High praise for revised report cards

But Baltimore County to work on improvements for next grading period

June 21, 1999|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's revised report cards -- in use by elementary schools for a year -- are drawing high praise from teachers and parents, some of whom complained that the old cards, which varied from school to school, were difficult to understand.

"Previously, schools were given carte blanche to create their own systems, but as it turned out, we weren't assessing the same things," said Susan Eisenhart, a teacher mentor at Seneca Elementary School in Middle River who searched the nation for a model that could be used countywide.

School board members approved the revised card last year. The revision eliminated educational jargon so parents could better understand their children's progress. First- and second-graders are assessed by skill levels such as "independent," "progressing" and "emergent."

Recently, school board officials sent questionnaires to 1,000 randomly selected parents and teachers to gauge the success, or failure, of the revamped report card, said Ronald S. Thomas, assistant to the superintendent for educational accountability. In addition, report card committee members met with the Baltimore County PTA Council.

"Parents were pleased to see the detail of the new report cards," Thomas said. "Teachers were more pragmatic. They asked for more consistency and clarity so that their [grading] decisions are more consistent with the teacher down the street."

Suggestions by both groups will result in some "tweaking" of the county's report card, Thomas said, in time for the next grading period in November. Elementary pupils receive report cards four times a year -- in November, January, April and June.

Report cards for first- and second-grade pupils will reflect changes in wording so that curriculum content is more clear, Thomas said.

Pupils will be graded for applying spelling skills in spelling tests as well as in daily writing. In the past, pupils received marks for daily writing only.

Report cards for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders will be altered slightly. Grades will be assigned for legible handwriting as part of a new handwriting program. A "very good" comment option will be added to measure a pupil's effort/self-development.

A report card workshop for teachers is scheduled for July 12-16 at Pine Grove Middle School to examine requests for better measures to identify pupil performance, especially in mathematics and reading, Thomas said.

Summer seminars also have been set to train teachers who want to fill out report cards on computers, he said.

Pub Date: 6/21/99

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