Archive for Wednesday, October 5, 2011

First Bell: Administrator to offer Langston Hughes parents a lesson on standards-based grading; walkers to keep eyes out for dangers on way to school

October 5, 2011


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Parents of students at Langston Hughes School soon will get a chance to learn about standards-based grading directly from the administrator in charge of the system.

Angelique Kobler, director of curriculum and instruction for the Lawrence school district, is scheduled to address parents of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students during a presentation from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at the school 1101 George Williams Way.

The topic: “Understanding Your Child’s Progress Report.”

The issue has been of intense interest recently, as several parents of current and former Lagnston Hughes students took their concerns about the system to the Lawrence school board. They objected to the district’s decision to retain standards-based grading in conjunction with traditional letter grades for sixth-grade students, who now attend middle schools.

Some parents also wondered why traditional letter grades — A, B, C, D and F — no longer would be given to fourth- and fifth-graders this year, after such grades had been issued along with standards-based marks for years.

Kobler will be available to answer questions about the decision to drop traditional letter grades for fourth- and fifth-graders, a move that will make such students’ grading process the same as they’ve been following in grades kindergarten through third:

• E for “excels.”

• S for “meets standards.”

• M for “making progress.”

• T for “targeted for growth.”

Such marks are assigned to a number of expectations based upon state assessments on skills, plus the behaviors — turning in homework on time and being prepared for class, for example — considered optimal for succeeding in school.

“We are expanding the effective practices from K-3 to include 4-5,” Kobler tells me.

Now she’ll get a chance to take her message directly to Langston Hughes parents, some of whom have been the most vocal opponents of the system. Some of those parents are most concerned about the system rising up into middle school, and possibly being added in the future to 7th and 8th grades.

Among their major concerns is students missing out on how traditional letter grades are awarded, an experience some parents maintain is essential for succeeding in high school and beyond — where traditional letter grades count.

District administrators have reminded parents that sixth-graders still receive traditional letter grades, just as they have been receiving for a number of years. It’s just that such students also will be receiving the standards-based marks, also as they have been for a number of years.

In any case, Langston Hughes Principal Jackie Mickel lined up Kobler’s presentation back at the end of August. That was a month before parents went to the school board and offered their criticisms of the system and of the decisions and processes regarding the system during the past year.


Today is International Walk to School Day, and that gives parents a chance to walk with their children as they make their way to their classes.

At Langston Hughes School, the school community also learns plenty.

Last year, as some 200 people walked in from the surrounding residential areas, parents and students were asked to educate themselves about the traditional safety rules: look both ways before crossing the street, never jump out from behind a parked car, etc.

School officials also asked them to take note of any safety problems they might notice along the way: tree limbs blocking views or sidewalks, cracks in pathways, potholes in crosswalks.

Last year, with plenty of road construction in the area, school officials then compiled a list of potential dangers and forwarded the concerns to city officials and others. In the end, safety was improved, reports Jackie Mickel, school principal.

Today’s walkers will have the same opportunities, and Mickel is confident that the day’s efforts will help encourage more kids to walk or bike to school.

And that’s a good thing.

“We do have some traffic issues,” Mickel said. “The more people that walk, obviously, the less congested the parking lot is.”


GardenMomma 6 years, 2 months ago

I hope every school in the district asks for an administrator to explain the Standards-based System. The communication on this has been absymal at best.

auntmimi210 6 years, 2 months ago

There's something seriously wrong with the system when we have to have an official presentation entitled “Understanding Your Child’s Progress Report”.

Jayhawks64 6 years, 2 months ago

Mark Fagan,

The following is a quote from this article: "They objected to the district’s decision to retain standards-based grading in conjunction with traditional letter grades for sixth-grade students, who now attend middle schools." I implore you to investigate how the district defines "traditional letter grades" . With the standards-based grading, letter grades are NOT percentage based which is how true traditional letter grades are determined. The district cannot or will not explain how an ABCDF grade is determined in the new system. You are doing a diservice to the tax-paying community by not fully investigating this issue. Interview some teachers and quit relying solely on the misleading propaganda being spewed by the administration.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 6 years, 2 months ago

It's what they call 'trended' grading. Your child will be graded, maybe on the average of their scores or, maybe on the trend of their scores. If they start getting D's but used to get B's, they may get a D for their final grade, not a C average. It depends on the subjective opinion of the teacher. Of course, conversely, if your child was a D student and starts getting B's, that can all go away, and they can end the term with a B. Yeah! Yes, do not believe the administration, when they tell you it is just like it always was. Not so much! They are trying to pull a fast-one. Shocking, I know. They never mentioned any of this when we were wasting our time, I mean, attending the forums last year. Reconfiguring for Student Success. Whatever.

mfagan 6 years, 2 months ago

Hello, Jayhawks64. I've said this before, and I may very well be wrong, but it's my understanding that the system for sixth-graders is the same system that was used for sixth-graders last year. It's just that the sixth-graders are in middle school now, which is different. I don;t consider it a "new system," just new to middle school. Does that make sense?

