Schools hope report cards make the grade Overhaul gets board OK, will stress conferences

September 01, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

In the new report cards for some Carroll first- and second-graders, the card is only part of the report.

More important, say teachers and parents who have developed the new report card, is a 30-minute parent-teacher conference in November.

The conference will replace what otherwise would have been the first report card. Teachers say when first report cards normally come out in October, they're just getting to know the students.

At the conference, parents will receive a checklist from the teacher that indicates the child's progress, strengths and weaknesses.

The Carroll County Board of Education voted unanimously last week to approve the new report card as part of a pilot project at Carrolltowne, Eldersburg, Manchester and Mechanicsville elementary schools.

The four pilot schools were chosen because 100 percent of the first- and second-grade teachers there volunteered to do it.

Although all five school board members supported revisions to the outdated elementary report cards, members C. Scott Stone, Joseph D. Mish Jr. and Gary Bauer had some reservations about just how user-friendly the new cards are.

"I'll admit I'm not an expert on elementary report cards, and I will defer to [those who are]," said Mish, a semiretired high school social studies teacher. "To be honest with you, a lot of it I couldn't understand."

Stone said he had several concerns about the details of the pilot program. He was disturbed, for example, that some versions of the report card he had seen were missing a line for attendance, and that he was unsure what materials would go home to parents to help them understand it.

He and other board members received a three-ring binder filled with information on the pilot program. Stone said that some of the material was excellent at explaining educational jargon and that he wanted that type of information to be sent home to parents.

The program is the result of 18 months of work by a committee of teachers and parents. The card was revised 21 times before reaching its final version, which will be able to show how children have mastered specific skills in the schools' updated curriculum.

Teachers said the current elementary report cards have not been updated in at least 25 years.

For three years, Carrolltowne Elementary School has offered parents a 30-minute conference instead of a first report card. All but one of the first- and second-graders' parents chose the conference, although four couldn't make it in person and talked to the teacher on the phone, said Principal Nancy Chapin.

In the pilot schools, parents may still request a report card instead of a conference, school officials said. But they hope parents will be willing to wait for a meeting with the teacher.

"First of all, we'll be able to give them so much more information than just the grades," said Mary Jo Cornes, a second-grade teacher at Eldersburg Elementary School.

And parents will be able to give the teacher some insight into their children, she said. Until now, parent-teacher conferences have typically been 15 minutes, with the teacher doing most of the talking.

"It's amazing how much we can learn about a child when we talk to the parents," Cornes said. "Their personality and what mom and dad thinks works best to motivate them, what might make them more comfortable."

To help parents prepare for the conference, teachers will send home a question sheet, asking things such as what the child's hobbies are and whether he or she learns best by seeing or hearing.

The conferences will begin in November, after the Thanksgiving break. Countywide, schools will have conferences those days, but because the four pilot schools will have longer conferences for first and second grade, those teachers will take time for a few more days after classes begin to meet with parents. Teachers will do that when their students are in music, physical education and art.

"We're trying not to use [substitute teachers]," Cornes said. "If necessary, we will have subs, but teachers will plan lessons so it won't change what we're going to do in the classroom."

Cornes hopes the emphasis on a conference, and the delaying of the report card until after that, will draw all parents to meet with the teacher.

"Very often in the past, the parents you most wanted to see didn't come," Cornes said.

Pub Date: 9/01/96

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