Archive for Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Standards-based grading to face forum

October 11, 2011


Parents concerned about standards-based grades being used for sixth-graders in the Lawrence school district will get a chance to raise their objections, make their suggestions and listen for answers during an upcoming informational session.

District administrators plan to conduct a forum, likely next month, to address concerns raised in recent weeks regarding the use of standards-based grades in middle schools.

The grades — E, S, M and T — will accompany the familiar letter grades of A, B, C. D and F this year for sixth-graders, just as they did for sixth-graders last year and for several years before that. The system covers how a student is meeting requirements tied to state assessments, ranging from “excels” to “targeted for growth.”

Some parents made a return trip to district headquarters Monday night, opening the Lawrence school board’s meeting by reiterating many of the same complaints they and others had made Sept. 26:

• Middle school teachers haven’t been properly trained in how to administer such grades.

• Students won’t be spurred to strive for excellence, and instead will work only to “satisfy” state standards.

• Having two different grading systems used in the same schools — sixth-graders get standards-based grades, while seventh- and eighth-graders don’t — will cause confusion, especially among teachers who have students at different grade levels.

• Teachers will have too many grades to issue and therefore be more likely to follow “mass grading” by lumping many students into the “S” category even though many likely will be slightly below the standard and others likely will be somewhere above — with no ability to account for such differences.

Letter grades — based on percentages and homework and test scores, and other assignments and considerations — represent the best system to encourage excellence, populate honor rolls and otherwise prepare students for high school and beyond, parents at Monday’s meeting said.

“I am not looking to become a ‘Proud Parent of a Satisfactory Student in USD 497,’” said Jill Patton, parent of a sixth-grader at Southwest Middle School, who has been critical of the system. “That is not a bumper sticker I’m willing to post.”

After the Sept. 26 meeting, district administrators started making plans to schedule an educational forum to hear from parents, share information and talk about how the system is designed to help provide parents and students with more information than can easily be conveyed by a simple letter grade.

Administrators also have reduced the number of report “indicators,” or statements that require grades, from as many as 30 for each student in each subject to six for reading and six for math. Administrators also are considering suggestions for modifying Skyward, the computer system teachers use to enter information about students’ academic work and parents use to track their kids’ progress.

Even so — and with emails, phone calls and other complaints flowing into district headquarters — administrators know they need to improve their communication on the grading issue. That’s why, while working on the board’s draft of annual goals, they included an item calling for a forum to discuss the issue.

“We’re fairly perceptive,” Superintendent Rick Doll said. “And we obviously have picked up on the fact that there are questions and comments about reporting and grading, and so we have created a goal that deals with gaining parental and core community feedback on that topic.”

Board members approved the plan as part of their list of overall goals, a document that strives for Excellence, Equity and Engagement.

Board member Randy Masten, for one, is counting on the forum to offer a “valid critique” of the system, with teachers and parents on both sides of the issue making their feelings known, both positive and negative.

“It’s a good system,” said Masten, who’s heard from both opponents and supporters of the grading system. “There are some growing pains with moving it into the middle schools, but … we’re moving in the right direction on this.”


sad_lawrencian 6 years, 2 months ago

Standards-based grading is really stupid. There's nothing wrong with As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs.

drs331 6 years, 2 months ago

Hey...lets be fair, he didn't lie. He did say they were "fairly" in...not completely perceptive. Of would be nice if we had a district that was completely perceptive.

MJFarmermac 6 years, 2 months ago

“And we obviously have picked up on the fact that there are questions and comments about reporting and grading, and so we have created a goal that deals with gaining parental and core community feedback on that topic.” --That's administrator speak for "we know you hate it, it's bad for teachers, bad for students, we'll pretend to listen and then do it anyway." Teachers hate it, seems like most parents hate it, colleges won't know what it is, so why is the district pushing it so hard? There's nothing wrong with a-f grading- it gives students a realistic idea of where they are.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 2 months ago

Just give 'em all A's and B's and everyone will be happy. This is just about what happens now anyway. Grading doesn't have all that much to do with achievement, but if it's simple people like it.

Deb Engstrom 6 years, 2 months ago

You are so right. Grades don't reveal anything about what the student is actually learning or are able to do at any level.

