Crane board looks at updates to report cards

“New” report cards are coming to a Crane School student near you this fall, but the changes will be slight, said district officials.

The quarterly student report cards will be “clean (documents) so parents can see a general idea of how their child is doing,” Dr. Michael Hoffman, Crane’s assistant superintendent, told governing board members at Crane’s regular meeting Tuesday evening.

Simplifying the report cards is a request that the district has heard from parents, and the new reports remove individual domains and standards that were most confusing to parents, according to the presentation. It is also an effort to reduce the number of tests students take, the presentation said.

The new cards, which go home Oct. 2 at the end of the first quarter, will also help improve the district’s accuracy in reporting data. Students in kindergarten through second grade will have a slightly different form than those in third through sixth grades. Middle school report cards are largely unchanged.

The K-2 form will have “an official line called reading foundations -- phonics, phonemic awareness, and things like that K-2 really focus on,” Hoffman noted. Third-through sixth-grade report cards will not have a reading foundations line. Also, the kindergarten report card will not have a line for comprehensive assessments because kinders do not take those tests, Hoffman said.

How grades are factored will also change slightly, Hoffman said, with 60 percent on the Crane common assessments and 40 percent on class or coursework.

One line that will be on all report cards is: “Any absences beyond five per quarter is chronic absenteeism.”

“That is the goal we have now is to reduce chronic absenteeism across schools,” Hoffman said, noting that the new A-F Letter Grading system will give schools credit for fewer absences.

“Also, we want our kids to be here, and we want our parents to know that five days, while it might not seem like much, but in a quarter -- that’s a lot.”

Any time a student is absent 18 days or more in a school year is considered chronic absenteeism, Hoffman said, and Crane’s rate is “fairly high, I would say somewhere around, average of about 20 (days) in all the schools. The national rate is about 14, so we’re trying to reduce that,” he said. Crane’s goal is to reduce its absenteeism rate to 10 percent.

Families can find more information about the changes to report cards on the district’s website, www.craneschools.org, by clicking on the “Students & Parents” tab.

The topic of “empowerment scholarships” was discussed during a legislative report from CFO Dale Ponder. The implementation of the voucher program is on hold, according to a news release from the state department of education, pending the Secretary of State’s validation of signatures to put the issue to voters in November 2018.

Board member Sarah Claridge said that public school districts are being portrayed in the media as against school choice, but that is not accurate.

“Our concern as a board is where they’re pulling the money from,” she said, noting that she believes the district wants what’s best for the student, whether that be public, charter or private education.
Board President Dan Farrar also weighed in on the issue.

“I’ve said this many times, the Legislature is never your friend when it comes to school financing,” the longtime retired educator and administrator noted.

“They made a little change in finance laws for schools, and now the taxpayers will never understand this. School districts don’t have cash: they have a spending capacity that is authorized by the state, and then you get cash to do that, but if you don’t spend all your cash, it stays in your fund and reduces the tax rate locally next year.”

The problem is that the state legislature has “raided” those funds over the years, leaving school districts high and dry.

“When the state takes all that money, you’re going to have higher taxes because of it… but the state says it’s not their fault. It’s a smoke and mirrors game they’ve played before, so when the tax rate goes up, don’t blame us. It’s because the legislature took all the money that would have reduced your tax rate.”

In other news, Superintendent Laurie Doering welcomed the district’s new network services manager, Eddy Pallanes, and reminded all parents about Back to School nights that are coming up.

The board’s next meeting is set for Sept. 12 at 5 p.m.

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