Yeah! What she says!

Yeah! What she says!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My Second Grader's Report Card

I have a very bright eight year old boy. I am not a biased mom, as I am the first to admit his flaws as well. He has many, but lacking intelligence is not one of his flaws. This is the reason I was very perplexed when he brought home "achieving at expected level" grades on his last progress report. In the past, he has always have "above expected level" for the most part, and "exceeding expected level" on a few subjects. This was much lower than I expected to see. I asked my son about it. He didn't seem the least bit concerned, and said that his teacher told him that meant he was doing well. I asked my son "why then are your grades worse than last report card if you are doing so well?" He said, "well maybe he (the teacher) gave me the wrong report card." I seriously doubted this, but I decided that a short talk with his teacher would clear things up. It did.

After speaking with my son's teacher I learned that my son is the second smartest kid in the class. Inside I was saying to myself, "Damn Straight! Now explain these grades! Did the majority of the class get below expected level marks?", but I didn't say that. It is never good to start a conversation off like that. Instead I said "that is really good to hear, and I am very proud of him, but are his grades falling?" (See I am diplomatic.) That is when I learned something very new and very different about elementary school and what has changed since I attended. At first I was flabbergasted and maybe even a little upset, but by the end I wasn't. I actually thought it was a wonderful idea, as long as you child had a teacher who knew what the hell he or she was doing. In my son's case, his teacher does. This is a very good thing or the school would have had a fight on their hands. I will explain.

First, the new way of grading a student is based more on that child's ability level. They still have a district and state curriculum that outlines what the bare basics are that a child must learn in order to be passed to the next grade. There is no learning "cap" so to speak any longer either. Schools in this state do not like children skipping grades because mental intelligence does not necessarily lead to the maturity that only age can bring to the child. Also, unless they are severely mentally handicapped they don't like to segregate them, which would in turn make then outcasts, so children with slight learning disabilities are in the same class room as children who easily exceed the norm. There is also the whole "English as a Second Language" factor that comes into play here as well. All of us will admit that children who have English as a second language are not dumb, but the second language factor does delay things like reading and writing in the early grades. The do this to minimize "outcasting" and to help those with slight learning challenges learn with the help of other students.

With all of this now being a known factor they had to better accommodate the child on a personal learning level within the same grade and the same classroom. In theory this sounds great. In practice? Well, you just better hope you have good teachers. My son is lucky. He has a great teacher who was more than willing to show me how he makes this system work. How he can challenge those who need it with higher level work while not taking the class work over the heads of the children who are "English as a Second Language" learners, for example. It is a great and amazing juggling act if you ask me, but that is why it takes a good teacher.

Anyway, back to how this plays into my son's recent report card, but first, think back to when you were in school. I don't know about how you were raised, but in my house, anything lower than a "B" was not acceptable. Especially once I made it to middle school. Under no circumstances, could you bring a grade lower than a "B" home on a report card. If you did, you better plan your funeral before your parents got home from work. It was that simple. I have the same high standards in my house. Especially since I know what my son is capable of, and I am sure that was how my parents felt as well.

My son's grades were lower on his recent progress report because he is bored with the homework and the in class assignments. He is learning the material so fast that once he knows it, he stops applying himself in his work. He gets lazy and decides that it is a waste of his time, and that there are better things to do. He knows it, so he blows it off entirely, or writes as fast as he can, and in as short a sentence as possible just to get it done. Especially in his homework. This shows the teacher, and me, that he is not putting any effort into his work anymore. When you don't put in the effort to show you know the material your grades will fall. I never had a teacher who graded on tests alone. The home work had to be done, as did the in class work. If you skipped all of that, but aced your tests, you still only pull a "C". That is where my son is at. He may be the second smartest kid in the class, but he isn't putting in the effort like most of the other students are. Therefore, the lower grades.

Now, some parents still don't like this method. Their explanations for their dislike boils down to the bare fact that if their child is the smartest, that child should have the highest grade. I like this method myself. I don't need anyone to tell me how smart my son is. I know him. I know what he is capable of. If he wasn't a smart child he wouldn't always present wild arguments that actually bordered on making sense. (I have a future lawyer on my hands by the way.) Schools need to be teaching more than the bare basics in academics, and my son's school is trying to do this. They are not only teaching him that he needs to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic, but that he also has to learn to put some effort into what he is doing, whether he likes it or not. They are teaching him that if he doesn't do this, than he doesn't get the best grades. This applies to real life. You do YOUR best, and you will excel. You do the job half-ass, and you will end up falling short in life (or as my father always told us, "you will have a job with your name on your shirt just like me"). My son is learning (the hard way more than likely), that half-ass doesn't fly around here, and that always giving 100% in life is the only way things can be done. There is no substitution for hard work, or diligence, and there is certainly no excuse for achieving lower than you can achieve.

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