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Archive for Tuesday, December 13, 2011

School board backs standards-based grades

December 13, 2011

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Sixth-graders will continue to be assessed using the same standards-based grading system that’s been in place for nearly a decade in the Lawrence school district, Lawrence school board members reaffirmed Monday night.

Terri Durgan, right, an elementary teacher who favors use of standards-based grades in school, listens as members of the Lawrence school board receive a report at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. In the row behind her are Megan King, left, and Jill Patton, two parents who have been critical of the Lawrence school district's use of standards-based grades for sixth-graders, now in middle schools. Folks on both sides of the issue listened intently Monday night as board members reaffirmed the district's use of standards-based grading.

Terri Durgan, right, an elementary teacher who favors use of standards-based grades in school, listens as members of the Lawrence school board receive a report at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. In the row behind her are Megan King, left, and Jill Patton, two parents who have been critical of the Lawrence school district's use of standards-based grades for sixth-graders, now in middle schools. Folks on both sides of the issue listened intently Monday night as board members reaffirmed the district's use of standards-based grading.

But a process designed to make the system work better — for parents, for teachers and, ultimately, for students — will continue into the next school year, as district administrators continue to address concerns raised by parents and teachers frustrated by the use of such grades in middle schools.

The system may succeed in meeting the board’s standards, but it’s still making progress after being targeted for growth back in August.

“I just want to thank all the parents who have pushed us to look at this issue very closely,” said Shannon Kimball, a board member who has heard from dozens of critics at previous board meetings and through letters, emails, petitions, phone calls, informational forums and, ultimately, Monday night’s board meeting. “I know you’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of effort, and it is appreciated. I think you’ve pushed us in a positive direction.”

The grading system — one based on state standards, awarding students an S for successfully meeting standards, an M for making progress, a T for being targeted for growth or an E for consistently excelling — has faced questions since August, when parents of sixth-graders learned that the system would be used for their kids now enrolled in middle schools.

Such grades have been used since 2003 for kindergarten through sixth grades. As in years past, sixth-graders continue to also receive typical A, B, C, D or F letter grades for each subject.

This year, some parents argued that their kids should receive only traditional letter grades like everyone else, as a way to spur motivation and avoid confusion. Many teachers weren’t prepared to use standards-based grading in middle schools, some parents said, and families no longer were able to follow their students’ progress using the district’s computer system used by teachers for grading.

During the past four months, administrators have moved to provide parental access to the computer system. They’ve trimmed the number of standards teachers need to mark. They’ve added time for teachers to record and turn in grades.

Now the district plans to convene committees, workshops, courses, focus groups and other efforts to help guide improvements. Some changes will go to school site councils for review, offering parents opportunities to provide input.

Critics who showed up for Monday’s meeting expecting a robust discussion left instead after a few brief comments.

“I leave it in your hands,” said Jill Patton, parent of a sixth-grader and who has attended previous board meetings, met one-on-one with Superintendent Rick Doll and remains critical of the process. “I elected you to represent me. I played by the rules. I did everything I can do. (But) you just can’t wait until 2012 to readdress this, or look at it. And you can’t just sit and watch a PowerPoint from the administration to see what’s happening.”

Patton hopes that her daughter won’t have to endure standards-based grades again next year, when she moves up into seventh grade. She and others fear that the system could make its way up through eighth grade and into high school.

Mark Bradford, board president, stifled such worries after the meeting. “I don’t think we’re ready to do that,” he said.

Comments

GardenMomma 3 years ago

I'm disappointed. Two grading scales in one school seems a little hard on everyone. How is the sixth grader who is in a seventh grade math class going to be graded? How will the parents be able to track grades in Skyward?

And, quite frankly, I do not trust the school board or the administration. That is a very uncomfortable feeling.

drs331 3 years ago

If you don't like the answer, there are always elections.

GardenMomma 3 years ago

I did vote. And, unfortunately, the ones I voted for are not exactly representing themselves the way I had been led to believe they would.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years ago

Been there done that. I vote in people that on the surface seem to be good for this district and our kids, but inevitably, within a year or two they are right on board with administration, who, for whatever reason, never seem to see eye to eye with parents regarding what is good for our kids.

