A private Jewish school in New York got bad marks from online critics after sending home report cards - along with a letter offering a rosier set of grades for kids' eyes only.

School officials at Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island say the Jan. 8 letter was not an offer to change real grades, but simply an option for parents to show their youngsters a more encouraging set.

"If after reviewing the enclosed report card, you would like us to develop a second version of this report card for your son with higher grades, [notify the school]."

- Letter sent home to parents

"Since our goal is to share accurate information with the parents, and not to discourage or hurt a student, great discretion must be used before allowing your child to view his report card," the letter read.

"If after reviewing the enclosed report card, you would like us to develop a second version of this report card for your son with higher grades, [notify the school]," it continued.

A copy of the letter quickly spread on social media, with The Jewish Standard, a weekly New Jersey newspaper, posting a copy of it on its Twitter page.

"What do you think of this policy? Brilliant? Befuddling? Best idea ever?" the newspaper tweeted. In response, one user wrote, "This is a disgrace!! The coddling of kids has got to stop. There is no accountability anymore. Sad."

Rabbi Tzvi Krigsman, a school official who signed the memo, said Thursday the goal of the letter is the "total opposite of what it’s being portrayed as."

"Our point was to make sure we had honest grading but at the same time took care of the emotional needs of those students who are really trying very hard," Krigsman told FoxNews.com.

He called the letter a "common sense approach" and said it only applied to a "handful" of students, out of hundreds.

"We want to be able to create something where parents know the truth and students don’t become discouraged," he said, though he noted, "Unfortunately, in hindsight, the letter was not written as clearly as it should have been."

The all-male school in Inwood on New York's Long Island was founded in 1995 and currently has a little more than 400 students. The Yeshiva includes pre-school, elementary and middle-school students, Krigsman said.  

Last week, the school sent parents a clarification, seeking to address the "flurry of interest" the letter had created.Officials explained that so-called "grade inflation" at other schools sets students up for a big fall when they reach high school, and the dual option was only meant to bolster kids' confidence while giving parents a realistic evaluation of their performance.

"We therefore offered an option to the parents to present an 'inflated' report card to be used as a tool of positive reinforcement in addressing their children's emotional and psychological needs, all while working with their partner, YKLI, in addressing the child's continuing weaknesses," the letter said.