Just like their colleagues in Lawrence, officials in the Eudora school district are busy dropping letter grades as they extend standards-based grading system to older students this academic year.
Unlike administrators in Lawrence, they’re not hearing any complaints from middle-school parents crowding into school board meetings upset about communication, a lack of planning and inability to motivate students as they prepare to advance in a competitive world.
Maybe that’s because the Eudora system is inching its system into third grade.
“For parents to know exactly what a child is mastering is more definitive than a letter grade, and parents like that,” said Shelley Dougherty, assistant principal at Eudora Elementary School. “At this level, parents like this. We’ve had no problems at all.”
Third-graders at Eudora Elementary School no longer are receiving letter grades for the first quarter. Their marks are being replaced by a series of pluses and minuses indicative of a standards-based model.
The system is designed to assess each child’s “educational growth in a more meaningful manner,” Dougherty said
This shift isn’t creating the uproar that surfaced in Lawrence, where parents and teachers of sixth-graders have come to the Lawrence school board — twice — seeking answers about why a standards-based model used for years in elementary schools had been moved up into middle schools, which sixth-graders are attending for the first time.
Lawrence sixth-graders still get letter grades, just as they did in elementary school, but the system has spurred changes in report forms, grading standards and computer systems since the beginning of the school year, leading to confusion and concern.
In Eudora, teachers are proceeding as usual. Parents are showing up for conferences, with teachers explaining the standards-based system that they themselves support.
The Eudora district’s Curriculum Coordinating Council — a 23-member group composed of parents, teachers and administrators — approved plans in March to extend the grading system used in kindergarten, first and second grades into third grade for this year.
“We’re talking about third grade,” said Marla Johnson, curriculum director for the Eudora school district and math teacher at Eudora Middle School. “We know better than to jump into the middle school fray.”
The system is the same as Lawrence’s: Teachers rate students based on “indicators,” or skills, that correspond with district standards that are based state requirements. While the list of such skills has been reduced to six for each subject for Lawrence sixth-graders, Eudora’s third-graders will see more.
The math report card, for example, carries 22 indicators awaiting pluses or minuses, ranging from “compares and orders whole numbers from zero to 10,000” to “finds the median with an odd number of data points.”
Parents, then, can see how their child is doing in specific areas of class, Johnson said, rather than having to extrapolate strengths and weaknesses from an overall letter grade. And the reports — again, like those in Lawrence — cover learner behaviors, such as “solves personal problems independently” and “strives for neat, accurate work.”
“Parents need to know where the problems are occurring, so if interventions need to take place, then we have something on paper to talk about,” Johnson said.
Lawrence parents have expressed concern that the Lawrence district has plans for extending the use of standards-based reports into seventh and eighth grades — as indicated in an August letter to parents from the district — but the Eudora district isn’t going that far, at least not anytime soon.
“There’s no talk of it at this time,” Johnson said. “If we did something like that, we would definitely consider fourth grade and fifth grade long before we’d consider middle school. Once they get into a secondary level, it’s more difficult. High school? That’s still pretty (letter) grade-dependent, and colleges are still looking at (letter) grades.”