We have to put up with these people for 4 years. By then my child is completely out of middle school or high school. How helpful is that? I need change now! We voted these people in. They are supposed to represent us. Yet, time and again, they sway to the will of administration, rather than listen to our concerns and requests. Elections are too late. One or two things should happen. 1) Make school board terms only 2 years long, so we can move these people out and get good people in. The ones that listen to reason can rerun and will certainly be reelected if they truly represent the wishes of the people. Those that don't are out. 2) There should be official ways for the public to weigh in on performance of key administrators before their annual contracts are automatically renewed. This way EVERYONE is held accountable. There is too much running off half-cocked with no plan these days. The admin and board never have a plan and when they do, it takes so dang long for them to implement it we all forgot what they were talking about! I suppose that's one way to get the parents to quit nagging at them, they can just bore us into submission. If they drag their feet enough on a subject, they can slide it in without our noticing because we get tired of always having to be on top of their decisions.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Mark Fagan:

How did the board vote?

Who voted for or against?

This information would be appreciated in future USD 497 BOE coverage. Thank You

mfagan 3 years ago

Hello merrill. Board members did not vote, as they had no formal "action item" to vote on. Instead, they: -- Received a report, outlining what the district intends to do. -- Listened to public comment. -- Asked a few questions, and offered a few thoughts. Then they moved on. Six board members were at the meeting: Mark Bradford, Vanessa Sanburn, Bob Byers, Shannon Kimball, Keith Diaz Moore and Rick Ingram. Randy Masten did not attend. As for including vote totals, here's my guideline: Generally I report vote totals when and if there is some sort of split: 6-1, 5-2, 4-3, etc. ... And in those cases, I endeavor to include who ended up on which side. I'll keep your interest in reporting vote totals in mind as I write future stories... Thanks for the input... - Mark Fagan, Schools reporter

beaujackson 3 years ago

Taxpayers and parents would be better served if school board members served ONLY 2 years.

It's very hard to find GOOD people who can give 4 years of their time.

This is a state-wide problem that needs to be addressed.

mfagan 3 years ago

Hey there, beaujackson. I would imagine someone could run, win, and then resign after two years, if time were a concern. I sometimes hear about the financial side of it -- not from current board members, or even past ones, but from other folks. People wonder if other folks might run, if pay were involved. Lawrence city commissioners are paid: $10,000 per year if you're Lawrence mayor, and $9,000 per year if you're a commissioner. Two commissioners have four-year terms, and the third has a two-year term. Douglas County commissioners are paid more than $30,000 a year, as aI recall. They serve four-year terms. Members of the school board? They are not paid, and serve four-year terms. Any thought? - Mark Fagan, Schools reporter

sad_lawrencian 3 years ago

Standards-based grades are crap. Why can't people see that? What's wrong with A, B, C, D and F?

Clevercowgirl 3 years ago

There are many people who serve on historical preservation committees, recycling, zoning appeals, etc., who do not get paid for their time. Nor should they, in my opinion. If a person has a certain skill set that he/she can donate to make the community better, and are willing and able to do so, great. In my view, there are two types of people that run for School Board: those interested in improving the lives of our students; and those interested in improving their political lives. Either way, there is not much reason to pay them.

With respect to last night's discussion of the SBG for 6th graders, I would give the School Board and Administration a "T".....targeted for improvement. I'm sure that may of the parents (voters) would agree.

Clevercowgirl 3 years ago

...many of the parents (voters) would agree.

Windemere 3 years ago

The basic facts that all parents ought to understand in order to earn the mark of S:
No Child Left Behind forced states to implement & test on specific standards or face negative consequences. This led to adoption of SBG, which makes it easier for districts/teachers to comply with NCLB.
The focus has dramatically shifted to making sure all kids reach standards. Why is this bad? Kids who are in the ability range of roughly B minus to A minus receive INSUFFICIENT attention and motivation. The are told "Just reach S". This is pathetic and does a huge disservice to these kids. How will our kids be prepared to lead, invent, solve problems, compete in the world and achieve their potential when they are told only that they ought to "meet standards"?

SBG as implemented in our district is shameful. Create a mark between S and E (as the state of KS does in its reporting!). Give kids something attainable to strive for beyond S. District can't lose face and roll it back from 6th grade, but for goodness sake, do not move it beyond 6th grade.

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