New report card offers
better student assessment


The state Department of Education will issue new standards-based report cards for elementary school students.

REPORT cards that public elementary school students take home this year will provide parents with more details about their children's educational standing than before.

As such, the new evaluations should be welcomed.

They will better convey a child's grasp of lessons, help to identify where he or she can improve and track how productive daily learning activities, like homework and quizzes, are for the student. The report cards also will more accurately pinpoint children's education levels at the end of each semester rather than scoring an average of their schoolwork through those periods.

The logical change is in keeping with the Department of Education's alignment to a standards-based system that defines what a child is expected to know and be able to do at certain stages of schooling.

Rather than the familiar grade scale of A through F, report cards will contain new designations that show if students are exceeding, meeting, nearing or falling behind in proficiency of academic standards.

As can be expected, not everyone is pleased with the change. For teachers the new system will require more than just tallying a list of homework and test scores from a grade book, but some say that without specific systemwide guidelines, judgment calls by individual teachers might result in varying and unfair results. The DOE has issued broad guidelines but should consider refining them as need be.

A concern among some parents is that children will be penalized if they do well in homework and in the classroom but poorly in tests. However, home and classroom work are the pathways to knowledge, and if students handle those lessons skillfully, they should be able to perform as well when tested.

The new system will eliminate grading on a curve, which rates students in competition with each other, a practice that can be demoralizing. Instead, students are evaluated against stated benchmarks.

The four-page report card also will give parents useful information, telling them what kind of students their children are, evaluating their attention, the efforts they make and how they get along in class.

This should help parents open discussions with children as well as their teachers about problems students are encountering and about methods to help them perform better academically. The reports might stimulate parents to become more involved in their children's education, a key factor for achievement.

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