Thursday, February 6, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 6)

The boys brought home great report cards this week. JoAnna and I had some doubts about how Andy was going to do – he never seems to have any homework – but his second quarter grades demonstrate that he’s been keeping up with his assignments, for the most part.

Here’s a comparison of Andy’s first and second quarter grades:

Subject             1st 2nd
Reading              B- B+
Math                  B- B
Spelling              B  A 
Language Arts    B  B
Social Studies     A  A
Science              A- B+

He improved his grades in three subjects, but went down ever so slightly in science. Too bad he couldn’t have maintained that A-. Within each subject, students are rated on areas where strength is shown (+), areas where progress is satisfactory (o), and areas where improvement is needed (a check mark – I can’t find the symbol in any of the font styles). Under Reading, four of the five boxes have a plus sign. In Math, he has a check mark with a plus sign for “understands graphs and tables”, “can solve story problems”, and “completes work on time”. Mrs. Ball, Andy’s classroom teacher was not sure what that combination of symbols meant. The three 5th grade classes at Elm Lawn are grouped according to ability for math instruction. Andy has Mrs. Wellman for this subject. Actually, his only solo check mark is found under Language Arts, “completes assigned work on time”, which was a big problem with Andy in 4th grade, an area where he has shown great improvement. Under “Individual Development”, which addresses classroom behavior and social skills, he received an “S” (for satisfactory) in all categories except one, where his effort grade = P (for Progress Shown). No surprise here. “Shows self control.” After all, he has some Richard blood in him, although this attribute could easily be traced to his dad. I certainly lacked self control in Mrs. Duff’s second-grade class and, occasionally, during those marathon wiffle ball games at the Jefferson Street schoolyard.

At a conference with Andy’s teacher on Wednesday, Mrs. Ball had only good things to report about his academic achievement and classroom deportment. Last year Andy had what I can only describe as an attitude problem, and I wonder if it had to do with the fact that things didn’t really seem to click with his teacher. JoAnna and I thought he might have leap-frogged into his sullen teen-age years. He didn’t turn into a model student at the beginning of fifth grade, but so far this year, he is swiftly moving in that direction. This past week, he actually read two books on his own, i.e., not because he had to write a book report for school, going to his bedroom on his own around 8:15 and reading for an hour.

When I first looked at Eddie’s report card, I let out an audible gasp.

Oh my god, I thought, we have big problem here. Eddie has three “D’s”.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that second graders receive different achievement grades than 5th graders.

Here’s Eddie’s scale:

B = Beginning. The child is working toward completing tasks independently and showing understanding of the skill or concept.

D = Developing. The child shows some understanding and independence. S = Secure. The child can apply the skills or concept correctly and independently.

M = Modified program (such as the special education reading and language arts classes that Eddie takes.)

Once I processed this information, I quickly realized that Eddie is having a great year academically. Here’s how his grades stack up:

Subject           1st      2nd
Reading           M/B   M/D
Language Arts  M/B   M/D
Spelling            M/B   M/D
Science/Health   S+      S+
Social Studies    S+      S+

Under Reading, he received a check mark (needs improvement) for “reads fluently”, although here, we have noticed at home, he is making great improvement. I checked out from the library some easy reader books for him last month, titles by highly regarded children’s authors (Arnold Lobel, Lillian Hoban), and he has been enjoying them immensely, eagerly reading and re-reading them, which has really improved his confidence and fluency.

At our conference with Mrs. Magnuson, Eddie’s classroom teacher, and Mrs. Hoskins, his reading teacher, we heard nothing but high praise. Mrs. Magnuson said that Eddie has made great strides both scholastically and socially. She mentioned that he has such wonderful comments to add to the classroom discussion, especially in science. His reading teacher says he’s made such great progress this year that she wants to move him up with the small group of 3rd graders she works with. When we talked to him about this, Eddie had some initial reservations, most notably, leaving a group of kids he knows (and has been able to routinely outshine, which may or may not have anything to do with his decision-making process. Just something that popped into my mind.)

In other areas of the school curriculum, Eddie also received excellent reports. Elm Lawn’s art teacher noted that “Eddie is doing very well in art class, very outstanding drawing skills.” The school’s music teacher noted , “singing tonal patterns so well in tune”.

Middleton gained a measure of revenge against Sauk Prairie by winning their 10th game of the season yesterday, 31-21. The game was actually much closer than the final score indicates. Andy didn’t score any points, but he played great defense against an opponent who was at least three inches taller than him.

Eddie’s been sick all weekend. His fever has been as high as 101 degrees. He seems to be doing a little bit better today, so we hope he’ll be able to attend school tomorrow. He’s spent the weekend in our bedroom, watching TV, drinking orange juice and water, eating toast and cereal. He slept with Mom last night, since we wanted to keep a close watch on him. I slept in Eddie’s bed, which made me feel as though I was a single man again.

JoAnna’s parents called last night, but we didn’t have much of an opportunity to talk to them. We kept losing our connection. It was our first contact with them since they first arrived in Arizona. I told JoAnna this was going to happen. She gave her parents about $800 at Christmas to go towards the rent for an apartment in a more accessible area of the Phoenix metropolitan area, as opposed to the remote scrabble of sand where Alice’s twin brother lives, where their trailer accommodations are located. JoAnna was livid after the second disconnect. Because of her dad’s previous stroke, she worries about another medical emergency and how quickly he could be attended to. Where Larry and Alice are staying now, 2½ miles of washboard dirt road from a main highway, he’d be at the mercy of the angels. Ever since Alice first announced last October that she and Larry would be spending the winter in Arizona, this has been a sore point between JoAnna and her Mom. It almost seems as though the bond between twins – Alice and her brother Albert – is stronger than the bond among family. I stay in the background on this one, even though I think Alice is taking advantage of the situation. Isolation is not a word in Larry’s vocabulary. He thrives on interacting with people and where they live in Arizona is a mecca for hermits. 

Stay tuned for further reports.

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