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Fourth-graders will see new report cards
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Forsyth County News
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Also Thursday, the board discussed the following items:

* Beginning July 1, Forsyth Academy will move from the local campus of Lanier Technical College to the Piedmont Learning Center, behind the Board of Education Office. Brad Smith, academy principal, will oversee both the center and academy.

* From June 1 through July 24, central office employees will work 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The office will close Friday through Sunday. The change could save the system more than $10,000.

* Apex Learning was awarded a three-year contract for online credit recovery courses in high schools. The switch from the current provider will save the system $120,000 annually.

* The system will turn over to the county a 10,487-square-foot tract on Old Atlanta Road and a 6,157-square-foot tract on Nichols Road. The county’s engineering department will maintain the land, including improving sidewalks and turn lanes.

* Board member Nancy Roche will serve as Ninth District director of the Georgia School Board Association Board of Directors.

* The board will ask Gov. Sonny Purdue to veto House Bill 251, which would allow students to attend any school in the county where they live.

-- Jennifer Sami

By the 2010-11 school year, all Forsyth County fourth-graders will take home report cards with a new format.

Since August, six county elementary schools have participated in a pilot run for the new Grade Plus report cards.

Associate Superintendent Lissa Pijanowski and Fonda Harrison, director of elementary education, briefed the school board on the program's progress Thursday.

In addition to providing four possible grades—1 being the lowest, 4 the highest—the Grade Plus report cards also offer details on how students fare in specific areas.

For example, the new format may show a child received a "3" in English, but also notes how he or she performed in vocabulary, fluency and reading comprehension in fiction and nonfiction.

The new format also measures student work habits, from “successful” to “progressing” to “needs improvement,” in seven categories, including homework, listening skills and working well with others.

Fourth-graders not using the new format are graded only on a percentage basis, as are fifth-graders. Kindergarten through third-grade students are graded on a "1-2-3" scale.

According to a recent school system survey, 85 percent of teachers and 82 percent of parents in the six pilot schools said the Grade Plus system communicates children’s progress better than the old report card format. The survey had some 500 participants.

“We were very pleased with their results,” Pijanowski said. “It really matches better what’s actually happening in our classrooms as it relates to standards.”

The additional information on report cards was initially more work than teachers were used to, though Harrison said their efforts were worthwhile.

By analyzing each student’s progress, she said, they were able to determine individual strengths and weaknesses and how to provide better services to their students.

“I think one of the most powerful things to me of this whole process is that the teachers have been the ones that have pushed for this,” said Board Chairwoman Ann Crow. “I think that their understanding of the value of it and what it does for students, is just a very powerful thing.”

The next step in the process is implementing a professional learning plan for other fourth-grade teachers, with mentoring from pilot school teachers.

“These trailblazer teachers really have done all the work," Pijanowski said. "For the teachers that come after them, this is really going to be a piece of cake."

Pijanowski said there are plans to transition fifth-grade classes to the Grade Plus report cards at some point. But for now, the focus is on training all fourth-grade teachers in the new system.

E-mail Jennifer Sami at jennifersami@forsythnews.com.