Wednesday 07 Dec 2016

"A" Report Card
Jennifer Flaten

Do you remember the report cards of old, when an "A" meant you really knew your stuff and a "D" meant you had spent more time passing notes rather then taking them?

Back then, chances were if you got anything less then a "B" on your report card your parents would be having a nice long chat with your teacher during parent teacher conferences (if not sooner), probably while you squirmed in an uncomfortable chair in the hallway.

While you cooked up excuses for why you didn't know the 13th president of the United States (Millard Fillmore, in case you still don't know), your parents worked with your teacher to find a way to make sure you caught up in short order.

Call me crazy, but I think the old system was pretty efficient. The report cards made sense; the parents were informed and able to take action.

The report cards parents receive today aren't so clear-cut.

Somewhere along the line, the great minds of education decided that labeling a child a "C" or a "D" might brand them for life.

Yes, that seems reasonable let's blame the "D" you received in language arts in second grade for the fact that you're a crack-addled deadbeat.

Hmmm, I don't buy it. You can be a mediocre student and still be successful in life, or start out a mediocre student and improve later in your academic career.

So to keep little Johnny from being scared for the life the letter grades went away.

I know, you are wondering, if there is no letter grade how do you judge performance. I'll tell you how, with the new progress grading system.

Under this new system your child is one of these fantastically vague options, beginning, developing or proficient. If your child is a prodigy they may possibly get an exceeding (but not very often).

As my kids have just finished the first quarter of school I have had ample time to ponder this new grading system. .

I admit to feeling a tad bamboozled as I looked over my 2nd graders report card. There were many, many lines of skills and each one checked as either Beg, Dev, Prf or Exc.

After giving, the report card way more attention then it deserved I still could not figure out if developing was an acceptable grade for a second grader. Specifically on a subject that had just been introduced.

I even resorted to reading the long, convoluted cover letter that accompanied the report card. I am pretty sure an animated power point presentation would not have made the report card any clearer to me.

Why, oh Why, didn't it just say A, B, C or D?

According to the letter, the developing mark indicates that the student can demonstrate the particular skill inconsistently. Well, they are seven; an age known for it's inconsistency.

So, this still leaves me hanging. Call me old fashioned but a simple B would let me know that they are doing OK. I would know my kid could stand some improvement but was basically on track.

I searched in vain for a comments section. I like comment sections they give you insight into what your child's teacher really thinks, because sometimes the grade alone isn't enough.

Alas, there are no comments at all on the report card, leading me to wonder if in fact, this report card is for my kid. Maybe someone made a keying error, how am I to know?

This report card is so generic it fails to tell me anything useful.

Now if you expect the parent teacher conference to be any more enlightening let me tell you, they hustle you in and out so fast, you barely have time to sit your butt down in the excruciatingly tiny chair they offer you.

Not to go off tangent here, but exactly what is with the tiny chair? Would it be unreasonable to ask for a full size chair? Most parents are so concerned about perching on the chair in a way that won't make them look completely ridiculous that they miss most of what the teacher is saying.

In addition, you get exactly 15 minutes with the teacher, and only 15 minutes. What exactly can you accomplish in 15 minutes, besides hi-how are you-lovely weather we are having?

We need to go back to the old grading system and teacher conferences that allow parents ample time to find out how their children are doing in school.

I give the new grading system a D and sentence it to writing I will improve 100 times on the chalkboard.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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