Archive for Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Letter grades giving way to ‘standards-based’ marks in Lawrence schools

September 6, 2011


Traditional letter grades now are a thing of the past in elementary schools in the Lawrence school district, and middle schools may be next.

“That’s our goal,” said Angelique Kobler, the district’s division director for curriculum and instruction.

The first phase of the plan takes effect this year, as the district plans to have sixth-graders continue receiving report cards in the form of Standards Based Progress Reports, which are multisectioned report cards that follow the same format as those used for the past six years in grades K-6.

The standards-based forms do not carry traditional letter grades of A, B, C, D or F. In years past, teachers of fourth-graders and fifth-graders have assigned letter grades to supplement the standards-based forms; beginning this year, however, such teachers will use only the standards-based forms.

The goal, Kobler said, is to focus on what students are learning, the skills they’re picking up and the learning behaviors they’re employing along the way instead of averaging scores and using them to assign a letter grade.

Focusing on meeting standards instead of posting scores allows teachers to focus more on students’ achievements and goals, Kobler said. Students are less likely to become frustrated as they fall behind, and instead can build upon their own progress and they move through lessons, units and grade levels.

“It’s really shifting the whole grading paradigm,” Kobler said.

Not everyone is convinced that’s a good idea.

Shawn Holiday, who has a son at Sunset Hill School, isn’t looking forward to her fifth-grader missing out on receiving traditional letter grades. The standards-based forms are fine, she said, but receiving an A, B, C, D or F is the best way to push students to do better.

“It can be a motivation tool: If you’re at 89 percent, you know that if you can push yourself a little bit harder you can push yourself to an A,” Holiday said. “That’s motivating for kids.

“To me, this (standards-based report) sounds more like a Montessori situation. If we wanted our kids to go to a Montessori school, we would send them to a Montessori school.”

Sixth-graders will continue to receive letter grades this year, in addition to the standards-based reports.

The standards on the reports coincide with the state standards for each subject, at each grade level. Reading for example, means that a sixth-grader is expected to be able to “read fluently in all text types.”

On the report, the student would receive one of four marks for each standard:

• S: Successfully meets standards.

• M: Making progress.

• T: Targeted for growth.

• E: Excels consistently.

While “E” is the highest rating, it sits at the bottom of the list because the district doesn’t want to foster the expectation that every student should get an “E.”

“ ‘S’ is the goal,” Kobler said.

Standards-based reports go beyond content. Such reports also include a section concerning “learner behaviors,” such as being prepared for class, turning in homework and other such practices.

A student struggling to meet a standard in a subject, for example, also may be falling short in a learning behavior. Such information could help a teacher, student and parent work together to come up with a plan for turning things around.

Having the two components can help keep a student interested in learning and advancing, said Therese Edgecomb, who teaches sixth-grade language arts and social studies at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School.

“Focusing on their skill gives them hope, she said.


Gandalf 5 years, 10 months ago

Much ado about nothing. Still have letter grades that basically mean the same as the old ones.

tankernav 5 years, 10 months ago

What is not said is that Parents will not have access to view their child's grades/progress on skyward. We will have no way of knowing if our children are struggling until the quarter grades come out.

This is a grading system that is used for k-6 and they plan on transitioning it throug 8th grade! Why are we using a system that is designed for primary students in a secondary student system?

Teachers are not happy with this and neither are parents. If you are not PLEASE write to the Ms. Kobler, the school board the superintendant who every we need to to make a change.

Instead of no child left behind we are getting no child gets ahead. Please don't settle for an "S" meeting the standard of mediocraty.

ladykess 5 years, 10 months ago

Thank you!! :)

The idea of putting the highest achievement of 'E' at the bottom so they don't feel bad about themselves and/or that 'S' is what they're trying to get kids at is a total joke!

If a kid doesn't feel like they're doing good enough, I'd say chances are, they aren't doing good enough. (some extenuating circumstances apply, obviously..)

KS 5 years, 10 months ago

Sounds to me like someone at the school district trying to justify their job. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. This is dumb, dumb, dumb. Let's go with vouchers so the poor kids can get a real education. That ought to stir up some of the Lawrence liberals.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

How are parents supposed to know their child is actually doing anything in the class based on a 'targeted for growth' mark on a report card?

How about we do away with the whole "everyone's a winner" and go back to common sense?

You know, the fastest kid wins the race and the one that came in last didn't get an award. The smartest kid got the best grades and the most acknowledgement. This is an ignorant bunch of nonsense thought up by people that think every child is a winner.

