South Summit Elementary switches to new grading system
January 13, 2015
There are no longer F students at South Summit Elementary School. For that matter, A, B, C and D students are a thing of the past, too.
South Summit Elementary has done away with traditional grades, in favor of standards-based report cards designed to offer parents a better look at their students’ progress.
Principal Louise Willoughby said rather than grading students by the traditional scale, the standards-based report cards list many of the important skills students should have at their grade levels. For each skill, students are then given an M (meets standards), A (approaches standards) or N (needs support). That allows parents to see the specific skills their children excel at and which ones they need to work on.
"It’s more information for parents," Willoughby said. "Before, they got an A, B, C, D, F. But that didn’t tell you what students need to improve on. They’re getting a lot more information with this."
Examples of the skills a kindergarten student will be judged on, for instance, include: Can the student write his or her name, and can he or she apply strategies to comprehend text? A first-grader will be evaluated on things such as whether he or she can write a complete sentence.
South Summit Elementary teachers spent several months creating assessments to evaluate the students on the skills. The tests are focused on one concept, with questions of various difficulty levels, so teachers and parents can track the exact proficiency of students.
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Another benefit of the change is students will no longer be given failing grades. Willoughby said no student should be labeled a failure.
"I’m excited when kids get their report card, they won’t have to look at something like an F," she said. "We try to be a fail-free school here, but sometimes that doesn’t work. They can be the brightest students, but if they’re not doing their homework and bringing back that work, there’s a possibility they could fail. This takes that out of it."
The change has been accompanied by a shift to sending out report cards twice a year, rather than quarterly — though parents can still track their students’ progress online throughout the year. The school is getting set to release the first batch Jan. 19. So far, feedback has been positive from parents, who have been informed about the change throughout the process. Willoughby is hoping to hear more when parents finally have the report cards in-hand.
"We really want parents to ask questions," she said. "When it goes home, we want to hear back from them. It’s for parents and students, so they can better identify the skills involved in each subject."