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New report card gets a thumbs-up

October 16, 2004

Jacqui Brown

Advocates of a new report card for students say it will improve the

ability of teachers and parents to measure how the children are

doing.

Joel Shapiro, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment

for the Burbank Unified School District, said the standards-based

system of report cards is not something new or unproven. He argued

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it's a more efficient system to see how children are really doing in

specific areas of study.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has been using the

standards-based report cards since 1999, according to Jim Morris,

assistant superintendent of elementary instruction for that district.

"This is the pilot year in Burbank, and although we're not

insisting teachers use the new system, most of them will," Shapiro

said. "We want to align the way we report progress to the way we

teach the curriculum and make sure we communicate how well the

students have kept up to the standards."

The new report card will allow parents and teachers to see a more

clearly defined picture of exactly where their child's academic

standing is based on the state standards as opposed to the

traditional letter grades, which served more to compare student

against student.

"We'll be able to describe more in depth when we report the

grades," Shapiro said. "We can separate the different areas of each

individual subject and find out exactly where we need to make

improvements."

Subjects will not be graded as a whole but rather by individual

threads to give a more comprehensive conclusion to each student's

needs. Reading will be graded separately by word analysis, fluency

and vocabulary as well as comprehension and literary response;

mathematics by number sense, algebraic concepts, measurement and

geometry, statistics and data analysis with a separate grade for

effort in each area, Shapiro said.

Kim Allender, co-president of the Burbank Teachers Union, said

this change has been in the planning stages for close to two years.

"We're not on the cutting edge, and I think any time you implement

something new there's always going to be some concern," Allender

said. "We didn't want to be the first to use this grading system,

however, because we wanted to see how well it worked and see what

problems needed to be addressed."

Allender said they have tried to mold the report card based on

only the Burbank schools.

"It's a sound concept when we can report how a child keeps up to

the standards and present it in a way that parents can understand and

be able to help their children," Allender said.

Sherry Auproux, who teaches kindergarten at Bret Harte, said

parents were very open to the new report.

"At our open house, parents were extremely positive about the

change," Auproux said. "Most teachers donated their time to get this

system going."

Parent Nikki Capshaw, however, gives the new report card a failing

grade.

She thinks that changing the report cards at this point adds an

unnecessary cost to a school district already strapped for cash.

"When you make changes like this, it costs a lot of money,"

Capshaw said. "If you look at the elementary schools, they seem to be

doing just fine with the old ones."

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