Armored_One 6 years, 2 months ago

Really? This is the stance that you are going to take? I certainly hope you don't mind the rocks at the bottom of the pit you are balancing over on that tightwire.

My second grade student has a spelling test every Friday. 16 words. If my child fails to spell 8 words right, then obviously my child has failed to learn to spell half of the assigned words. Exactly how ambiguous is that?

I contend that you are a blasted fool if you cannot gauge what your child is and is not learning based on the grades. Only the most uninterested, uninvolved parent cannot take a quick glance at the grading system and realize that math is a strength, or spelling is a strength, and some other subject is a weakness and needs to be addressed.

No, what you are looking for is a feel-good way of avoiding failing a student that does not achieve the appropriate number of correct answers on a given assignment of test.

They tried this nonsense, packaged differently, in Omaha, NE as well and it failed miserably there.

This is also an attempt for the school district to unburden itself with actually meeting requirements for federal funding and instead trying to obscure the entire issue with the use of abstract concepts instead of actually doing what they are supposed to do.

The whole thing is a disgusting, underhanded bunch of {expletive deleted}.

The only problem is that there are entirely too many people out there that believe that their child is so special adn precious that it would just crush them forever to get a D or an F. Funny, hasn't seemed to derail the education system nationwide for how many decades now, but suddenly, it is just an absolute tragedy.

Give me a break.

What's next? Exceeds expectations gets done away with because it is an unrealistic expectation for too many students? Targetted for growth is too much of a detriment to a child's self esteem? Is there an end to this stupidity, or are we going to end up outsourcing our children's education to other countries because it is too much of a burden?

sugarmonkey 6 years, 2 months ago

More than 30 teachers attended the meeting last night and four of them took a risk by speaking out against SBG for Middle School. The paper didn't even mention that! The administration obviously doesn't care what teachers think. Interesting that the forum says that it gives parents an opportunity to voice their concerns. They need to be LISTENING to teachers. SBG is taking place all over the country but many schools use the standards in addition to percentage based grades. Typical, the school district implements programs and works out the details along the way. I feel so sorry for the 6th graders who seem to be the guinea pigs for the next 3 years. Wonder what their grades will look like in high school. Sure wish these topics would have been mentioned in the article. Oh well.

drs331 6 years, 2 months ago

LJ World reporting on subject matter....."T".......targeted for improvement.

Windemere 6 years, 2 months ago

There is a consensus among the parents with whom I've spoken that SBG might be just fine (perhaps optimal) for K - 3, but it becomes a worse and worse system the older kids get. Main two reasons: 1) the "S" mark is given in the vast majority of cases, whether it be a given test or the grade on a report card for a particular line item (e.g. "Uses a variety of strategies to decode words"). There is no mark analagous to a B and teachers almost never give an E. In fact, a child can get 100% on a test and the teacher puts an "S" on it. I saw an example of this myself. The child in that case sadly asked her mom "What do I have to do to get an E?" Sorry, dear, everyone is an S. Throw in the towel. and 2) As students get closer to college, they ought to transition to letter grading because that is what they will face in college. It does a terrible disservice to kids to make them ill-prepared for college. Also, it's become very clear that teachers have not been trained adequately. The brave ones will admit this.

Windemere 6 years, 2 months ago

You missed the point, I am afraid. Many kids are motivated by getting a higher vs. a lower grade. When they are essentially "capped" at an S, they don't want to try as hard. So while they may become motivated to get 100% and earn and A, when they are subjected to this system, they say Why Bother? and "try" for an 85%. This dynamic is playing out every day in our district.

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

PFC, Have you actually experience any of this? I have. My child overall scores have dropped significantly over the years with this program. I am constantly told, "But she scores well above the national average. Arent you happy with that?" My response is- If she spends a year at school, only to regress to where she was more than a year before, why shouldn't I just let her sit at home and watch tv for a year. Better yet, let her graduate now! If it doesn't get any better, then why bother? Also- you make a point about a 90% E compared to 100% S. What you dont understand is that with SBG, there are not percentages given at all. Everything is an opinion of the teacher. There is no concrete way for a student to judge what grade they might receive, other than if the teacher likes them. So if our goal is butt-kissing average achieving students, then HOORAY! THIS IS THE SYSTEM FOR US!

