LONGMONT — Once upon a time, students could transform their Bs into As with the smudge of an eraser, and parents wouldn’t find that tell-tale report card until at least the Fourth of July.
Nowadays, though, report card season and the grades it brings are no surprise, thanks to a collaborative effort among students, parents and teachers.
“If a parent or guardian is shocked by a student’s grades, then we are not doing our job by keeping parents informed,” said Lyons Middle/Senior High School principal Mark Mills.
But, despite progress reports and communication between parents and teachers, students can still earn lackluster grades.
Those students need additional help, like summer school or tutoring, to aide them through this struggle for education.
Report cards on the elementary school level in the St. Vrain Valley School District now grade kids A through F, just like the letter grades their parents grew up with, on subject areas like music, art or reading. But now, each subject is broken down into sub-levels for behaviors that support learning, like being an independent worker and working in a group setting.
This style of grading, called “standard spacing” report cards, gives a truer understanding of a student’s grades, said Mike Jones, principal at Longmont Estates Elementary.
Jones, who worked this past year collecting feedback on the district’s new elementary school report card, said the new style of report card gives parents a better idea of the school’s expectations for learning and how their child earned a grade.
“We’re dealing with smarter, more educated, more sophisticated parents these days,” Jones said. “They want to know more about their child’s progress and this hopefully tells them.”
Jones urged that parents of all students promote learning during the summertime, too.
“We don’t want kids to see June 1 as the end of their education and August 24 as the beginning,” he said.
Parents of elementary school students can continue their education through summer reading programs, local libraries and museums, Jones said.
Parents can make learning fun. For example, they can have their child write a postcard to someone everyday, keep a journal or, on family trips, help with the directions on a map, Jones said.
But the challenges change with the student.
Middle and high school students who struggle with their grades often do so because of organizational problems, Mills said.
His school, with students in grades six through 12, provides a free afterschool program in which staff members work with students to prepare them for their nightly homework loads, he said.
But summer vacation interrupts continuous learning.
“Three months is too long for some students to be absent from practicing math and English,” Mills said.
Tutoring and summer school classes are a tool for struggling students, he said.
Often, an older student says he or she doesn’t understand a subject matter, and the root of the struggle lies in whether the homework has been done consistently.
Mills said parents can help by setting limits on activities like television or video games, which can be distractions for struggling students.
He urged parents not to give up and to celebrate their child’s strong points.
Lisa Leeper, a counselor at Indian Peaks Elementary, said parents can convey to a caretaker how reading and spending meaningful time with a child — such as playing board games, outdoors activities, cooking together and conversations — are part of the job description.
And parents shouldn't be too hard on themselves or the student, she said.
“If a parent is self-critical of their own parenting skills, they might project negative feelings upon their child,” she said. “It is fine to set limits on a child and be firm and calm about what they need to accomplish, but it is not helpful to criticize or belittle the child in any way.”
Mills said that learning is a partnership, and that it is a rarity for partnerships to lead to failure.
“It’s not you versus me. It’s really the school, parents and kids working hard at being successful,” he said.
Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.