Not every kid is a winner. Not every kid is a budding Stephen Hawkins. Some kids are Bart Simpson and need to stop being carried along by those that actually do the work. Yes I have kids. Yes I push them to excel. No I don't expect a perfect 100% in every single class, but I do expect their best.

We wonder why the levels of education in this country has gone to pot and yet we still push foolish ideas like this on our kids. How about we take away the maps, and the compass and tell them to find their way out of a forest? They should all be able to make it, since they are all winners, right?

banningbohmann 5 years, 10 months ago

Your points are perfect and to the point...please convey them to Angelique Kobler at the District before this huge mistake is put into action! As parents, if we don't have the letter grades as a basis for gauging the performance of our children, we are in big trouble. By the time they are in 9th grade, it's too late for us to help them out of their hole of mediocrity!

pittstatebb 5 years, 10 months ago

The union (either KNEA or NEA) has never advocated for merit pay, pay based on student achievement, or any other pay scale that does not pay every teacher the same (if they have same years experience/education).

GardenMomma 5 years, 10 months ago

What a shock it will be for Johnny when he gets to high school to find out that although he "successfully met standards" all through elementary and middle school, he's really just a 'C' student.

Why not have a hybrid of both systems? This S, M, T, & E system is not easy for parents to always understand or for children either. It also seems to be a very subjective grading system.

sunflowerhue 5 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunately I think this is headed for the high school too.

Kookamooka 5 years, 10 months ago

I think these may be part of the State's multi tiered system of support (MTSS) that schools "on improvement" use. I could be wrong, but I know other districts that didn't make AYP (annual yearly progress) for the No Child Left Behind mandate of the Bush administration that use this exact same grading scale. If this is the case, I wouldn't blame the district. This is probably a State conceived system. Check out the Dept of Ed website.

Scott Morgan 5 years, 10 months ago

other districts who didn't make AYP?

mirror time Lawrence

youngjayhawk 5 years, 10 months ago

This method is too subjective for the student, teacher, and parents; therefore worthless. The traditional grading method is black and white providing the student and parents with concrete examples of success or areas to improve; providing motivation. @KS - I agree with you; it is job justification at the administrative level. What a disservice to students, their families and teachers!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 10 months ago

“ ‘S’ is the goal,” Kobler said.


And "S" is what you will get.

Donna Kirk-Swaffar 5 years, 10 months ago

Oh wait, that's too high. I wouldn't want the other commenters to think that their contributions were less than "S" and get low self esteem.

Scott Morgan 5 years, 10 months ago

I read my grandfather's 120+ year old history textbook and am amazed at the vocab.

He would be 115 years old.

Notes all over it, so I know he read and understood it. Chapter tests as well. All much harder than the ones my children used. With two years of business college many called him highly educated, including me.

A 1950s New York City high school education was really something to be proud of. Far ahead of even some of the best rural Oklahoma/Kansas/Ne districts could offer. Now, we far out perform NY.

California, once the best system in the world now insists most high school grads take remedial college courses before starting secondary school.

Yet, we look for fancy expensive ways to educate our youth. Private schools, some run on extreme budgets still produce excellent results. These schools of course have discipline and demand students work hard.

tbecs 5 years, 10 months ago

This is such a bad idea! The "S" really means nothing to a parent or the student. When I asked my daughter's teacher last year why she didn't receive any "E"s on her report card, even though she was being pulled out of class everyday to do advanced reading and math while the other students worked on the current grade level assignments, she told me that no one gives "E"s except maybe a PE or Music teacher. She said that giving an "E" means that the student always performs perfectly and that even though my daughter was advanced she still made "occasional errors until she fully learned the concept."

But if she were doing real grades she would get an A because she would consistently score high enough on her work to warrent that grade.

So instead of rewarding students for their hard work we give everyone an "S" so they feel good about themselves? Maybe it would be a good thing for a student to realize that his/her efforts are only a "C" level and they need to step it up to get better grades.

And now they are going to take this all the way through Middle School? So by the time they get to high school it will be too late...their study habits as well as their level of understanding about the subjects will be set and they will struggle through high school trying to figure out what was "S" work now isn't even close to "A" work.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

Something tells me that your daughter's teacher should have gotten an F for reading comprehension...assuming F is an option...which it's not.

E means "excels consistently", NOT "always performs perfectly". After all, "excel" does NOT mean "perfect".