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

The point is that my child got all S's and E's that year. The teacher knew how my child was doing, but I had no way to know she may need help, or was not being challenged. As far as 10+10=20, I would love that. Instead there are no number, just opinions. I dont want her to get an E because the teacher likes her and thinks she sweet.

sugarmonkey 6 years, 2 months ago

Again, you are missing the point. There are no percentage based grades in SBG. They are called trending grades. You don't get a percent. This is the why parents are upset. Students won't get percentage grades until high school when grades actually count on their transcript.

optimist 6 years, 2 months ago

If we are simply changing the letters from A, B, C, D, F to E, S, M, T; why? Are we simply changing it to remove the stigma of not getting an A? It appears as though we are moving from a relatively defined method of grading that parents are familiar with to an arbitrary method of grading where rather than calculating a student's scores from homework, projects, quizzes and tests we are substituting the teacher’s perception of how a student is doing.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 2 months ago

"PFC (anonymous) replies… Sorry, but you’re giving kids the wrong message if the message is about the grade and not the learning. What you end up with is a grade grubber rather than a learner." === PFC: Good points. Frankly, I don't care one way or the other but am amused by the debate. "Grade-grubbers" are a dime a dozen in universities, and nearly 1/2 of them don't last in the same school into their junior year. Being a high school principal was sometimes maddening, particularly when the parents conspired with their kids to have an 'easy' senior year in class choices. Why? "Because my son is going to college next year and I -- a) don't want him to mess up his GPA taking advanced math; or b) he needs to rest up because they will make him work hard next year." Sigh.

soullessginger 6 years, 2 months ago

What's wrong with A's B's C's D's and F's? There's nothing wrong with it, students and parents can see how the student is doing based on the test, quizzes, projects and homework given in class; and all of those tests, quizzes, projects and homework are all based on what the State requires of us to learn, and most are actually learning those things. Just because you get an A in class instead of an "E" doesn't mean your child is a satisfactory student, they are still "Excelling" in the class just as they would be if your child gets an "E" for a grade instead of an A.

classclown 6 years, 2 months ago

PFC (anonymous) replies…

Which do you want, a kid who gets 90% and an A, or a kid who gets 100% and an S? I’ll take the latter, and let that kid know that what matters is learning and not an “E”.


If a kid is earning a100% he would be getting an E which is like an A instead of an S.

Let's put these letters in perspective. E,S,M,and T can very well be G,O,S, and D

G = Good O = Okay S = Should do better D = Doesn't get it.

Now remember, the district purposely structured the grading order as follows S,M,T,and E (or O,S,D, and G in my scenario) as to purposely encourage all students to be just okay rather than strive to be the best they can be.

I have to wonder though if this new grading system the school board and people from the "Everyone's a winner!" camp as yourself like so much will cause a lowering of standards in order to ensure that more students are doing satisfactorily

Today 80% is satisfactory but a couple of years from now it may only be 70% yet parents need not be concerned because their child is bringing home that S.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Neither one of those is acceptable - somebody who gets 100% correct on a test should get the highest grade possible, and somebody who gets 90% should get a high, but not the highest, grade.

If we want grades to accurately reflect performance, that is.

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

I will have to agree with PFC on this point. It shouldn't matter what the exact letter is. However, we need to remember that a letter represents something. No one is complaining about the actual letter, but what they represent. The only thing that should matter is that what should be taking place in a classroom IS taking place in the classroom. For the teachers who are teaching well, the grading system does not matter. BUT, for teachers who are not doing what they should be doing, the subjective grading system gives them license to continue underperforming. In the end, regardless of the letter, there should be a concrete measure of a students success.
The student should be given a goal, given the tools to reach that goal, and then should have a difinitive measure of whether or not that goal was reached, or exceeded. When there is no rubric, and a student is not sure why they receive a certain grade and what they can personally do to affect that grade, there is a severe problem with our system.

