When sixth-grade pupils at Evans Middle School received report cards Monday, they had some explaining to do.
That's because the school allows them to explain their grades to their parents in a pupil-led conference. And the unique approach to holding pupils accountable is getting positive reactions from parents and students.
"I think it's wonderful," said Luanne Morris, who was at the school Monday to meet with her son, Adam. "It shows you all the work they've done. I can talk over with him what his goals are and what my goals are."
And for Adam, 12, meeting with his mother at school means she won't yell at him over lower grades, he said.
"I like it a lot better," Adam said.
But that, teachers said, is one of the benefits of the pupil-led conference.
"It's probably one of the few times that the parents will sit down and talk to them about their grades, and it's not a threatening environment," said sixth-grade teacher Mary Bowers.
Evans Middle began holding the conferences last year to improve communication among parents, teachers and students. While the school still holds parent-teacher conferences, the pupil-led conferences held on each report card day lets pupils explain their grades -- good and bad -- to their parents.
"They actually will say a lot more to the parent there than you would ever anticipate," Ms. Bowers said.
The school's experience with the conferences is also drawing attention. Next week, Ms. Bowers and fellow teacher Glenda Atkins will speak at the Georgia Middle School Conference in Atlanta.
Other schools in Columbia and Richmond counties have also contacted Evans Middle for information, Principal Jeff Carney said. He said the school plans to expand the conferences to seventh and eighth grades next year.
The school gets about 95 percent participation from parents, Ms. Atkins said. For pupils whose parents cannot attend, the principal or a counselor will sit in.
Pupils are instructed on how to conduct the conference and write a review of the work in their portfolio -- which ranges from tests to writing assignments. Parents work with their child to set goals with input from teachers. At the end of the conference, parents are asked to write a letter to their child about his work.
Evans Middle School pupil Jim O'Hara, 11, said the conference gives him a chance to show all his grades to his parents so they see more than a report card grade. And, Jim said, in preparing for the conference, he identifies goals for himself and has an added incentive to do well in his classes.
"I wrote it out and I was going to try to make the goal I set," he said.
Jim's parents, Jim and Joan O'Hara, said they see a benefit in having the conference. Because Jim is responsible for explaining his work, he has begun to recognize how he needs to improve in certain areas, they said.
"He's on the way to helping himself," Mr. O'Hara said.