52 Documents in 52 Weeks #41 – William Strait’s Report Card

Person of Interest: William Charles Strait
Relationship: Paternal grandfather


Source Citation: William Strait, 4th grade report card; Newton Public Schools, Newton, New Jersey; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.


Document Description: This 4th grade report card is 4-1/2 by 7 inches and is linen-backed paper. It has no dust jacket and does not seem to have been folded at any point in its life. A variety of inks exist on the paper in both blue and black but no red. William’s mother, Audrey Strait, signed the report card for all months except June which is blank. There is no year indicated.


Document Scan/Transcription:NEWTON, N.J., PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Report Card of William Strait……4th Year Grade

No standing lower than Good ought to be satisfactory in either Conduct or Lessons. Lesson records in red ink indicate that the pupil is falling behind the class and needs to give special study to lessons at home. The Principal will be pleased to have parents consult with him about any matter of school work, or of the Pupil’s progress. The success of the school depends largely upon the cooperation of Parents with the Teachers’ efforts.
Pupils are marked Excellent, E., or 90 to 100; Good, G., or 80 to 90; Fair, F., or 70 to 80; Poor, P., or 60 to 70, and Very Poor, V. P., or below 60. If the deportment is below or continues at P., the pupil is liable to be suspended.

F. M. States [his signature], TEACHER.


Analysis: Unlike my paternal grandmother, Beatrice (Repsher) Strait, or my father and his sister, I have but one lonely report card for my  grandfather, William. I’m estimating that he would have been around 8 or 9 years old. I think that it would be 1918 or 1919 since Audrey was the one signing the report card and his father, Ora, passed away in 1918.

William’s courses included Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Spelling, Physiology, Geography, U. S. History, Grammar, Physical Training, Music, and Manual Training. The Manual Training category at the top was written over with something that ends in “ning” but I can’t make it out. I had to look up physiology which is a branch of biology that deals with the functions of living organisms and their parts.

Overall, William was a decent pupil; a solid B student by today’s grading. He did not have many absences as he was only out of school 6-1/2 days of which six were in February. There are only two “poor” grades on his report card for the year, one in conduct in December and one in Physical Training in November. 60% of all of his other grades were a G- or above. The grading for this school system ran from Excellent (90 to 100) to Good (80 to 90) all the way down to Very Poor (below 60). There were two odd entries, the first was a blank box in U. S. History for March and a “C” in Geography for March.

What genealogical purpose does this lonely report card serve? Well, it puts my grandfather at a particular place, Newton, New Jersey, at a particular time, around 1918 or 1919. If I ran into two men named William Strait in the same area, it would help me distinguish between the two. It hints that Audrey is his mother since she signed in the parents section.

This is an original source. The inks vary by month, are true to the time period, and seem to be completed by the same person, F. M. States, the teacher. It is not a copy and it’s form hasn’t been changed.

The information found in this source is primary. It’s firsthand since it was created at the time of the event, school attendance, and filled in by the teacher witnessing William’s classroom performance.

The evidence is explicit for the research question, “What grade did William Strait of Newton, New Jersey, receive for Grammar in April of his 4th grade?” That can be answered simply and directly as G+ for this question. The evidence is indirect for the research question, “What was the name of the mother of William Strait, of Newton, New Jersey, who attended Newton Public Schools?” Even though Audrey signed in the parents space, this evidence would need to be combined with other evidence for the researcher to be reasonably sure that Audrey was William’s mother.

CONCLUSION

While I didn’t get a birth date or solid kinship information from this report card, it does have value for me. I never got to meet my grandfather William as he died before I was born. Along with the school photo (above), it helps me understand William’s early life and flesh out what he was like. He attended school diligently for this year and was a good student. It makes me wonder what he was doing to earn a Poor in conduct for that one month. Pulling little girls pigtails or acting up in the classroom? It’s fun to imagine.

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