Archive for Monday, November 7, 2011

First Bell: Online petition targets standards-based grading for sixth-graders; Consolidation Working Group to receive detailed data Monday

November 7, 2011


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Parents upset with use of standards-based grading for sixth-graders are taking their dissatisfaction to the Internet.

A trio of parents with students at Southwest Middle School have launched an online petition, gathering digital signatures from others throughout the Lawrence school district who want the district to “abandon” standards-based grading for the new middle-schoolers and instead “return to the “percentage-based, averaged grading system” still used for students in seventh through 12th grades.

Standards-based grades — marks tied to state standards for each subject, plus “learner behaviors” such as being prepared for class and turning in assignments on time — have been since 2003 in elementary schools, which up until last year had included sixth-graders.

Now sixth-graders are sharing a building, and some classes, with seventh- and eighth-graders.

“They keep saying: ‘This is the way it was in elementary school,’ ” says Megan King, a petition organizers who has a son in sixth grade at Southwest. “The fact of the matter is they are not in elementary school anymore. They are dealing with seven different teachers and seven different classes. That can be confusing for a child.”

King and others, through the petition, argue that the district’s Skyward computer system no longer serves as an effective communications tool, “since it doesn’t identify daily assignments, tests or quizzes” or if such work is late or missing.

“We need to be able to guide them through their assignments,” King says. “If we can’t see what they’re working on, we’re blind.”

The petition maintains that there should be a single grading system for all students in middle school, and that the system should be traditional letter grades: A, B, C, D and F. Sixth-graders, like last year, still receive letter grades, but they come along with standards-based marks: E (excels beyond expectations), S (successfully meets standards), M (making progress) and T (targeted for growth).

King and others have assembled twice at district headquarters to address members of the Lawrence school board, with parents stepping to the microphone three minutes at a time to voice their concerns. Among them:

• Teachers don’t have enough time to properly issue such grades.

• Standards-based marks do not offer proper motivation for kids, especially those who could strive to go from a B to an A.

• Issuing two sets of grades is confusing, both for parents and students.

Parents also fear that the district eventually could drop letter grades for standards-based marks in seventh and eighth grades, something the parents say could keep students from learning valuable lessons in reality: In high school you get an A, B or C in each class, and those transitional letter grades count on your college transcript.

“We just feel like it’s a disservice,” King says.

The district plans two informational discussions later this month, to address questions and concerns regarding standards-based grading. The discussions, “Grading for Learning,” are organized to provide the same information and follow the same format both nights: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at Southwest, 2511 Inverness; and Nov. 30 at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, 1400 Mass.

For more information about standards-based grading, the district encourages parents and others to review the Parent’s Guide to Standards-Based Reporting. Rick Doll, district superintendent, also has written a letter outlining his support for such grading.


Members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group can expect to receive pages upon pages of district demographic data for review tonight.

Robert Schwarz, CEO for RSP & Associates, is compiling data regarding where students live, and then tying that to information about students’ economic, racial and programmatic situations.

Members of the working group, tasked with recommending how to close either two or three schools through consolidation during the next two or three years, have requested such information in recent weeks. The district then hired RSP to help compile the data.

Schwarz said that the firm’s initial round of compilations would be finalized today.

The working group meets at 7 tonight at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.


Maddy Griffin 6 years, 7 months ago

What do you mean you don't have time to "properly issue such grades". Aren't they already issuing those same grades for the 7th & 8th graders? Why would it take any more time to do the same for the 6th graders? They don't like it when they don't get "letter" grades. Screw this E,S,M.& T stuff. This sets them apart and they're not happy about it.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 7 months ago

What do you mean you don't have time to "properly issue such grades". Aren't they already issuing those same grades for the 7th & 8th graders? Why would it take any more time to do the same for the 6th graders? They don't like it when they don't get "letter" grades. Screw this E,S,M.& T stuff. This sets them apart and they're not happy about it.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 7 months ago

Just give everyone an "A" and be done with it. The average is probably about a "B" anyway.

Jayhawks64 6 years, 7 months ago

Here are the goals for SBG from Doll's letter to parents:

• Clearly identify expected learning outcomes for each content and grade level. • Provide more detailed feedback about student learning for students and families. • Report strengths, challenges and next steps in a student’s learning. • Clearly identify student behaviors and report the impact of student behavior on their learning.

