Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Educational Focus: Report cards
Most high schools have recently finished the first half of the school year. We call this the first semester of the school year. Like colleges and universities, high schools base their courses on a half-year, or semester, system. Some schools (usually grade schools) use a quarter system instead of semesters. Either way, mid-January still marks the middle of the school year. The fall semester starts at the end of August (or, sometimes, the beginning of September) and ends either in December (for colleges and universities) or mid-January (for high schools). At the end of each semester, students usually take a cumulative final exam. This cumulative final exam tests the students over all the material that they were supposed to learn for that semester. After the students have taken the tests and the teachers have graded the tests, the teacher will calculate the semester grade and record it in the student’s report card.
Nowadays, report cards are generated by computer and mailed directly to the student’s parents. Before school had computers, student report cards were written by hand on a card. The card had lines on which were written the student’s name, the teacher’s name, the class, and all the subjects which the student had. Typical subject would be arithmetic (math, or mathematics), history, science, social studies, English, art, music, and PE (physical education).
The possible grades that a student could get in a subject were A (best grade), B, C, D, or F (worst). Letter grades could also be given a “+” or “–” to indicate “somewhat above” or “somewhat below.” Thus, the entire range of grades, from best to worst, would be: A+, A, A–, B+, B, B–, C+, C, C–, D+, D, D–, F. A grade of “F” indicates failure. A student who got an “F” is said to have “flunked.”
Sometimes, a report card might also have a separate space for “effort.” Here the teacher indicates how hard the student worked to earn his grade. This mark for effort is not really a grade. It is a comment about the student’s attitude to the parents. So, a student might have gotten a “C” in a subject, and an “A” or “1” for effort. This tells the parents that the student had put forth his best effort anyhow. On the other hand, a student might have gotten an “A+” in a subject and yet received only a “2” or even a “3” for effort. This would indicate that perhaps the student needs to be challenged more. Maybe the class is too easy for him!
When report cards were written by hand, the teacher passed out the report cards for the students to take home. The students had to take the report cards home to show their parents. One of the parents had to sign the report card. Then the student brought it back to school and returned it to the teacher. At the end of the school year, the parents did not have to sign the report card. Since school was over, the student could keep the report card. For the final report card, the teacher would write at the end something like “Promoted to Grade 5” to indicate that the student successfully finished Grade 4, and could start the next school year in the next higher grade.