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Report card pilot version nears a vote 1st-, 2nd-graders at four schools would use it 1 year; 'User-friendly'; Parents want lines on 'expectations,' teachers like 'effort'


How old is the report card used in Carroll elementary schools?

Older than some teachers.

So old that Dorothy "Dottie" Mangle, director of elementary education, isn't even sure how old.

"This report card is the only [one] I remember," she said. "I've been in the school system 25 years."

But that card is changing, as educators and parents prepare a new kind of card in time for the school board to vote Wednesday night.

The board will vote on a version to be used as a one-year pilot program in grades one and two at four schools: Carrolltowne, Eldersburg, Manchester and Mechanicsville elementaries.

The biggest difference is that this one will match the curriculum, which has changed many times while the report card has not. The new card will report on how the child has mastered specific skills in the "Essential Curriculum," which teachers and parents have worked to revise in the past three years.

The other difference is that instead of a report card sent home in October, parents at the pilot schools will get a half-hour conference with the teacher in November to learn about their child's progress and how to read the report card the teacher will give them at the conference.

"It's more information than we've ever been able to give parents," said Superintendent Brian Lockard. "There's always a concern that it be parent-, student- and teacher-friendly.

"I'm very pleased the committee has landed where they have, with respect to developing a report card to let parents know exactly what it is they're teaching," he said.

Staff will work on the card through Friday to incorporate changes suggested this week by parents, teachers, principals and supervisors. On Wednesday, school board members are likely to suggest other changes.

In July, members C. Scott Stone and Joseph D. Mish Jr. were concerned that the new cards had too much educational jargon that parents might have trouble understanding.

Their concerns were shared by a number of teachers who filled out surveys, but the majority of first- and second-grade teachers the county voted to go ahead with the pilot project. Eighty-eight percent of the second-grade teachers who attended meeting on the new cards Monday voted to go ahead with the pilot this year. Among first-grade teachers, 100 percent voted that way.

This culminates an 18-month-long process, Mangle said, of meetings, surveys and drafts. By yesterday, she counted at least 21 times that a version of the card had gone out to teachers and selected parents for feedback, each time undergoing some change or fine-tuning.

Being 'user-friendly'

The new card walks a thin line between trying to be user-friendly to teachers and trying to be so to parents.

For example, teachers at Monday's meeting gave an overwhelming show of hands against a line under each academic subject area that says: "Progress on grade level expectations." It comes just below another line that says: "Progress based on pupil effort," which the teachers prefer to use.

Teachers said they feel it conflicts with county policy to look at the progress of first- and second-graders in comparison to a grade-level expectation, because children at such an early age vary in development.

But both lines will stay, because parents want the comparison to grade-level expectations.

"We were wishing we didn't have to label them in first or second grade," said Mary Jo Cornes, a second-grade teacher at Eldersburg Elementary. But she said she understands parents' desire to see a comparison of the child's progress to grade-level expectations, because such comparisons will be made by third grade.

"Ninety-nine percent of the parents said they want to know how their child is doing on grade level," said Sue Hopkin of Eldersburg, a parent on the report card committee that surveyed parents more than a year ago.

"I'm a parent, and I want to know, where is my child?" said Hopkin, who has children at Carrolltowne Elementary and Sykesville Middle schools.

Evaluating skills

The card will be divided into sections for language, math, science, social studies, health, music, art, physical education and work and social habits.

Under each heading are at least two or three specific skills. Students will be assessed for each skill, such as "identifies and compares fractions," as earning either a D for "dependent," P for "progressing" or I for "independent." "Dependent" means that students need help from the teacher to perform the skill. "Progressing" means that they are beginning to do it alone. "Independent" means that they can consistently do it alone.

Eldersburg teachers surveyed some of the parents from their fTC school and found that they were familiar with the terms in the report card.

Hopkin, the Carrolltowne mother, said most parents know this because the kindergarten report card already uses the terms.

Mangle said the new terms are better because using "Outstanding," "Satisfactory" and "Needs to Improve" tends to compare a child against teacher expectations. Now, the scale measures a student's progress in mastering a specific skill or concept in the curriculum.

But there will still be a place in the new card for the teacher to use the "Outstanding-Satisfactory-Needs Improvement" scale along with the two lines in each subject area that are for comments on progress based on effort and progress based on expectations.

"Those two pieces [the two lines about progress based on effort and progress based on expectations] are like the traditional report card," Mangle said.

Expanding new card

The pilot is only for first and second grades this year, but the school system plans to revise the third- through fifth-grade report cards in the future. Students start getting letter grades in grade three, but that could change if the report card committee finds that letter grades are deficient.

"If you got a D, did that mean you were not a responsible learner? You weren't turning in assignments? You were absent? Inattentive? Or did that mean you just needed more time, and that over time, you would acquire that skill?" Mangle said.

Parent-teacher conferences

In July, the board also asked for more specific information on how the staff plans to help parents understand the new cards. Monday, teachers in the pilot were given a packet to present to parents during back-to-school nights as well as suggestions for the conferences in November. Most parent-teachers conferences are about 15 minutes long, with the teacher doing most of the talking.

With this new card and accompanying half-hour conference, there will be more time for interaction with parents.

Paula Ehmann teaches second grade at Carrolltowne, which three years ago started half-hour conferences with parents in November. She told teachers Monday that the conference is for teachers to listen as well.

"I was very intimidated at first to sit down and talk to a parent about their child for 30 minutes; but allow them to tell you about their child, the direction they want them to go in, and then step in from there," Ehmann said.

The school board meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 271 in the school headquarters, 55 N. Court St., but the report card presentation may not begin until as late as 9 p.m. because of the schedule.

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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