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

Everyone is talking about striving for excellence. I'd like to look at the flip side by thinking about that student that is just barely making it, through no fault of his own. He may have strong financial needs, a poor homelife, etc... But, as Rick Doll is quoted as saying, "We dont want anyone to fail, when there are extenuating circumstances." So, lets go ahead and give this student an S. After all, with lots and lots of help, he did 'OK.' Forget that this child has not mastered the knowledge that he needs to move forward. We are now subjecting this child to further difficulties in achieving the next level, since he did not master the basics. Same situation follows. Now he is in the real world, and can not get, nor hold a decent job, because he did not get a decent education. We have just denied him his right to a quality education and futher restricted him in his future life. We have ensured that the pattern of his childhood will repeat with his own child. Thank you Rick Doll. I'm so glad he never got a failing grade. It sure helped him out! No Child Left Behind is code for - "There will be lots of kids who fail, we just wont actually fail them and make sure that they gain the knowledge that they are entitled to before moving on." We're just passing them through the system, instead of making sure that they get the quality education that they deserve.

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

Furthermore, on the issue of striving for success- why shouldn't excellent work be rewarded? They have changed the name of report cards, too. They now call them "progress reports." (Remember when we used to get progress reports mid-term, so that we could have a warning of where we would stand on the report card?) What this actually means is that percentages are not reflected in the grade. The grade is measured on PROGRESS. A class had 3 tests. Student A received 100% on all three tests. Student B received a 70%, 80%, and 90%. Student B is more likely to receive an E, than student A. The logic is that student B is progressing and growing, and student A is not. While this might be fine if student A got a 75, 75 and 75, how can they grow from 100%, and shouldn't that level of achievement be celebrated?

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

So PFC, with your resentment to 'grade grubbers,' I cant help but wonder? Did you give up a good grade to push yourself academically? Or did you take the same classes, and then were angry when you didn't do as well as these 'grade grubbers?' All of the parents that I've heard speak about striving for excellence are not suggesting that they want the grade. They want their student to take the difficult class and strive for excellence, instead of settling for the easy class to get the easy grade. You're backward in your logic.

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

In SBG, the grades do not follow the performance. How would you feel if you worked for a 4.0, someone else got a 2.5, but you both were only listed as an S? That is what we are fighting for. The students who are challenging themselve to do their best, are not being rewarded or acknowledged the same way as students who are not doing homework or doing well on tests.

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

A defender of SBG stated last night, "We dont think a student should be 'punished' with a letter grade. We dont know what went into that. Maybe they turned in a paper a day late, and were counted off on their grade." Well, lets test it out. I have prepared a presentation for a large bid for our company, and am supposed to present it on Monday. I think I'll wait and show up and present it to an empty room on Tuesday. Anyone think that my boss will pay me for doing it, instead of punishing me for missing the deadline? OR do you think that come Wednesday, I wont have a job?

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

Nevermind. I just changed my opinion. Since my kids wont need to do any homework or study, we'll spend after school time and hone their athletic abilities, and teach them to scheme. They can just get by on looks and sports. That's what really makes someone successful in America anyway. Why shoot to be a doctor who may cure cancer, when you can be a supermodel or a ball player? No brainer, right?

irvan moore 6 years, 2 months ago

there is nothing wrong with kids learning at an early age that there are rewards for being smart and/or working hard and penaltys for not.

Windemere 6 years, 2 months ago

Actually, many parents with whom I've spoken are fine with the SBG for earlier grades, like K - 3. Kids at that age are still getting used to the environment and expectations of the school setting. In grades above that, the system does a disservice to kids. And good grief, by high school, they'd better understand A - F so they are prepared for college.

sweetiepie 6 years, 2 months ago

Fifty years ago (yes, 50!), I lived in a school district where all the levels (K-12) were graded E (excellent), S (satisfactory), M (mediocre? middlin'?--never did know what that stood for) and F. I think in the primary grades it was E, S, and U (unsatisfactory).

I can look at this a couple of ways: One is to wonder why we are returning to that grading system 50 years later. The other is to say, "well, it didn't hurt us a bit."

But of course, our grading system wasn't sitting on top of the traditional A-F.

Windemere 6 years, 2 months ago

PFC, I am still uncertain of your reasons for supporting SBG. You say "The poster complained of a 100% performance that only earned an "S", and my point was I don't care about the S, I only care about the learning." Let's say the 100% is on a multiplication test and kids who scored an 80% also got an S. Isn't there then a built-in disincentive for the 100% student to try so hard in the future? As my previous post stated, there are real world examples of kids telling their parents they don't feel the need to study and learn so much since they will not earn more than an S. Aren't we short-changing those kids with this system? Isn't this system failing to inspire those kids to do their best?

