frequency tables for secondary schools. For elementary data, all student names were removed from comments prior to analysis. WordCounter and SameDiff tools available at DataBasic.io were used to analyze the data from elementary report cards. This analysis was used to generate the word cloud and contrasting lists that are displayed on the board for elementary.