In reality: No rubrics, the "six" core standards for each core subject have not been identified, learning outcomes have not been clearly identified, detailed feedback has not been given, no reports indicating how a student's behavior impacts his/her learning.

SBG is ok for elementary school. Not so much for 6-12.

Windemere 6 years, 7 months ago

Middle schools ought to help with the transition to high school, and it does a disservice to those students to have a vastly different grading system from what is used in high schools. The district seems to want to push SBG all the way through 12th grade -- Please, parents, make your voices heard! Our kids will not be prepared for college and colleges look at traditional letter grades to make admissions decisions. A few key points: - having traditional letter grades does NOT mean there are not "standards". The standards in place now might be fine, and they can be used as measures of academic progress. Just because there are standards does not mean the grading system has to be E,S,M,T. - Skyward is a great tool for parents and students and 6th graders are now suffering from not having the type of information from SKyward as 7th and 8th graders now have. The district made a terrible mistake in not providing the same Skyward info for 6th graders. - Many parents believe E,S,M, T in elementary schools is Ok, with one VERY important change: Have some gradation between S and E!! As it stands now, kids of average or above average ability are NOT motivated to do any better than the "standard." The message the district sends is "Just try for that S. It's not expected that you'll get an E and really, we almost never, ever give them out." What a terrible message to send to our kids. - it's clear to many parents that teacher training has not been very good as to how to use SBG, even the elementary level where it's been in palce since 2003. Train teachers so the system is consistently applied. And in middle schools, it's all too clear that the district did a woefully poor job of preparing those teachers of 6th graders how they are to grade. Kudos to those brave teachers who have spoken up about this situation. Thank you!

sugarmonkey 6 years, 7 months ago

Very well stated!!! If the goal is for parents to receive more information, this is clearly not the answer. If you have not seen the skyward system used for 7-12th grade, I seriously recommend that you view it. You will be amazed at the difference in information it provides students and parents. In addition to viewing assignments, quizzes, and tests, it also provides a very clear point value system when you click on grade marks. (example, A+ = 100, A = 99- 94 etc). When you click on grade marks in the 6th grade skyward it says A=A, B=B C=C etc. It also says 100 =100, 99=99 all the way down to 0=0. Does our administration , especially Angelique Kobler and Dr. Doll really think this is useful information? What a joke! I am embarrassed and concerned about the lack of concern the administration shows toward this issue, especially Dr. Doll. They are providing a forum, however, I've heard that it is just going to be another Angelique Kobler show.

Windemere 6 years, 7 months ago

Is the administration going to provide details well in advance about the formats of the "informational discussions"? Fine for the administration to give a presentation of ten or so minutes. Then allow people to ask questions/state their concerns for all to hear. Can a person not employed by the district do a presentation (arranged in advance, and with a time limit, of course)? If not, why not? The fact that they are referring to these sessions as informational discussions, rather than using a word like "forum" is concerning. Videotape it and put it on the district's website and on so that people who could not attend can get information and answers they seek. How about it?

GMom05 6 years, 7 months ago

Oooh, you could put that suggestion in the virtual suggestion box! Let's see if they take you up on it! Otherwise it will be the Angelique Kobler show with an opportunity for you to sit at a table with a central office administrator and have them tell you why you shouldn't be concerned about the things you came concerned about. Really, they have every intention of doing what they want to do anyway and you and I attending a forum/informational discussion isn't going to change that. Nevermind that we're talking about OUR children, not theirs.

ConcernedResident 6 years, 7 months ago

Thank you to parents and teachers who have taken the initiative to investigate this grading system and speak out against it. It is extremely concerning that our district would try to implement SBG in such a way that seems to involve little planning or foresight.

It is even more concerning that the implementation was done with practically no teacher training or input. Shouldn't the people using the grading system understand, support, and know how to use it??

To ask intelligent people (teachers, principals, parents, students) to accept a system of grading that lacks common sense is insulting and irresponsible.

