the things that keep me up at night

at most middle schools here in the city, we use a report card system which consists of bubble sheets, numerical codes for grades, performance standards, and teacher comments. the system is mostly effective, but very impersonal, and it is very hard to remember which comment was given to which kid without referencing the report card and/or gradebook to say, oh yes, now i remember.....

there are a few occasions where the bubbles don't work for a kid. b is a smart, motivated, responsible kid, who is new to brooklyn this year from mexico, tracked into a mid-level class. b's mother visits the school at least monthly, checking in with the parent coordinator for updates in spanish on his progress.

for the first and second marking period i only saw b once a week, though his class came to the lab twice a week for tech. the reason was that b receives ESL services and could only be seen by the ESL teacher during his wednesday tech time. this is not unusual for kids receiving ESL services, or speech services, or counseling, or any other variety of services their iep's require. i have always graded these kids based on the work they complete in the time they are in tech, and make allowances for them because they have other obligations. i would never fail a child because they could not complete a project because they are only in class once a week instead of twice.

sometime in the beginning of the 3rd marking period, b's ESL schedule changed, and he was pulled from tech twice a week to prepare for the nyseslat, a standardized ESL exam. the bubble sheets allow teachers to denote absences from class in a variety of ways. m = medically excused, x=excessive absences, z=non medically excused, r=recent admit, etc.

for the 3rd marking period i coded b as a z, non medically excused. i had not seen him all marking period due to his scheudule change, and had no work from him to grade him on. a grade of a 90 wouldn't be rational, but neither would a 60.

b's mother visited this week, and the parent coordinator in turn visited me, inquiring about the 65 on b's 3rd marking period report card. i couldn't recall b being present in class during that time, had no records in my attendance or gradebook of him, so i went to the business manager to check the status of his z. turns out, when you list a student as a z, it means an automatic 65 on their report card. how unfair.

soon after the the 4th marking period began, b's ESL schedule lightened up and he is back in class once a week. unfortunately, between my bicycle accident (a post for another time) and surgery (same thing), i haven't seen him, more than about 5 times this marking period. but when grades were due this past monday, (monday! there's still another month of school!) i certainly wasn't going to screw him over as i unknowingly did last marking period. no, b earned a much higher grade, inflated due to my mistake from last marking period, a peace offering, not so high as to garner attention from the office, and not so low his mother may question me on his progress, a 90.

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