MomsLA is your source for Things to do in Los Angeles With Kids
If your child attends an elementary school within the Los Angeles Unified School District, you have had your first parent-teacher conference and received your child’s first report card for the current school year.
I was an elementary school teacher for twelve years, so I attend these conferences with a deep understanding of how difficult, and yet how necessary, they are. I know that teachers are putting in long days doing their best to accommodate the schedules of their students’ parents. (Which is why I always bring a $5 Starbucks gift card to my son’s teacher as a small token of appreciation).
My son’s fourth grade teacher knows I was also a public school teacher and taught fourth grade (as well as kindergarten and fifth grade).
At this conference, we spent a large portion of the time discussing my son’s progress, his positive attitude, his test scores, and the fact that his teacher thinks my son is “a cool kid.”
But we also spent quite a bit of time talking about the report card’s new format. From both a parent’s perspective and a teacher’s perspective, I don’t like it.
I was appalled that my favorite section, the effort column, no longer exists. For my son it’s not much of an issue, because his report card was filled with “3s” and “4s.” But what about other kids? What about the kids who demonstrate a whole-hearted effort each day in the classroom but are still not scoring super high? Maybe these kids don’t have the same support and resources at home that my son does. But shouldn’t their efforts be praised? We tell children that we want them to try their best, that school isn’t all about test scores. It’s not easy to work your way up from a “2” to a “3,” but the effort, the drive, the willingness to try should be rewarded with a grade on a paper.
The academic section of the report card was revamped as well. I’m fairly confident that whoever decided breaking up “History-Social Science” into two grades, one for “Content and Concepts” and one for “Historical and Social Science Analysis Skills” never taught in a classroom. It’s confusing and complicated, for everyone involved — teacher, parent, and student.
I was also deeply disheartened to see that the “work and study habits” and “learning and social skills” sections have been consolidated. Students used to receive separate grades for: “works independently,” “follows school and classroom rules,” and “organizes workplace and materials.” Now these three as well as ”respects the rights and property of school and others” and “makes productive use of class time and stays on task” are all lumped together into one grade. And not a numeric grade like students receive for their academic scores. We’re back to letters — C for Consistently, S for Sometimes, R for Rarely.
When I was a teacher I had a number of students who earned a high score in the “works independently” section but rather low in terms of “organizes workplace and materials.” Don’t we all know someone who has a messy desk but is still great at their job? How do you lump those together?
My son is respectful, neat, and cooperative. I say this, not because he’s my son, but because I’ve got report cards from all his previous teachers confirming it. His current teacher told me I don’t need to be overly concerned, and he gave my son a “C” in all areas of “Characteristics and Behaviors of a College-Prepared and Career-Ready Learner.”
I don’t want my child labeled as a “college-prepared and career-ready learner.” Let’s remember that we’re still talking about kids. We definitely should have high expectations for our children. Certainly, all our children should have the opportunity to attend college. (In fact, one of the final projects my fourth-grade students did each year was a research project on a college or university they would like to attend if money was not a factor). It’s never too early to start the conversation about being college prepared.
But what about society-ready? Are we still emphasizing characteristics such as “exercises self-control,” “shows dependability,” “resolves conflicts appropriately,” “demonstrates fairplay”? Those used to show up on the old report cards and a child was graded on a scale of 1-4 for each. (4 being consistent, 3 strong, 2 inconsistent, 1 poor). The current report card has lumped those traits together, and gotten rid of some completely, replacing them with “understands other perspectives” which includes “shows respect and recognizes the opinions and feelings of others” and “solves problems in different ways after considering multiple perspectives.”
Our world is changing. But at the same time, it’s staying exactly the same. We are a world of people. People with many differences, but more similarities. Our children need to know how to navigate this increasingly digital world. But they also need to know how to navigate that world peacefully alongside others.
But I’m curious what other parents think of this new report card. Is it just me? Aren’t these other things as important as numbers on a page? Let us know in the comments section below.