Letter: Failing grade for South Portland report cards

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Remember when report cards clued you in about how your child was doing in school? No longer.

The new South Portland elementary school report cards list more than 100 skills about each student, written in bureaucratic jargon that only a grad student in education could care about.

Some of the skills are vague but dressed up to appear meaningful, as in “Uses precise nouns/verbs/adv/adj/conj in a variety of sentences.” Others are redundant enough that neither teachers nor parents are likely to distinguish between them, as in these two: “Writes a clear position on a topic supports with relevant evidence” and “Writes responses to questions/supports with relevant details/facts.”

Who can expect a teacher to match up 100 skills to 25 individual students? These report cards basically collect data from teachers to prove the school system’s success. They are not about communicating with parents or students. The administration even discourages teachers from writing personal comments – the only personal evaluation left in these reports.

The saddest moment came when I opened my son’s first report card of the year. He hovered, to see how he did. I looked through the contents, and had to tell him, “Sorry, this report card means nothing.” His disappointment was just one of many in an increasingly impersonal educational system.

For this lack of meaningful communication with parents and students, I’d give the school system a D-minus on the new report cards.

Ed Pearlman
South Portland