The Report Card

by Andrew Clements
ISBN: 0689845154

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A Review of: The Report Card
by Peter Yan

In Andrew Clements's latest children's book, the new class of proletariats are a class of fifth graders, inspired by a kid genius named Nora Rowley, with an IQ of 188, who protest rote learning and testing by purposely getting zeroes on all their tests, leading up to a climactic confrontation between school administration, parents and students.
Clements cleverly captures school life, the backroom school politics, the neuroses evoked by the ritual of the report card, and the difficulty of socializing in school, especially for exceptional students at both ends of the scale. The Report Card touches on some of the alienation experienced in J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey but watered down for the elementary school setting.
The story starts off with Nora and her friend Stephen on the archetypal school bus ride home comparing report cards. Nora, the classic hare to Stephen's tortoise, is upset because she was shooting for all D's but gets a C in spelling. While she succeeds in making Stephen feel better about his average marks, Nora naturally upsets her parents who quickly ground her and go after her teachers and the administration for an explanation. But Nora finds she can't escape the marking system as the school decides to explain her low marks by submitting her to more testing. Technology also traps Nora, as the school librarian catalogues all the web sites and the 5 gigabytes of downloaded files on her school account, all revealing the mind and interests of an intellectual of any age. Stephen comes to Nora's rescue by getting the whole school to get zeroes on their tests, setting up the showdown between children, parents, teachers and administrators.
Children will quickly identify with Nora, whose thoughts are often written in long sentence fragments, a technique Clements uses well to reach his young audience and to convey the super-intellectual powers of his protagonist.

"But I also learned that I liked being so smart. Because by kindergarten I had figured out an important fact about me: I was a genius. The things that most kids found difficult were easy for me.That didn't make me think I was better than the other kids, though. The more I got to know them, the more I admired them. I was amazed by their hard work."

Overall, a great read for kids to see themselves in the latest great debate. Are our schools, in Jane Jacob's phrase, primarily for credentials or education? Hopefully Clements will return to finish this theme and explore the possibilities of a school where marks do not exist and learning has become an end in itself.

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