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

What about the kid who doesn't have someone at home rewarding them? I am involved with my kids education, so in the end, they will be just fine. What about the students who dont have the support at home. They will slip through the cracks. Should they be punished for this?

Windemere 6 years, 2 months ago

I haven't seen any parent advocating that parents make or ought to make a point of comparing their child's grade with another child's grade. The point is that kids need to be motivated to do their best. This system fails to do that.

Windemere 6 years, 2 months ago

You are missing the point of my posts. When I said that a student can be disheartened if she gets 100% and still doesn't earn the highest mark (an E), she naturally wonders What do I have to do to earn an E? The point is not that parents seek to instill the attitude "I want to beat the score of the kid next to me." Parents want their child to have an incentive to do her best. The current system does not have such an incentive.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree.

Perhaps the parents can provide their own rewards for excellent performance, and help children that way.

Windemere 6 years, 2 months ago

Is it too much to ask that the school district help instill the desire to do their best? Instead of instituting a system that works against that goal?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree with you.

But, if you're a parent, and the school makes the change, if you can do something to help, why not do it yourself?

You can, of course, also advocate and push for schools to operate as you believe they should, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

Hey Jafs,

All the parent who are advocating against SBG are obviously highly involved parents. I believe that good education comes from a three-way partnership between the teacher, student and parent. However, during the coarse of this program, the skyward access has been removed. The parents is being removed in the process. I will continue to do all that I can at home to help my children in their education, but the fact is that the school has them 8 hours a day. is a partnership. The school and parent both need to be involved with the student.

Megan King 6 years, 2 months ago

So what you are really saying is you want no grades at all just the percentage, because that is how you make your judgement on how your child is doing. This is exactly what the parents at the meeting were fighting for. They don't care about the standards, or the letter grades just the percentage as a weighted, averaged percent to guide there child to his/her best. Got it?

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

I care about a student improving. A sujective system with no accountability, measure of success of clearly defined goals, nor communications of these measures to parents does not create an environment for success. Got it? There HAS to be a measure of why a student receives a grade, where it is an E, S, A, B, 100%, 90% or Z. A student HAS to understand how to achieve a goal. What happens when they disagree with a grade that was made purely on opinion?

MarcoPogo 6 years, 2 months ago

--"I am not looking to become a ‘Proud Parent of a Satisfactory Student in USD 497,’” said Jill Patton...“That is not a bumper sticker I’m willing to post.”--

While I'm not a fan of the new grading system, I sure wouldn't want this to be part of my argument against it. (Then again, I'm sure that the results are never accurate in the competition for "World's Greatest Grandpa.")

Paul R Getto 6 years, 2 months ago

"The school master had total control over the pupils. The students were expected to work as hard as they could,and were often beaten on their backs with a rod for talking, being sleepy, slow or lazy." === We could always return to the good old days.

chopchop1969 6 years, 2 months ago

I still want to see if there is any research that shows this system helps kids be prepared for high school and post-secondary. A system that separates work ethic and achievement doesn't seem to me to be the best idea. I just can't get my head around that.

I also think that asking teachers to try to maintain two different grading systems (that contradict each other) takes away from the time they have to teach the kids. I would rather my teachers focus on teaching rather than such a tremendous focus on assessing kids... the time it must take.... I trust the teachers to do a good job. The standards based grading system seems to be overkill, and not really appropriate at the middle level.

It is obvious that there is a growing lack of trust between all parties involved... what a mess, whatever happens.

Armored_One 6 years, 2 months ago

So what constitutes "satisfactory" in this new, feel-good grading system? If that is going to be the basic benchmark for it, then it should be the most clearly defined.

I'd almost wager a dollar amount that no member of the school board will directly answer that question with a clear, definative answer. Hard to give an answer when there is no actual answer to give.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 6 years, 2 months ago

Moreoever, our administrators couldn't give a straight answer if their lives depended on it. Really, their disrespect of parents, as evidenced by Doll's comment above, show's what a circus everything at McDonald drive has become. These are the leaders of our children's future? Regardless, of what your opinion of SBG is, someone needs to be evaluating the performance of our fearless leaders. Stop the train. I want off.

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