If you find it odd that in Grades 1, 2, and 3 (1944-1947) pupil weight was listed on the back of the report card, you will be really amazed by the rest of the report card. Made of light-weight card stock, the card measured just under 4” by 6.” On the front, the heading of an inch listed MEDFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS and then Report of_______________ , Grade_______ and School________. There were then four 5/8” divisions, one for each marking period. In this space, in addition to the teacher’s signature, there was one word. Just one word: either Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. That one word was to cover all the essential learning of the early grades: reading, arithmetic, and writing. Since there was no separate grade for any subject, of course there was no report of the sub-skills required such as phonics, word attack, or comprehension for reading; basic facts, computation and problem solving for math. There was no report of effort or conduct. Trust me, the only science and social studies instruction was incidental.
In the third quarter, there was an additional line for “Promotion Prospect.” I guess the choices were “Good” or “Poor.” There was no written communication, that I’m aware of, that indicated why a pupil’s prospect was poor, what they needed to do to improve in order to be promoted. No clue. And let me add that I never saw a parent in the school except for one small open class visit once a year where all were invited. There were no parent conferences in those early grades, although I vaguely remember they were introduced in sixth grade.
In the fourth quarter, above the teacher’s signature was the rubber-stamped word “Promoted” or I suppose, “Not Promoted.” That was it. We were all very aware of kids who were not promoted, if not in June, certainly in September as my school had only one class of each grade 1 – 6.
In a side column there was a space for days absent, times tardy, times dismissed. As I looked at these old report cards, I noticed that in the year I have described as “Hell,” I was absent 13 days the third quarter and 16 days the fourth quarter. After I broke two thermometers holding them to the light bulb, my mother must have just let me stay home when I said I felt sick.
The back of the card held the declaration that this was the Medford Public School’s pupil’s quarterly report for the primary grades, the famous weight report and the notation that 5% below to 20% above weight was the health zone and satisfactory as per the Mass. Dept. of Public Health. Finally there was a space for signature of parent or guardian each of the first three quarters. And that was all, folks – a prime example of “old school.”
© Dorothy C. Judd
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