Jayhawks64 6 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Fagan,

It is not the same. Go ask any 6th grade teacher. I have read quotes in your articles by Ms. Kobler, but not any teachers. Doesn't that seem odd to you? Letter grades are now based on trending, not percentages which is why your continued use of the term "traditional letter grades" seems wrong to me.

Here's another question for you: Would you expect a 10th grader at LHS to be graded using a different system than a 12th grader? Why, then, would a 6th grader be graded differently than an 8th grader? We were told the purpose of the middle school model was to prepare our kids for high school. With this grading system, we might as well have kept our kids in elementary school.

Again, I would ask you to go interview a few 6th grades teachers. You might be surprised by what you hear. Be prepared for them to ask you to not use their names.

mfagan 6 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for your questions and/or comments. I've spoken with a few teachers. None want their names included in a story. You asked two questions in succession: Would you expect a 10th grader at LHS to be graded using a different system than a 12th grader? Why, then, would a 6th grader be graded differently than an 8th grader? As far as what people should expect: I would say that different people have different expectations. For many years, you'll remember, ninth-graders were attending classes in junior high schools but, in fact, actually were considered high school students -- at least according to their transcripts. I'm curious how many people would have expected that? As for as "traditional" letter grades, I'll need to learn more about that -- about whether (how) those have changed, or haven't. There's obviously been no change for kids in K-3, and there are no more letters grades for 4-5; as far as I know, nobody has touched (yet) 7-12. The issue is 6. And if there's been a change there (again, it's still the same letters: A, B, C, D and F, and E, S, M, and T), with this "trending" stuff, we'll need to see how that all works out in the end...

Jayhawks64 6 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Fagan,

Thanks for the reply. As far as teachers not wanting their names printed, the editor of your paper uses anonymous quotes almost every Saturday.

You are correct, it is the same system for 6th graders, but they are now middle schoolers, not elementary students. Big difference in my book.

Regarding 7-8 grades and future changes. I watched the last school board meeting and the district said there are no plans to implement this at the 7-8 grade level. Three weeks earlier, a letter was sent out to 5th grade parents telling them that letter grades would not be used any longer and plans were being to implement this at the 7-8 grade level. What changed? It is obvious the district plans on taking this to the next level, so our kids won't get a traditional percentage-based letter grade until high school.

Regarding 9th graders, at least they were receiving a traditional letter grade and not exposed to the subjective nature of SBG.

Thank you for your time.

mfagan 6 years, 2 months ago

I understand your perspective about the difference between being a grade schooler and a middle schooler. Again, I point out that high schoolers were in junior highs for years here in Lawrence; that's just the way the system was, and, for many folks, it seemed to work. Now that system has now changed. I wouldn't be surprised if various components of that system change yet again, in the weeks and months and years ahead. We'll see where it all leads... As for 7-8 grades and future changes... I attended that last board meeting, and I left there with the understanding that any changes to grading for 7th and 8th grades would come through recommendations from the "leadership teams" (I think that's what they were calling them). Whether such teams would recommend any changes remains to be seen. But there certainly was an assurance from administrators that a change would be made if and only if such a change had been considered by the leadership teams first. That's a process I could see being followed closely, if it ever develops. What changed? I don't know that anything did, in terms of process. I, too, saw the letter you're referring to (I'd received one in the mail at home, and that letter had led me to write my first story on this issue). But even back then, Angelique Kobler was saying that the district had not made any final decisions about whether to implement changes for 7th and 8th grades; while that may have been (and may still be) the intention, there still would be a process to go through. Again, I'm not saying that it is (or would be) the right thing to do. But I am fairly confident, now, that the process will garner more attention as it moves -- if it moves -- forward. Thanks for your interest, and perspective, regarding this issue. Feel free to give me a call sometime and we can talk about it more... My direct line here is 832-7188. - Mark

sugarmonkey 6 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Fagan, just read your response. It is important to note that the district keeps stating that letter grades are the same traditional letter grades which is why some teachers and parents view this without opposition. This statement is false and needs to be explored. We are preparing students for high school, not preschool. They need the same percentage based letter grades as they will receive in 2 - 3 short years. Please, how about an article interviewing teachers and parents? Thanks!

Laura Wilson 6 years, 2 months ago

I didn't realize that elementary schools here ever gave real grades. When did that happen? Back in the 70s it was "highly satisfactory", "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory". Grades were for junior high and high school.

I'm not actually for reverting to this kind of non-subjective grading, just curious.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

To those parents who are concerned about this: Before you attend the meeting, learn everything you can about the Delphi Technique. Those in charge of this meeting can be expected make every effort, albeit subtly, to make you appear to be the ones who are unreasonable.

GMom05 6 years, 2 months ago

Make no mistake. They are not there to listen to your concerns. They are coming to tell you that this is the only way to go and to make you feel like a barrier to your own child's successful education. They fully intend to do whatever they want and will not be persuaded by your logical arguments. But good luck to you all nonetheless!

The root of this is they want to start spinning our wheels backwards. Why? Why start grading our middle schoolers like elementary kids and why start grading our intermediate kids like primary kids? And for goodness sakes why are we putting "Excels" at the bottom of our list of goals????

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