No one is asking for or expecting perfection...except, apparently, that teacher.

littlexav 5 years, 10 months ago

"Targeted for Growth" sounds like doublespeak to me... Why not just give these kids OWLs or NEWTs if you're going to use a made-up grading scale? And what happens when these kids get to high school? College? The real world?

redwombat 5 years, 10 months ago

Yet another reason for me to be encouraged to homeschool my children. The public school system doesn't seemed interested in doing it anymore.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 10 months ago

Excuse me, what grades do you give out?

Me fail English? That's unpossible!

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

It's not Obama. Jeez. This is just a continuation of "No Child left Behind" which is just a continuation of that whole stupid "we don't want to make kids feel bad about themselves for any reason whatsoever" routine that's been going on for many decades now.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

NCLB isn't a continuation of ego protections. It's a misguided attempt to fix a real problem. Namely, that poor and otherwise disadvantaged kids are much less educated than they should be in public schools. However, it turns out Dun! Dun! Dun! That testing them every other week doesn't actually fix the problem.

71_Hawk 5 years, 10 months ago

This is really a good idea, just like the open classroom concept all you educators voted for in the 70s! Oops, we had to tear down that school didn't we. Why don't we just have P or F. Well Johnny your in there some where, but Mom and Dad and your potential employer don't know where. You "educators" still haven't got it and that's part of the problem why this country's education system is a mess.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 10 months ago

They tore down Deerfield School? It was there last week.

SeaFox 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm slightly amused. I had to read your post three times to understand it because of the poor grammar.

sad_lawrencian 5 years, 10 months ago

Ending traditional letter grades is another reason why I'll probably be educating my children at home.

some_random_person 5 years, 10 months ago

Yea, let's put "E" at the bottum so we don't put an emphasis on excelling. Just meeting the standard is good enough, right? Pathetic. I expect my kid to always strive for above "standard." ALWAYS!!! Sometimes I think the "educators" are often the most stupid people in the room....They are seriously lacking in common sense....

sunflowerhue 5 years, 10 months ago

Don't blame this on all educators. Teachers got no vote. This is coming from the head shed.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

Except that we have at least one teacher thinking that "excel" means "perfect" so refusing to give "E" for a student who excels consistently because she's not perfect.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

I found that the stupidest decision of all.

Never mind that we put mediocrity at the top and excellence at the bottom, below "targeted for growth" (i.e. D/F). Never mind that we emphasize mediocrity...and diminish excellence.

I just want today's kids to learn the simple concept of putting things in a logical order. Guess that one goes out the window, too.

Alfred_W 5 years, 10 months ago

“To me, this (standards-based report) sounds more like a Montessori situation"

Erm, no it doesn't. But it's not uncommon to see misconceptions about Montessori methods.

Sara Garlick 5 years, 10 months ago

My primary school used this way of grading; but there it was: needs improvement, satisfactory, above average, excellent. This was another way to say d, c, b, a. This was only used for kindergarten through third grade. After that, my school system used standard 0-100 or f - a +.

UlyssesPro 5 years, 10 months ago

I can't believe people here are defending the ABCDF system. Is it really any less arbitrary than the new system they are changing to? What does a C+ or a B- really tell me about my children's learning? This is especially true when the teacher decides how many total points will be given in the entire year and how much each assignment is worth.

Just because we had to go through this arbitrary system does not mean we should have to subject our children to it. It will take more than changing the grading system (for better or worse) to change our schools.

sourpuss 5 years, 10 months ago

C means "meets expectations". I'm sure some research would expose what the meaning of the ABCDF system is. Essentially, the school district has said that it wants all students to get Cs and that is good enough for them. Okay, fine, but try raising the standards for Cs. The problem isn't the scoring system, it is the game itself. Students are simply not challenged and as a university instructor, I can tell you that at least half my incoming freshmen are not reading or writing at a college level. We should expect better from our children, especially in a world where communication, creativity, science and math are going to be even more important for good jobs.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

Yes. All the grading systems are arbitrary...but the ABCDF system:

1) is done in a logical order, from highest to lowest. The new system, on the other hand, goes like this: CDFA - which minimizes success

2) all levels are achievable. The new system apparently makes E not achievable because, at least to some teachers, it requires perfection

3) gives students higher goals to strive for. The new system establishes C as the goal. The goal is to be average. If you're extremely talented, you can excel. But above average has been eliminated. The new system is blowing off all the above average students.

The idea that "S is the goal" is unbelievably demeaning to countless students. And it's a terrible thing to do to our country.

