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Survey results fine-tune new report cards

Hernando school officials have revised report cards for kindergarteners and first- and second-graders that they think will please teachers and parents.

The report cards would keep some of what parents and teachers liked about the pilot cards used this year and get rid of what they didn't like. The revised cards were submitted to the School Board on Tuesday night for final approval for next school year.

The School Board is expected to vote on the cards on July 6.

The revisions were based on the results of a teacher-parent survey at the end of the school year. Almost half the parents of the 3,000 pupils affected by the changes and 90 teachers responded.

Parents were not pleased with some aspects of the new cards, but welcomed other changes; teachers showed strong support for the new cards.

Parents opposed the replacement of the traditional letter grades of A, B, C, D and F, with the letters M, P, and N _ indicating that a student was achieving most of the time (M), part of the time (P) or not yet (N). They welcomed the addition of reporting on specific learning and behavior skills and the teacher narrative.

The revision reinstates the use of traditional A-B-C letter grades for academic subjects in second grade, but suggests the use of S, N and U for kindergarteners and first-graders _ S for satisfactory, U for unsatisfactory and N for needs improvement.

A detailed listing of specific learning and behavior skills and the teacher narrative will remain in the revised version for all three grade levels.

Prior to this year's pilot project, A's, B's and C's were used in first and second grades; S's, N's and U's were used in kindergarten. There was no grading of skills, however, and no teacher narrative.

"We think we have come up with a real good revision," said Dot Dodge, the school district's elementary curriculum specialist. "The first card was a pilot card, and we were prepared to make the appropriate changes once we got feedback from parents and teachers."

Each of the revised report cards is unique.

If the cards are approved by the School Board, kindergarten pupils will be graded on their behavior only during the first nine weeks. Grades will be given in math, language arts, fine motor skills, art, music and physical education starting the second nine-week period. Waiting will give the children time to adjust, Dodge said.

First- and second-grade pupils will be graded with an S, N or U in art, music and physical education, but second-graders will receive A-B-C letter grades in math and language arts.

A "plus sign" or a "check mark" will be used to report progress in specific learning and behavior skills on all three cards. The plus sign will represent a significant strength; the check mark will be used to alert parents to areas of concern.

The survey results revealed that parents strongly support the honor roll listings for the lower elementary grades. Teachers disagreed. School officials have decided, however, to keep the honor rolls.

Parents also favored receiving mid-term reports four times a year, midway through each nine-week grading period, and the reports will continue. About one-third of the teachers supported the use of mid-term reports.

To avoid the loss of teaching time in the classrooms, School Board member Gail Coleman suggested that a districtwide computerized system be established to report mid-term grades.

School officials say they want to make changes in the current grading policy to try to foster positive self-esteem in pupils who have difficulty mastering new skills in the early grades.

Competition can make young children feel inferior to their peers, Dodge said, and can interfere with the development of positive self-esteem.

Young children progress at different rates, but by the end of the school year most pupils succeed in accomplishing the goals in the early elementary grade levels, she said.

School Board Chairwoman Nancy Gordon said she favors the new grading system. She said she is particularly impressed with how the report card committee included parental and teacher input as it worked on revisions.

"They have worked so hard to make this agreeable to everyone," Gordon said. "And personally I favor this approach. It establishes good self-esteem."