By now students have received the last vestige of their school year in a report card that told them how well they did and if they were sent to the next grade. Although they probably knew beforehand, just seeing that notation made them feel a bit relieved.

I remember my own school days and although was sure I had passed, it was always good to see that you had been promoted to the next grade in black and white on that report card. It was a satisfied feeling and was noted and forgotten with the busyness of summer vacation.

Grade cards have changed throughout the years. I have some of those that belonged to my parents, both having gone to a one-room school. Often it was the same teacher for several grades, other times a different one.

My dad’s schools were mostly in Allen County near Spencerville. Teachers included S.A. Miller, Clara Radebaugh and Evaline Foor. The grade cards were a simple card type made of a heavier paper and the grading method was in numbers, 95 to 100 being very high ability, 85 to 94, medium high ability 80 to 84, average ability, etc.

Not only were the students given grades in spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, language grammar, geography, history and physiology, but also in deportment. Grades were given for conduct and application, while notations about wasting time, careless work, copying, giving up too easily and commendable work in their attitude toward school work.

There were also notations on recitations about being poorly prepared, seldom does well, inattentive, promotion in danger, capable of doing better, work shows a falling off, work of grade too difficult, showing improvement and very satisfactory. Also marks were given for conduct which included being restless and inattentive, inclined to mischief, rude and discourteous, annoys others, whispers too much or shows improvement, good and very good.

I’m glad to say his marks were always very good, even though he did not go to high school, but completed only through the eighth grade. This was quite common in the ’20s when he was a student. There was also a Certificate of Promotion listed on the back noting the student was eligible to promotion to the next grade.

Sometimes a small souvenir was given to the pupils by their teacher. One such tiny booklet listed the pupils in the 1913-1914 Amanda Township School District, Lulu E. Long, teacher, given by her as a memento.

Another given to him by S.A. Miller in 1925 had this small poem in the front with a message of best wishes inside: “My work is done, the keel is laid. Oh build the frame to stand the stress, for if the bark be truly made, It’s bow can bear the name Success.”

I sometimes wonder about my father keeping these mementos all those years, but I am glad he did for it gave a glimpse of him and his life in those early years.

My mother’s grade cards came from Van Wert County, District 6 and Spencerville High School. Teachers listed included Lester D. Faurot, Lois Burnett, Mary A. Harter and Irene Van Sweringen. Grading was done by letter grades, A, B, C etc. Deportment and Application were also graded. She too had excellent grades, except perhaps for math which I can totally understand.

By the time I went to school, grade cards had evolved a bit. No longer were grades given for anything other than major topics such as reading, English, spelling, writing, arithmetic, social studies, health and science. There were however places to mark notations to parents about habits, such as Your child needs to: work and play with others, respect school and private property, respect proper authority, be more courteous, be more dependable and control talking. The last one is one that was checked on my grade card.

Work habits include: contribute helpful ideas, be a good listener, follow directions, begin work promptly and complete work begun, use spare time profitably, check work for accuracy, work independently when he should and show neatness in work. The first grade card had no grades whatever, just columns to mark if the student was making acceptable progress, or should be making improvement. This continued throughout the lower grades with many teacher comments handwritten in provided areas.

In high school, each subject was given a small card noting grades and class participation, preparation, effort, courtesy and punctuality. All of these cards, mine and my parents, were in manila-type envelopes and each had a place for parents to sign and return. The cards were sent out each grading period and then given to the student to keep at the end of the year.

Nowadays the grade cards are computer printouts of the student’s progress, usually using letter grades, often with each subject broken down into specific areas with a plus or minus in each. Work habits and social skills are usually highlighted in the younger grades and there is a place for a teacher comment, however it is typewritten rather than in cursive as they once were. They also arrive in an envelope which must be signed by the parent and returned with the printout kept by the parent.

So things have changed but progress in learning has stayed as the focus. And the feelings of pain or elation still remain the same as we look back on our progress in school. As adults we may wonder what grade we would receive today in application and deportment? It’s something to think about.


Jeannine Roediger has lived on a family farm all her life, first as a farmer’s daughter and now as a farmer’s wife. She writes weekly for the Times Bulletin and enjoys gardening, quilting, cooking, bird watching and writing.