We've already done a darned good job at dumbing down our students, but this just makes things worse because, if you think those standards are going to be set high, I have a bridge I'd love to sell you in Brooklyn.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

NCLB wants to see checkboxes next to "Adequate yearly progress" and "meets or exceeds standards," so this is what you get.

Personally I don't thing grade school kids need the pressure of A-F. I don't remember getting letter grades in k-5 myself, but somewhere around middle school, they probably should be shifting to grade-based systems unless we decide to shift college to some other system, too.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

In grade school we had H, S and a couple of other things. But they were ranked, unlike this system.

However, I think you need to read the beginning of the article again to see why folks are whit, the part that says that the goal is to do away with letter grades in middle school as well.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Yes, I did catch that. They're having the sixth graders, who never knew any different system, continue with the same system. My guess is that they'll phase it up that way, so nobody will get letter grades first and the pop back to a different system.

Like I said, I have concerns about the transition to high school, but they've got a few years to figure that out. My druthers would be to transition in 8th grade to give kids a year of padding before getting grades that are "for keeps," unless the intent really is to move to the same system for everyone in high school, too.

Scott Morgan 5 years, 10 months ago

Parents - Targeted for growth Schools - Targeted for growth

One huge concept which seems to be ignored in these do everything for everybody world is the parents responsibility.

Responsibility to of course send a education ready student to school in the first place.

Modern education involves so much time in expense in areas which don’t mean a thing in the long run when it comes down to “readun and writun.”

We seem to so focused on things which are not education related.

In the end, when our child picks up his/her diploma they should be prepared to either begin a career, or be college ready.

Neither has a hoot to do with nutrition, beating Olathe East, police are our buddies, or accepting another culture.

Yet, read these pages, constantly news about educational aforementioned extras. Mama Obama is a prime example with her bleating constantly about how we feed students.

Beating East, learning to work in harmony with people of different backgrounds are important worthy goals. Are they education goals?

Or, something a parent should look at as part of the job of raising a youth.

Have we gone so far off the proven American system of education path we can’t see the original intent?

Are non education programs so important we send kids out in the real world who can’t critically read? Are they so important we spend over half our state taxes to run schools?

Or, graduating students who have to take remedial courses before they can take a college level course.

Or, have to learn to make money changes, to measure sq. footage.....

Our education system does work. The proof is in our top students. I’d bet a dimes to dollars wager, these student’s parents enriched education at home. If they felt the schools were failing in an area the response would be to fill in the gaps. Been done for 200 years in America.

Going full circle, parents have a responsibility to maximize learning in harmony with our public schools.

Teachers can not be everything to everybody.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

No...but we can avoid feeding our kids high-calorie junk food in the school cafeteria and turning them into obese slugs.

If you don't think that nutrition has anything to do with learning, then you obviously weren't paying attention that day. Or maybe you had problems with your own eating habits?

Soapbox 5 years, 10 months ago

Quit screwing around. If it is not broken, please do not fix it.

sourpuss 5 years, 10 months ago

Way to make "Meet expectations" the goal. No point is giving anyone any incentive to excel. I'm glad I don't have a child in this school system.

Adrienne Sanders 5 years, 10 months ago

Meeting expectations is the goal.... that's what expectations means, it's what they expect you to do. They could decide to expect everyone to do everything right all the time, but that wouldn't be very realistic... and therein lies the problem with this kind of grading system, different teachers have higher or lower expectations so the categories become meaningless.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Do you want your kid to be average or excel? That is the difference between meeting expectations and exceeding expectations.

One will serve them much better in the real world. I'm almost scared to ask you which one you think it is.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

No one is complaining about setting standards per se. Rather, we are complaining that the goal is to simply meet those standards...not to exceed them...and that exceeding them is, in some ways, discouraged.

For example, there's no option for above-average. And, at least in one teacher's case, to excel requires perfection.

Heck, "E" is placed at the bottom of the list so as not to foster expectations.

It's one thing to set basic standards. It's quite another to do things that actually discourage exceeding those expectations.

Noweigh 5 years, 10 months ago

Another step as we dumb down and down and down. The world continues to catch up and move past us in so many areas. That's ok though, as long as the kids "feel good" about everything.

I'm glad the doc who performed my knee surgery got a letter grade. "meeting expectations" wasn't good enough then, why would it be good enough now? Amazing how we continue to set kids up to fail in the game of real life.

