Report cards have few surprises Revised system gives updates in Arundel's 9-week grading period

November 15, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

Chesapeake Bay Middle School teacher Christine DiCio passed out the first reports cards of the school year to her 21 eighth-graders yesterday morning at 10. "I don't want to open it," said Carrie Wood, 13.

She kept the part with the grades folded over, then slowly unfolded to find four Cs, one B and a D. "I guess I kind of deserve them," she admitted. "I haven't been trying my hardest." But she shifted blame for the D in science. "The teacher is kind of a crab."

A few desks away, Michael Huntley professed not to care what he got. Then he said, "I made honor roll!" Crystal Day didn't waste a minute opening hers. "I'm surprised I got what I got: I got C, B, B, B, B," she reported to neighbors. "I am, like, so happy!" Students clustered around her desk, showing off their grades, ,, cheering and teasing each other.

The quarterly opening of report cards, always a heady, dreaded ritual, looked much the same at the Anne Arundel County school yesterday as it did around the Baltimore area this month, as thousands of students got those anxiety-provoking reflections of performance that are gateways to either reward or punishment.

But report cards are not the same.

Some high-schoolers in Anne Arundel now get computerized information about how they're doing halfway through nine-week marking periods. And one year after they retooled Pre-K through second-grade report cards, administrators are testing a prototype for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders that better reflects curricula.

Elementary school pupils are moving from dittoed work sheets to science experiments and from memorization to analysis of math problems. And now the report cards are supposed to tell parents how their children are doing with those new forms of classwork.

What do they ask? How their children are growing emotionally; if they're good at counting and measuring; if they have positive classroom attitudes and know enough about art, music, gym and technology.

The students don't absorb all that complexity. "I don't sense a worry or urgency of consequences attached to it too

much," said Rocco Ferretti, Pasadena's Bodkin Elementary School principal. "There are 40-some areas to give grades to. It's kind of hard for them to sweat about that."

The stakes go up in middle school when A through E grades are introduced to evaluate work sheets, book reports and tests. "Middle-schoolers don't understand that when you don't turn in an assignment, that has an impact on the grade," said Phyllis Cherry, principal at Old Mill Middle School South in Millersville. "My perception is that homework is not as heavily involved at the elementary school level."

Students get more worked up in high school, where grades can determine if they'll play on sports teams, get accepted to college or win scholarships. "The older the student gets, the more that rides on that report card grade," said Annapolis High School Principal Joyce Smith.

There, new computer technology called "Integrade" gives students midmarking period printouts on bubble sheets that track how they did in taking class notes, on quizzes, even what they put in their notebooks. Each plays into their overall grades, so report card day usually carries few surprises. This continuous grading system could be uniform around county high schools by 2000.

The reports determine a lot for students such as Brandon Harris, a 15-year-old junior who usually gets Bs and Cs and plays football at Arundel High School in Gambrills.

Although he knows that if he doesn't do well he won't be able to talk on the phone, go out or watch television, he doesn't sweat the penalties until just before report card time. "I know that I could get straight As. I just get distracted with other things," he said.

Each marking period, when his parents ask why he didn't do better, he makes some excuse, tries to do better next time, but usually ends up distracted. "You want to do better again when report time comes around," he said. But there's a hitch: "I get better, but school gets harder."

Report cards

Report cards are issued on these dates: Carroll County: Nov. 3 Baltimore City: Nov. 6-13 Howard County: Nov. 7 Anne Arundel County: Nov. 14 Baltimore County: Nov. 20 Harford County: Nov. 21

Pub Date: 11/15/97

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