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Schools alter report card to give parents more information

Letter grades have gone the way of the wind at San Diego’s elementary schools.

Instead, students will receive report cards based on standards that define what students are expected to know in each subject at each grade level, said Torrey Pines Elementary School principal Jim Solo.

Instead of letter grades, students will be given grades of:

  • proficient - meaning they are at grade level,
  • basic - they are approaching grade level,
  • below basic - not meeting standards, or
  • advanced - exceeding grade standards.

Information about a student’s work habits and citizenship will also be provided.

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While the old report cards gave parents minimal information, Solo also said the new types of report cards are not uncommon nationwide.

The district’s decision was also partly based on aligning with state standards mandated by No Child Left Behind, the federal legislation created to improve accountability and improve education.

Solo said the change is also an effort to help maintain consistency from classroom to classroom and to provide a way to work toward standards throughout the year.

As an example of the standards being used for grading, Solo said that by the end of kindergarten year students are expected to do simple addition and subtraction, sort and classify objects and understand the concept of time.

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In science, they are expected to know about seasonal changes, the different parts of plants and the way humans and animals use the Earth’s resources.

Academic subjects are broken down into categories on the new report cards. For instance, in kindergarten, instead of an overall reading grade being assigned, students will be graded in the areas of word analysis, fluency and systematic vocabulary development, reading comprehension and literacy response and analysis, Solo explained.

La Jolla Elementary School served as the pilot for the new report cards. For the past five years, the district has been increasing the number of schools using the new system. In August, the new cards were instituted districtwide.

Solo said at his school teachers began looking at the new report cards last spring in order to determine what constituted the categories of advanced, proficient, basic and below basic.

Solo said the new report cards have been well received among parents, and he estimated that the feedback he got outweighed negative feedback nine to one. He said parents feel like they know what is expected of their child now. Parents were also given a handbook with information about the new report cards and detailed descriptions of standards in each subject area.

The new cards were not an issue with students because they contain similar language used by teachers in the classroom, Solo said.

The academic year includes three reporting periods. For the first two periods, students will be graded on their progress, while their third report card indicates whether or not they met academic standards set by the state of California.