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 10 months ago

Does getting an A mean that a student got a certain number of points on an assignment, that they did better than many other people in the class (bell curve) or does it mean that they did the best they could based on differentiated instruction? I've seen teachers use all three of these methods for assigning grades. I would much rather know what my child is really learning.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Maybe you should check skyward, since EVERY teacher my high school aged son has had over the last 3 years has used BOTH a percentage grade and the corresponding letter.

tankernav 5 years, 10 months ago

That is the clencher, you CAN'T check skyward. For these unfortunate sixth graders they don't have access and the teachers CAN'T enter grades on skyward for them.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Did sixth graders get skyward last year?

bklonnie 5 years, 10 months ago

When I read this article, the South Park Joseph Smith song plays in my head.... Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb

dogsandcats 5 years, 10 months ago

Shouldn't all students be targeted for growth, even the ones who excel? Status quo is no good. Maybe they should dumb it down even further and just do pass/fail.

lawslady 5 years, 10 months ago

I went to a Kansas college in the 70's that used the standards base of grading. It was a dismal failure for a lot of reasons. And it didn't last. Meanwhile, my college transcript looks screwy. Wonder if there are any actual successes using this method?

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Brown, Caltech, MIT, and bunches of other colleges have pass/fail for the freshman year. Last I heard, an MIT degree would still open a few doors.

Beth Ann Bittlingmayer 5 years, 10 months ago

These schools have extremely select admissions criteria and little variance between student abilities - so they don't need to use grading initially. They also have self selected highly motivated students. It's not reasonable to compare that with environments that are much more heterogenous.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Lawslady asked if there was any actual success. I pointed to colleges that succeed with a freshman pass/fail buffer. Are there other factors in college success? Sure, but that wasn't the question.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

I think that bethann was simply trying to put your examples into perspective.

Obviously the Kansas college that lawslady went to was not in the category of MIT. Had it been, it might still be around, rather than been a dismal failure.

bklonnie 5 years, 10 months ago

Yup, and just think about your property tax bill. Over half of it goes to the local school district.

billbodiggens 5 years, 10 months ago

Wait until the kid tries to transfer to another district or even another state which does not have the same grading scale. Let the games begin. Going to have to have a lot of phone time just to determine if the kid needs special ed or advance placement. This is nothing but a lot of hogwash. A kinder gentler way to avoid actually warding A’s and F’s. It may make some administrator feel warm and cozy but it does nothing for the kids or their parents. It is nothing but change for the sake of change. If it accomplishes anything, it accomplishes confusion. But, what did we all really expect?

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

You'd need that anyway, or did you really think third grade in Miss. is the same as third grade in Mass.? The grades are broken down by skills, so it would be pretty easy to determine where a child needs work, and at grades below high school, it doesn't really matter for college admissions, not that there aren't differing systems there, too. How do you compare a weighted letter grade system to a standard letter grade?

Beth Ann Bittlingmayer 5 years, 10 months ago

Depends where in Mississippi and where in Massachusetts.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

True. Both states still have variability with the socioeconomic status of the school, but a grade isn't a grade isn't a grade between states and between schools.

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

let the kids who are smart or work hard get good grades and those eho aren't as smart or are not working hard get poor grades, might as well learn early how the world works so they don't get an even worse surprise when it's to late to do anything about it.

bornon7 5 years, 10 months ago

Don't blame the teachers. Our district leaders keep themselves employed by hiring their buddies, and their buddies' children. It's a cycle of "who you know" on McDonald drive. I dare you to ask a teacher what they think of Kobler. They are all very comfortable at district office. One big happy family.

gphawk89 5 years, 10 months ago

Assuming that this format is eventually adopted by Lawrence HIGH schools, how will this SMTE system translate to a grade point average (for important things like, you know, scholarships, college admissions, resumes, etc.)? There would have to be a direct conversion between SMTE and ABCDF in order to come up with a fair GPA number... so why not just stick with ABCDF? Yes I know, they're not proposing this for HS yet, but what if?

scifi_lover 5 years, 10 months ago

Successfully meeting standards will not apply to every child. It's more like the equivalent of a C or a B. It means that you understand what you're learning. A lot of children won't meet this level for awhile. Unlike the current grade system, you'll be able to better understand how well children are ACTUALLY comprehending something. You can get an F in a subject and still fully understand it. What this system will do is take out the focus on competition some of you are talking about and instead actually focus on LEARNING.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Oh what ever. Please, stop rambling about some 'feel good' nonsense about how it is detrimental for kids to compete.