GMom05 6 years, 7 months ago

"To ask intelligent people (teachers, principals, parents, students) to accept a system of grading that lacks common sense is insulting and irresponsible."

Hear! Hear!

Deb Engstrom 6 years, 7 months ago

A system that aligns directly with the standards that students are being taught and reflects their progress related to those standards lacks common sense???? I would much rather have that information than an A which tells me absolutely nothing. Some teachers grade on a bell curve, some on percentage and some on effort and participation. A 50% could be an A or an F depending on the system.

GMom05 6 years, 7 months ago

The point is, there was virtually no teacher input or training. There was no communication with or education of parents before this was rolled out. Many of the teachers haven't been thoroughly taught how to use this system with Skyward. Parents are getting lots of blank spaces on the reports or no Skyward at all. Parents are getting NOTHING out of this system and our children have no idea where they stand. They aren't being given rubrics for anything, if the teachers have even had time to design them yet. Our central office administrators should be embarassed at the way they pulled this off. And just for clarification, SBG is just as subjective. Each teacher can define 'Successfully Meets Standards' in their own way. Yes, both systems are subjective, but at least when my child gets 90 out of a 100 on a science test, I know it's an A, and he's learned a lot. Even the state assessments are presented in a percentage based way. Have you looked? They lay out the standard then tell you how many questions pertaining to that standard were answered correctly. 7/7, 100%. Done. Why can't we have some feedback from our district that is that clear? Look at some research and you'll find one of the keys to successfully implementing new programs like this is teacher and parent buy-in. They should have taken this year to reach out, educate, listen and respond to concerns and then presented us a modified version that works for everyone. And they should be open to making changes instead of just telling us we're doing it, deal with it. Instead they decided to dump this in our laps at the same time teachers and parents are dealing with the middle school reconfiguration. Don't you think that was poor planning? Actually there was no planning. That is apparent. Sing the praises of this 'system' all you want but if our administrators can't explain it and can't implement it effectively, it's worthless.

ConcernedResident 6 years, 7 months ago


When used with Skyward, a traditional letter grade in grades 7 - 12 is extremely informative. It tells exactly where strengths and weaknesses occur. If you were to put 6th grade Skyward next to 7th through 12th grade Skyward, the differences would be clear and you could see exactly to what I'm referring. 6th grade Skyward offers very little information to parents and students.

The manner in which SBG is being used in our district DEFIES common sense.

One can clearly see that there is little to no subjectivity when Skyward is used to figure grades for 7th through 12th graders. Grades for 6th graders are completely subjective.

"A system that aligns directly with the standards that students are being taught and reflects their progress related to those standards"

Such a system may or may not be effective at the elementary level. It is NOT effective at the secondary level.

Windemere 6 years, 7 months ago

Reading up on SBG through simple google searches turns up several fairly common concerns/problems: - SBG can be (is arguably inherently) de-motivating for above average/higher potential students. As it is commonly implemented, students are pressed to "meet the standards" rather than strive to do their best. In high school, when young adults oftentimes find passion for subject areas or utilize the fundamental skills they've learned in younger grades, this mantra of "meeting the standards" can be limiting and deflating. In our elementary school, a huge percentage of kids get the mark of "s" on just about every standard, all year long. The reality is, kids lose motivation as a result. - Proponents argue that students "take ownership" of their progress. However, a by-product of the way SBG is usually implemented is that parents feel cut off from their child's day to day school experience. The mess with 6th grade Skyward now is a classic example of that. Many concerned, involved parents want to be part of their child's learning process, detect when they are struggling, be informed on a basic level. Fine for students to get the message that they are responsible for mastering the standards, but don't leave students/parents in an information vacuum. - Some proponents of SBG seem to say there should be no or very little homework, there should be no consequences for missing assignments, there should be no extra credit work offered. The focus is entirely on meeting a set of standards. Does this reflect the real world? Does this create good work habits? Need to address those issues.

Windemere 6 years, 7 months ago

Thread in which parents in Quakertown PA express concerns & frustrations with SBG.

ConcernedResident 6 years, 7 months ago

School board hears pleas to return to letter grades in Foster City, Ca.

Hopefully the school board in Lawrence, KS will do the same and return to traditional letter grades for all students in secondary schools.

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