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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Uno, Dos, Tres... Catorce?

Being that I am a new year teacher, there are a lot of firsts that have gone along with my inaugural year. First, first day. First time dealing with incessant discipline problems. First time lesson planning, solo. And my personal favorite, the first time doing report cards.

When I was a kid, I didn't usually have much to worry about come report card time. I always tried my best in school, even when I didn't get the A. Well, except for maybe in gym. But nevertheless, I never would fret when my parents went to parent-teacher conferences. Most of the time nothing was a surprise. I guess I was pretty boring.

But like what seems to be the reoccuring theme in the school where I work, report cards are no longer a cut and dry matter. We used to go by the system that, oh I don't know, virtually every school in the country goes by. This tried and true system is of the A,B,C and D variety.

Then my school had to go and mess up a good thing, not unlike David Lee Roth when he left Van Halen. In place of A,B,C and D we now have 4,3,2 and 1. Some might say why the change. Doesn't a 4 mean an A anyhow etc.? Au contraire.

Here's the breakdown for you:

4= 85-100...Exceeds grade level standards
3= 84-72...Meets grade level standards
2= 65-71...Working towards grade level standards
1 64 and under...Not meeting grade level standards

Somehow giving "a 4 for effort" doesn't have the same ring to it.

For those of you who scored high in reading comprehension, you've probably already read between the lines and thus, can skip this paragraph. Regardless, I'll break it down even further since I am a teacher and it is *supposed* to be what I do best anyhow.

Look closely. Look very closely. Note the range for a 4 is 85-100. An 85 where in most instances, is a middle of the road, solid B, is now...a 4, which converts to exceeding grade level standards.

For the fun of it, let's define the word exceeding shall we?

Pronunciation: ik-'sEd
to be greater than or superior to

Now the last time I checked, an 85 was a good grade and nothing to scoff at. But an 85 was, is and will always be a B. Unless of course you want to tell me that now up is down, right is left and the fat lady, did indeed, finally sing.

So in what alternate universe does a B mean you are exceeding grade level standards? Well in the the district I work in of course.

Now here comes the fun part; the reasoning. If you look even closer you will notice that not only is the range for an exceeder is a whopping 85-100. But as the numbers decrease, so does the margin. In fact, by the time you get to a 2 (65-71) it's almost a "why bother?" scenario. By the way if you're wondering if I just made up a new word with exceeder I probably did. I figured it's ok though, cause they went ahead and made up a whole new grade.

So the theory here is that the more we widen the gap, the more "overachievers" it will look like our district has. Parents, who barely speak English, if at all, will surely look at the new system.. and their child who is getting 3's and 4's...and call them an A and B student, right? Wrong. A child could very easily have all 3's...and still have a 72 average. Now there could be another child who also has all 3's...with an 84 average. See where I'm going with this?

As if the 4,3,2,1 system wasn't mind boggling enough, there are subcategories. See a child gets a 4,3,2 or 1 in said subject, but then we have to give each child +, check or - for particular skills.

+ = strong in this area
check = appropriate progress
- = not yet strong in this area

The kicker here being (come on, you knew there had to be one) is that these are specific skills that go along with the NJ Core Curriculum Standards. For instance, in math there's a subcategory something like, "can read and interpret information on a graph". There are about 10 for each subject. Math runs the gammet from everything from telling times tables. But here's the hysterical part. Are you ready? A good teacher might say (and has), how do you assign a +,check or - to subject matter that hasn't been covered yet? Wouldn't this instead get an NA for Not applicable? Well by "the powers that be's" standards the answer is a resounding...NO. Apparently in a perfect world the children ARE being exposed to all of these things EACH AND EVERY semester. And if they're not? Well then you're expected to bust your ass to make sure you are damn well making it that way.

So to get around the system, you simply assign a check to a skill set not yet covered like say, division. A check meaning (say it with me)....appropriate progress at this time. But then take a concept like place value and you can assign -'s because by this time, we've been there, done that and the child could and should have mastered it.

So in theory, something that is getting a check the first marking period...could get a - the next marking period...because by then you could say you properly covered it and frankly my dear, they don't get it.

Still with me? I didn't think so. Neither will be the kids, or the parents come Monday when report cards are distributed and (God help me) explained.

So there you have it. That's the A's B's and C's of report cards Abbot district style. Or should I say, the 4's,3's,2's and 1's...



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