Why is it when we actually rewarded success in school, namely the mid to late 50's through the late 80's, our education system wasn't mocked worldwide. It was regarded with the respect it deserves.

We are no longer churning out top notch students the way we used to, and stupid, moronic nonsense like this is exactly why. Kids didn't get lazier. No kid, short of the oddball that is so goal oriented it's almost scary, wants to carry the full load all the time. They like to skate, as my grandmother always put it. I did. My sister did. My mother and father did. My friends in high school did.

But we were never as enabled to manage it as kids are today.

An average high school student in the early 90's, which is when I graduated, compared to an average high school student today will show marked differences. They aren't as goal oriented as my generation was, and still is truth be told. They aren't diven to succeed, let alone taught how to stand tall and walk proud of the work they do. Used to be a big deal to hit the honor roll. Just so they don't hurt feelings anymore, I am honestly suprised that they don't just put them all on it.

This bunch of nonsense is beyond a disservice to our children.

My kids are the next Stephen Hawkins, but they sure as [expletive deleted] are capable of fending for themselves, especially the one that is graduating this year. The one I have in grade school is reading at a 5th to 6th grade level. The child is barely out of kindergarten.

I had to enable my children and pour a lot of my time into their education. The school board relinquished it's ability to when the tree-huggers took over.

Success is not a profanity. Neither is failure. Stop enabling the kids for 8 hours a blasted day, 5 days a week, to not worry about success or failure. All you are doing is crippling them. The real world is nothing but success and failure. Prepare them correctly and they will succeed. The reverse of that is just as true.

Parents get less time with their kids than the school system does during the school year. If you have the lion's share of the time, then you get the lion's share of the blame. If you are tired of being blamed, do something about it.

Heck, I'm half tempted to run for the school board. Looks like their willing to take on any screwball idea that gets pitched their way these days.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

See, this is the sort of rant based entirely on subjective measures and rose colored reflections on the past. There were slackers back then. Kids either did their best to get good grades or didn't care. I don't see how this would change if A is now E.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

I fail to grasp how 85 out of 100 possible for an 85%, or B, grade is subjective.

Is there a new type of basic division that we should be using these days? Perhaps a bankie and a pillow should be issued, in case it's too hard for them to pay attention and need a nap after lunch.

Oh wait. That's kindergarten, not high school. What could I have possibly been thinking?

You spend all school year planning, designing and crafting an absolute masterwork of sculpture. The class dipwad spends the entire time sleeping, or screwing off, or flat out not showing up. At the last second, he slaps some clay together.

Does the dipwad deserve an equal amount of praise as you do? The school system works that way. I know it for a fact because I asked my kids tonight.

Had a principal in grade school flat out ask me if I was stupid once. If a principal did that tomarrow, he or she would not only lose their job on the spot most likely, but the school very well might find itself being threatened with a lawsuit for some inane reason like 'hostile learning environment'.

I walked back up to that principal at the end of that school year, laid a report card of straight A's on her desk and just walked back out.

A pat on the back might be a bit higher than a kick in the pants, but still ranks below a smack upside the head.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Saying that kids today are less goal oriented is subjective unless you've got data to back it up. As is your kids' notion that slackers are getting too much praise. Subjective.

Grading on a percentage scale is just as subjective as an E or S. How did they achieve 85%? Is this on a curve? Do they get points for effort? Do they have extra credit? Do you weight tests and homework differently? How easy are the questions, and what's your rubric for grading them?

85% is a measure, but it isn't actually an objective answer without objective standards in the first place. Meanwhile, an E or an S could be just as much of a measure as anything else. The standard for S could be scoring 80-89% on the same test, while E goes for those scoring above 90%. M could be 70-79%, and T could be anything below that. Did the standards change because the grades did? Well, they did demand sightly more, since T is both D and F.

Why would you want to move back to having a principal call you stupid? In grade school? Really? You're right that I'd be all over anyone that said that about my kids, but I also know my mother would have been all over anyone who did that when I was little, too. Unacceptable name calling remains unacceptable.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

I've never understood the concept of a bell curve or other such nonsense. I have also never supported the use of it.

It degrades the accomplishments of the brightest and blunts the deficits of the dimmest.

I was never referring to using anything other than basic math to grade any given assignment. That way the ones that need the least help are just as obvious as the ones that are in dire need of it.

As to the name calling... I honestly think that I am a better person for going through the name calling that I endured over the years, both from authority figures and from 'peers'.

