Palo Alto Unified School District takes pride in building strong parent-school partnerships. Communication about student progress is a critical part of that partnership. The progress report is used to communicate students’ social-emotional learning and academic progress based on District expectations as informed by the Common Core State Standards. It highlights current performance levels, student strengths, and areas for continued growth.

During the 2013-14 school year, staff and parent committees worked together to design a new progress report that reflects the Common Core State Standards and specific interests of the Palo Alto Unified School District community.

Documents to Increase Understanding of the Progress Report

We are eager to ensure consistency in expectations for student performance at each grade level and the expectations for completing the progress reports. Teachers are engaging in calibration conversations over the course of the year. With the standards being new, it will take time for teachers to clearly understand and articulate expectations. The documents below, however, provide guidance to increase consistency.  


Process to Develop a New Progress Report

Two committees, the Report Card Committee (RCC) and the Parent Advisory Group to the Report Card Committee (PAG) worked throughout the 2013-14 school year to design a new progress report. Staff and parent feedback identifying what they hoped for in an effective reporting tool heavily influenced the committees’ work. In addition, the committees relied on the research of experts in the field of standards based report cards and analyzed a wide variety of report cards/progress reports from school districts across the nation.  

After the first draft was completed, feedback sessions were held for staff and parents at every school site in February of 2014. The committees significantly revised the progress report, gathered input from teachers again on April 9, 2014, and completed the final version in late April 2014. It was brought to the School Board on May 20th.  

Significant Improvements 

  • Comments: Teachers will write comments each trimester.  Those comments will appear on the top of the progress report.  Teachers may also choose to add comments at the end of each section (e.g. English Language Arts, math, science, etc.) or after individual standards. 
  • Progress Indicators: Describe student strengths and areas of concern in addition to areas where the student is progressing as expected.  At the end of the year, the teacher will assess if the student met the standard, exceeded the standard, or did not meet the standard.  As with all standards based report cards, students are assessed based on progress towards the end of the year benchmark for each standard at that grade level. Click here for a detailed description of the progress indicators.
  • Focused and prioritized standards aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS):  Standards that appear on the progress report were carefully selected to represent the most significant learning expected for students at each grade level. They do not represent all of the teaching and learning that students will experience over the course of the year.
  • Increased emphasis on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL):  Elementary teachers support students in developing social-emotional skills that will lead them to success as students, citizens and workers.  The descriptors in the SEL section of the report card are grounded in the research of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) and align well with PAUSD’s work with Project Cornerstone and the Developmental Assets. 
Documents to Support Understanding of the Standards

English Language Arts (ELA):

Teachers use the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to guide their instruction in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

CCSS ELA Frameworks, written to align with the CCSS, provide teachers with guidance for ELA instruction.


Teachers use the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to guide their instruction in mathematics.

CCSS math Frameworks, written to align with the CCSS, provide teachers with guidance for mathematics instruction.

The Math Practices are the same at each grade level, K-12, and the habits of mind that students should develop to foster mathematical understanding and expertise, skills, and knowledge.  The posters below describe what the math practices look like at each grade level, K-5.  


Teachers at the elementary level are slowly transitioning to the newly adopted state standards in science, called the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, the frameworks and curricular materials are still being developed at the state level. In the interim, teachers are using currently adopted materials to teach key science concepts.  

Social Studies:

Teachers use these standards to guide instruction. If you are interested in seeing social studies standards by grade level, click here for the California Standards.


Music teachers use the state standards to guide their instruction. Those standards can be found on the California Department of Education website.

Physical Education (P.E.):

PE teachers use the state standards to guide their instruction. Those standards can be found on the California Department of Education website.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL):

Palo Alto Unified School District recognizes that social and emotional skills are critical to being a good student, citizen and worker. Elementary teachers are committed to providing a supportive classroom environment to help student build these skills and by embedding SEL lessons into classroom instruction across all content areas. The SEL descriptors on the report card are anchored in the research of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).  To learn more about CASEL’s work, please visit CASEL's website.

Understanding Grade-level Expectations


PAUSD teachers use the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to assess students progress in reading. It allows teachers to systematically observe, record and evaluate changes in student reading performance. It helps teachers identify independent reading levels and what a student needs to learn next in order to progress to the next level. In Palo Alto Unified School District, the DRA is used semi-annually as a benchmark assessment for all students. Those students that scored as independent or instructional in the fall are reassessed in the winter to ensure proper reading progress. The DRA helps teachers measure three areas of reading: Reading Engagement, Oral Reading Fluency, and Comprehension. The specific components of these three areas of reading change based on reading level, focusing on increased independence.


Visit the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop website to view samples of student writing at each grade level. These writing samples are intended to help parents see examples of end of the year student writing for each grade level.


Coming Soon: MARS problem solving examples by grade level.

Elementary Curriculum Materials

Visit the Elementary Education webpage to learn more about the materials teachers use for instruction.  

Resources for Parents

We are eager to provide parents with resources to support learning at home. A committee is working on this project during the 2014-15 school year. Please check back to see what additions are made over the course of the year.

2014-15 Progress Report Findings