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ABCs don’t make the grade

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — When high school report cards are handed out soon, not a single student is going to get an ‘A.’

Nobody’s going to get an ‘F’ either.

Instead, thanks to a new computer software system at Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern high schools, students will get number grades instead of the traditional letters.

School officials junked the old computer system in favor of a new one that can keep track of schedules, grades, attendance and more.

Grades on the new report cards — which can’t be forged like the old ones — will show up as a number from 0 to 100. They will make calculating grade point averages simpler.

But it will make it impossible for students to fudge their grades to parents. They won’t get away any longer with saying their ‘B’ was an 86 when it was really an 83.

The school has long used numbers to evaluate students’ work but it traditionally translated them into letter grades for report cards.

Students and teachers have varying opinions on the change, which Eastern’s governance council approved last year.

Central’s governance council preferred the old system, said Paul Castolene, a vice principal at the school. He said it seemed “sort of ridiculous” to have numeric grades in the grade book and on transcripts and letter grades on report cards.

“We’re still learning things,” Castolene said. “We’ll see how it goes when semester grades come out.”

Michael Rogers, head of Eastern’s governance council last year, said teachers did have concerns about giving 59s, 69s, 79s and 89s.

“Evaluation is a tough thing anyway,” Rogers said.

Teachers would have to decide personally for each student whether to mark the grade up an extra point, Rogers said.

Nerissa Kapros, a junior at Central, said she doesn’t agree with the change “because parents will see what their child’s grade really is. But on the other hand the student will benefit because it will urge them to bring up their grades.”

Eastern sophomore Marcel Lachance said, “I think it sucks, because now when parents see grades it’s not a range, just a solid grade. And it will get us in more trouble.”

“It doesn’t change anything. In some cases it will generate some conversation with students and staff,” said Beryl Josephson, a social studies teacher at both schools.

Kenneth Ferris, Eastern’s choral teacher, said, “I like the idea. It lets you know where you are.”

But Michael Traverso, an Eastern history teacher, called the change “a bad idea.”

“It makes it harder to adjust grades at the end of the year to help kids pass,” Traverso said.

Matt Gaul, a junior at Eastern, said, “I don’t see any real use for it. All the students know their grades anyway.”

Liz Abbott, a Central junior said, “I think it’s better because a letter grade is really vague.”

The computer switch was made by a committee appointed to select a new software format from four or five competing versions, said Edith Mosback, a secretary at Eastern’s main office. They chose the School Administration Student Information program, she said, which is already used in Hampden, Newington and Wallingford.

In handling grades, the SASI program allows office personnel to enroll students, change schedules, and keep track of student body attendance. It should save time, eliminate most paperwork, and make the office more efficient, said Daniel Viens, assistant principal at Eastern.

The new and improved report cards are printed on a gray watermark paper disabling students from forging a reproduction of their grades.

There is also a citizenship or behavior column on the new report cards.

Teachers only have a variety of 20 standardized comments on the cards, in which they are allowed to choose two.

“I don’t like having fewer comments,” said Linda Hayes, a French teacher at both high schools.

To produce the report cards, teachers will first fill out a Scantron sheet in which they will bubble in the mark grade, exam grade, citizenship, comments, and absences. These sheets will then be scanned into the computers.

The report cards — which used to be printed in another town — will instead be printed on dot matrix printers at the schools and then given to students.

At the moment, there is a glitch in the computer system.

The printer can’t connect directly to the computers, but the problem is expected to be fixed quickly.

“Once all the kinks are worked out, it will be more effective,” said Richard Barlock, an English teacher at Central.

Barlock said the delay this year helps a little because it gives teachers more time to evaluate students.

“Don’t worry,” said Viens. “Everything will be fine.”

Merissa Mastropiero is a Reporter from Connecticut for Youth Journalism International.

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