I learned my self worth isn't dictated by anyone in the universe other than me. No one is allowed to try changing that fact.

I learned the only one in charge of my education is me. The only one that benefits from my education, also, is me.

I am sorry if you are so jaded and cynical in this day and age that you are unable, or unwilling, to admit that our childrens' education needs to be streamlined, not further encumbered by pointless nonsense.

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in the things that I mentioned, and that is entirely my fault. The words and thoughts are mine, so making that leap of logic that I want to do away with bell curves and everything else and go back to a simplistic, direct grading system is easier.

If that is the case, and I was being less than direct enough to convey that desire, I apologize.

Having explained it further, is it easier to understand why I say 85% is exactly that?

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

I agree about curves. They're a sloppy way to repair lousy tests. Mainly they're something you see in college from professors who have no background in instruction. However, the point remains. 85% only tells you 85%. It does not tell you how easy or hard the questions were on that test. It doesn't tell you what skills are left that need to be mastered. It only tells you 85%. This isn't coming from jaded or cynical. This is coming from a perspective of not being married to the letter grade system as the be all end all of student achievement measures.

No, I do no think being bullied in school (let alone bullied by the principal) makes you a better or stronger person, and studies back me up on that. I'm glad you found your self confidence, but don't project that as the outcome for everyone else in that situation. I don't believe in artificially coddling kids, but that's a far cry from calling them names. I don't believe a standards based grading system does either of those things.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 10 months ago

I guess my question is "what had you done that led the principal to ask you if you were stupid"?????

Because, back when I was young, that was why we got asked a question like that.

tankernav 5 years, 10 months ago

Please do run for the school board. By reading the posts you are not alone in how you feel. You may also want to contact Ms Kobler and the current school board. Unless we all do this may not get changed and may very well continue through high school.

I have to agree that it is of best an brightest students that are being hurt by this program. We are striving for a society of "standards" rather than reaching for excellence. It poses a scary future.

sunflowerhue 5 years, 10 months ago

Don't blame this on all educators. Teachers got no vote. This is coming from the head shed.

George Lippencott 5 years, 10 months ago

I hope we know what we are doing. As a military "brat" I got to be experimented with by different systems. Within the system that was just fine.

When we moved to another system there were problems with non-standard approaches that cost me more than IMHO the experiment was worth. Have we thought about that?

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

For those of you that are in favor of this plan, I have two simple questions for you.

What is the practical definition of 'exceeds expectations' in regards to actual education?

What is the expectation for 'meets expectations'?

There has to be a practical explanation. There has to be a level that is required for there to be an expectation of meeting it. I've seen nothing that states what the expectation is. Is it the equivalent of a C? B? D? Give us a basis for this to be acceptable.

Is it answering 50% of a test correctly? 75%? 95%?

What is the actual expectation?

I asked the lady that taught my youngest last year what the expectation is. She sounded like she was reading from a prepared statement and when pressed for details, she couldn't go into them.

This scares me.

If this doesn't scare you, I'm more scared of you than this idea.

I don't want the surgeon working on my appendectomy to have only 'met expectations'.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 10 months ago

Kansas' definition of 'meets standard' is much lower than you might expect. "Reads grade appropriate material with full comprehension" sounds like a pretty good standard...but that's what Kansas calls "exceeds standard." You might expect that 'performs accurately most of the time and has effective content knowledge' would be a good Math standard, but Kansas calls that 'exceeds standards.' More details on student achievement and performance definitions are available at

FYI, the Lawrence school district payroll listing for the 2011 school year is also available now at

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Full disclosure for those that don't know Dave. He's spamming his own website, where he's a mouthpiece for a Koch-funded Libertarian "think tank" that puts out tea party propaganda.

So are you here to advocate for more funding for quality preschools for all? That's something that would actually help our schools achieve better outcomes, unlike proposals to defund and privatize education or institute vouchers.

Let me guess, you're just here to stir the pot by posting teacher salaries and claiming that Kansas has low standards by neglecting to provide context with those standards.

