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New report cards at Somerset Elementary School

For three years, the administration and teachers at the Somerset Elementary School have been working to modernize the school report card.

Gone is the A through F lettering system. What is more significantly changed is the topics on which teachers will be grading students.

Elementary principal Cherrie Wood said the A through F grading system has been in place since World War I. The school staff has been working to form a new grading system better suited to today's educational system and student needs.

Many of the changes were formed from ideas from the book "How to Grade for Learning" by Ken O'Connor.

One of the biggest changes in the new grading system is the separation of behavior from knowledge and ability. Students will be graded purely on knowledge in the academic course areas. If a student is late with homework or forgets to put his name on his paper, it won't be reflected in his academic scores. There are separate character development categories where those behaviors would be reflected.

"A child's grade shouldn't be lower because they hand in a paper late. It doesn't mean they know any less," Wood said.

Because the state standards are based on each child's academic progress for class advancement, it was the goal of the school staff to have the report cards reflect the same expectations.

Each report card will have character development categories on social/emotional growth and work/study skills. Students will be graded as "exceptional," "age appropriate" or "needs improvement" in a variety of subjects under each heading.

Using the third grade report card as an example, among the topics in the social/emotional growth areas are: demonstrates self control; accepts responsibility for actions; follows directions promptly; shows respect and listens attentively.

Under the work/study skills, students will be graded on using time wisely, being punctual, working well cooperatively and striving for quality work.

Under the academic course studies, students will be graded as "proficient," "basic," "minimal" or "improving."

Again using the third grade report card, students in social studies will be graded on items like knowing differences between local, state and national governments; identifying roles of various economic institutions; constructing a world map from memory and identifying national government branches.

Each class subject goes into this great of detail. This will identify for the parents, and students, what the students have a strong knowledge about.

If a student earns a proficient grade, it means she can consistently perform or produce the subject. There will be more testing under this grading system, to steadily measure students' progress in understanding and retaining the subjects they are being taught.

Wood said this grading system gives the students a sense that education is a continuing process. There are no D or F grades, which make the students feel as if they've failed a subject.

The A-F system hasn't been used for children up through third grade for several years at the elementary school. Fourth grade students will be included in the new grading system. All grades will be using the new, more extensive report cards. While the new report cards will be much more work for the teachers, Wood said the teachers were enthusiastic in helping to bring about these changes for the updated grading system.

Another significant change at the elementary will be how the school year is divided. The school year has been traditionally been divided into quarters. This year at the elementary school, the school year will be split into three trimesters.

The first trimester will end around Thanksgiving, the second will end in early March.

Wood said one reason for the change was the first quarter of the school year concentrates mainly on review. For the younger children, that time is used more to get them acclimated to a school setting. This will allow for more academic progress to be measured in each term.

The first elementary parent-teacher conferences will fall almost directly in the middle of the first trimester, so parents will be able to get an update on their child's progress at that point. Elementary teachers also do a great deal of communication with parents on a weekly basis through e-mails and handouts.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

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