Trimester grade reporting is coming to Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary this fall.

Instead of scheduling six meetings with the parents of kindergarten through fourth-grade students during the school year, trimester grading will allow for four sessions between teachers and parents.

"We've been talking about it since standard-based report cards became the norm," WDC Elementary Principal Louis Rutten said.

The idea is to give the parent-teacher meetings more depth and give Rutten and his teachers more time to accumulate data on each student.

"It will help us produce deeper information and give us bigger chunks of time to gather information," Rutten said.

The first meeting, coming about six weeks into the school year, will give students and parents an idea of the goals their teachers envision them reaching during the year. Trimesters ending just before parent-teacher conferences will put fresh information on the table.

"The fall, winter, spring benchmarks of trimester grades will help make them more meaningful," Rutten said. "We will be able to tell parents 'here is where they are at and here is where we want to take them.'"

Some school districts that are currently following trimester grading include Brainerd, Perham and Pelican Rapids.

Brainerd Middle School Principal Jon Anderson said trimester grading for Brainerd students began six years ago.

"In the three years I've been here, I haven't had any criticism about trimester grading," Anderson said.

Anderson likes how trimester grading allows Brainerd middle school kids to go between rotational classes.

"We have three exploratory rotating classes that just blend into a trimester grading system," Anderson said. "The kids have the same teachers for most of their classes. The only time the kids really change teachers is for rotation classes."

Anderson is all for parent-teacher conferences, especially on the elementary level, but he also knows how closely parents are able to keep tabs on their kids' progress by following their grades online. If they have a question or a problem, they can simply turn to the Internet.

"Some of our teachers are getting 20 emails a day," Anderson said.

The opening of the Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School last September moved fifth- and sixth-graders out of the elementary ranks. Rutten now has 19 classroom teachers in his K-4 ranks.

"I think we've got an opportunity now," Rutten said. "There are so many more things we can try to measure and report on."

Rutten sees a trimester grade reporting system as a win for teachers, parents and especially students. Feedback has always been encouraged at WDC Elementary.

"We always want them to take ownership and take what they have earned, not what they've been given," Rutten said.

WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom is in favor of the step Rutten and his staff are taking.

"Parents will be able to see the measure throughout the year," Dahlstrom said.