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Report cards (vague cards without reports)

When I was in fourth grade, I received my first bad grade.  It was on a science test that I was completely unprepared for and my grade was a 52 % or a “U” which stood for “unsatisfactory.”

Being a shining star that always got perfect grades without even trying, I almost fainted and shit my pants when I saw that letter “U.”  I couldn’t think straight for the remainder of the class and finally, doubled over I told the teacher that I had to go to the nurse because I had a horrible stomach-ache.

My mother picked me up from the nurse’s office after the teacher told her of my “illness,” and we had a chat about preparedness.

Obviously, being a genius, I never received a “U” again until my freshman year of college.

Today, none of that would have ever happened.  Children in Goopville never receive a grade let alone a percentage!

In September, Michael entered the fourth grade.  Soon thereafter he came home with a math paper that documented how many answers he got correct on a math quiz.


The first time even though I was highly alarmed, I didn’t go to crazy but inquired about why he had done so poorly.

The second time I almost fainted.


” Oh my God! Michael! – What did your teacher say about this?” I demanded as I pulled the paper from his folder.

“I don’t know…nothing.” he shrugged as he searched for a snack.

“Oh my God! This is very bad!” I yelled.  He looked at me nervously shrugging.

I pointed to the horrific score.  “In the real world – this is what is commonly referred to as “failing.” I said gravely.  “And you are bombing out of fourth grade…You’re failing!”

I had to warn Mr. Gaga about this problem before conference week.

“We have a problem,” I warned him as we got into bed.

“What?” he asked dismissively.

“I think Michael is like not good at math or something and now he’s failing fourth grade.” I explained.

“What do you mean?” Mr. Gaga demanded and when I explained about his series of bad grades he was also concerned about the apparent failing of fourth grade that Michael was experiencing.

Normally I would attend parent-teacher conferences alone, but history has proven that I have a hard time hiding my disdain for anything that the teacher is doing that I don’t approve of.  I asked Mr. Gaga to come to the conference to be sure that we communicate properly with the teacher.  Since the common core has come to be –  I often have no fucking clue what anyone’s talking about.…plus I have “bitchy resting face” as a rule and when the teacher shows me a report card that’s filled with smiley faces or meaningless codes, I usually cannot control my facial expressions.




When we arrived at Michael’s conference I addressed my concerns about his failing math grades.

“Oh no!!” the teacher replied cheerfully.  “Michael is right where he should be!”

“But if he’s only getting 39 percent or 54 percent correct, in my world that’s not where anyone should be….” I retorted.

“Oh no, that’s not what it means.” she replied cheerfully, and went on to try to explain to me how getting 39 out of 100 is not an “F.”


But it clearly is….right?

I mean just to be clear….If a person gets 39 answers correct out of 100 am I correct in thinking that this person is not doing well?

If a teacher thinks that getting 39 percent correct is okay – shouldn’t I be alarmed?

Has the common core made everyone stupid? Do the teachers think that failing is ok?

What’s happening?

Is this what happens in China?

She started droning on about the common core and the standardized tests and the timing of the answers and how to go about figuring out multiplication and carrying numbers and tens places and I totally almost blacked out…and finally she was all “so Michael is a math wizard!”

If only I could say what I wanted to say…..




But instead I just smiled and stared at her and said “Ok- great!”

Because I actually didn’t even know what to say anymore.

We went on to discuss the “report card” which in “common core world” is a series of meaningless codes to make the teacher and school look as though they are doing a great job.

In order to show progress they put the letter “P” next to each heading on the report card which stands for “progressing.”  If they put the letter “M” for “mastered” in November then it would look as though they weren’t teaching anybody anything.

I chuckled as I looked through the list of “P’s.”  They were totally inaccurate.

Many line items Michael had “mastered” in first grade – but by this teacher’s standards he was still “progressing.”

For example, Michael who stays up every single night reading for approximately 1-2 hours a night long chapter books such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Flies, received a “P” for “Reads and Comprehends a Range of Texts.”


So the gist of the conference was that even though I thought that he was failing math – he was in fact “right where he should be” and he still needs to work on his reading.

Then my eyes hit the one area that seemed to need improvement.

Next to the line item that said “Exhibits self control” there was a skull and crossbones 

small print that said “I hate you.” 

a number “3” which signifies that improvement is needed.

“Um…what does this mean?” I asked pointing to the scandalous mark.

“Well Michael is very aggressive.” the teacher said gravely.

“Oh my God! Is he bullying people? Is he beating people up?” I inquired nervously.

“Oh no…he is perfectly respectful and polite in class.  He is very pleasant and cooperative with his classmates and the teachers….” she said calmly.

I exhaled a little, waiting for the punch line.

“But at recess….he likes to play soccer and he’s very, very aggressive.  He wants to win at all costs!” she said seriously.  “He gets very physical and will do anything to win!” she announced gravely.



I just stared at her blankly thinking about what possible reaction she was waiting for.

“So…he wants to win the soccer game that he’s playing in?” he asked calmly.

“Yes, but at any cost…he gets very physical….” she said expectantly.

“Um….we encourage winning.” I said neutrally.

I tried to pretend that I cared.


I am totally going to speak to him about this!


She kept droning on about the importance of safety at recess.  She mentioned how sometimes Michael would be trying to get the soccer ball and someone would fall and that person’s head would be right near the soccer ball! and Michael would kick the ball anyways!! Right next to someone’s head!!




I am not quite sure if Michael is smart or a huge idiot or a kind child or a violent monster.

I guess I will have to find out on my own since no teacher is ever able to relay this information to me.

Once again I have lost an hour that I will never get back.





2 responses »

  1. I’m a teacher and we call it the “Common Whore”. Teachers hate it also. Don’t even get me started on that topic. Recess? What’s that? My son’s elementary school had banned running anywhere. Not on the grass, on the playground, anywhere! Now I’m fired up thinking about all of the above. Must pour more wine.


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