Report cards won't carry letter grades School board OKs changes for pupils through second grade

Spelling, handwriting out

Parents say move will eliminate healthy competition

June 21, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

An article Friday in the Anne Arundel edition of The Sun stated incorrectly the position of county school board attorney P. Tyson Bennett on constitutional questions raised by a student dress code being considered by the board.

Bennett said banning clothing that depicts profanity and violence or promotes the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs would not be considered unconstitutional.

The Sun regrets the error.

County students in pre-kindergarten through second grade

will take home new report cards this fall without traditional categories such as spelling and handwriting and without letter grades.

After more than an hour of haggling, the county school board voted 5-1 Wednesday night to adopt a report card that uses the phrases "consistently demonstrating," "developing," "not yet demonstrating" and "needs improvement" in various skills to rate student performance.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Thomas E. Florestano was the only board member to vote against the changes, saying the "classical" system of letter grades or numerical ratings was best.

Two of the eight board members, Thomas R. Twombly and Michael A. Pace, were absent.

The new system is designed to catch up with curriculum changes that call for broader and more flexible evaluations of what students can do, according to Lothian Elementary School Principal Max Muller, who led the committee that designed the new report cards.

But parents at the meeting called the new report cards an attempt to boost students' self-esteem artificially by eliminating healthy competition for grades.

"Competition is the mechanism by which our society identifies the best and the fittest," said Michael L. Cecere III of Mayo. "Our children need to learn this from day one in school, except for kindergarten."

Cecere's son just finished second grade at Central Elementary School, where the new report cards were tested this spring.

Officials are not trying to boost self-esteem with the new system, according to Muller.

"The driving force was that teachers kept complaining that the report cards did not match the curriculum changes that had been made," Muller said. The new report cards will show, for example, whether a child can write effectively, not just whether the child can spell, he said.

In other action, the board adopted a "three-strikes-and-you're-out" discipline code that allows principals to suspend students who are sent to the office three times in one marking period.

The board decided not to vote on a dress code, delaying the measure until legal issues can be worked out.

Board attorney P. Tyson Bennett said parts of the dress code that banned clothing with profane, violent, sexually suggestive or racist messages are unconstitutional.

"Courts have said you can't discriminate on the basis of the message, on the basis of one's point of view," he said.

But principals already have the legal authority to prohibit clothing or other items that depict "vulgarity" or promote the use of tobacco, drugs or alcohol, he said.

The board also voted to start the high school day eight minutes earlier to meet the Maryland State Department of Education's requirement of 1,170 hours of instruction in the school year.

The change would push the start of school from 7: 25 a.m. to 7: 17 a.m. but would not affect bus schedules.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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