So, if a child reads a grade-appropriate text and asks a teacher what the vocabulary words mean, that's "Satisfactory." If they read the whole thing and have not encountered new words or are able to instantly understand their meaning in context, that's "Exceeds expectations." Sounds reasonable to me. So does the math standard.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Ah yes, HS, S, and U. That's what it was. I couldn't remember what they used when I was in grade school, but I remember it wasn't letters.

gubby67 5 years, 10 months ago

I've been reading these comments and can't help but chuckle. You wonder why education hasn't improved over the past 50 years? It's exactly because of the narrow thought processes expressed in these comments. Everyone wants school to look just like it did when they went to school 50 years ago, and any attempt to change is met with resistance and anger. In case people haven't noticed, the world is a different place than it was 50 years ago. Everything around us is changing, and the reason public education is struggling is because it still looks the same as it did 50 years ago. We still have desks in rows, kids listening to lectures, learning rote memorization facts, and taking multiple choice tests. All of these skills were developed when the primary role of a school was to get a kid ready to go to work in a factory. Now, the workplace is asking for skills like collaboration, communication and creativity, but when schools try to incorporate changes to allow for this type of learning to flourish, it is met with resistance from people who want school to look just as it did when they went to school. By the way, as a parent of two children, I would get a report card that said my child had an 88%-B in math. However, I still had not idea what my child knew and was able to do. In a standards-based reporting system, at least I will know what my child can and can't do. Until the general public understands that the school system of the 1950's is not the answer to today's problems, our public school system is never going to change because the public won't allow it.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Dirty little secret: education has improved. It just hasn't improved as rapidly in the US as it has in other countries. It looks like we regressed, but really we just didn't advance as much. If we had the collective will to actually use evidence-based practice and put funding where it would actually do some good, we could improve our schools.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Dirty little secret: education has improved. It just hasn't improved as rapidly in the US as it has in other countries. It looks like we regressed, but really we just didn't advance as much. If we had the collective will to actually use evidence-based practice and put funding where it would actually do some good, we could improve our schools.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 10 months ago

Achievement may have improved slightly but it is still woefully short of being acceptable. According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, only 32% of 4th graders are proficient in Reading (through 2009 - the latest data). Proficiency was at 28% in 1998, so yes, it increased a little. Funding, meanwhile, went from $7,701 in 1998 to $12,744, a jump of 65% (U.S. Dept. of Ed through 2008 - latest data available). The U.S. and Kansas have thrown massive amounts of money at the problem but seen hardly any results and still woefully short of anything acceptable. 'Just spend more' clearly isn't the answer. We need student-centric reforms like school choice and expanded digital learning. We need to reward and retain effective teachers, give those who aren't effective a chance to improve and exit those who don't.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

In other words, you agree, but you're trying to spin my point into something else. There's certainly room for improvement, but your policies would do the exact opposite of that or at best keep us in the stagnant status quo, Mr Trabert.

"School choice" has NOT been shown to improve outcomes when compared to socioeconomic status. Ah, socioeconomic status. That's where we fail kids. Our public education system is perfectly capable of cranking out some of the best educated kids in the world - if they're rich. Coincidentally, schools in rich neighborhoods are better funded, have more experienced teachers, and have students more likely to enter Kindergarten with all the readiness skills they need.

Just spend more isn't the solution. Just spend more on the right programs is. Quality preschool for all. Better pay and more experienced teachers at the poorest neighborhood schools, not the richest. Close the super long summer vacations. Early interventions rather than late reactions.

Your solution is ideologically based, not evidence based. If we wanted good public education for everyone, we could have it. It's people like you who stand in the way.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

"It's people like you who stand in the way. "

You are either with me or you are against me.

That's a great way to promote and explain your viewpoint in such a way that you might gather more support.

Why do I get the feeling that you are a sitting member of the 497 school board?

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm not. I'm also not a paid Koch mouthpiece with an agenda to dismantle the public education system and turn it into a private school voucher program, unlike Dave Trabert, to whom the comment was directed.

To be clear, I have children in the district but am not a school district employee or board member.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 10 months ago

Again with the false claims and scare tactics. No one is trying to 'dismantle the public education system.' We're just being honest about unacceptably low achievement levels and trying to do something about it (other than the failed 'just spend more' that has gotten Kansas to its current position).

If you'd like the facts, come out to our education summit in Overland Park on Sept. 15 and listen to a group of national experts we're bringing in to talk about what Kansas can do to improve public schools. FYI, we've invited education officials to participate but all have refused; they say it's inappropriate to listen to experts outside Kansas.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

"17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students. Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools." - Stanford study. I'm sure you're familiar with it.

37% do worse? THAT is unacceptably low achievement, Mr Trabert. It's not a false claim that you're dismantling public education when you're part of an organized effort to take funding from the public school system and put it in private hands, nor is it a scare tactic to point out your agenda. If you had a solution that actually improved outcomes, I'd be all over it. You don't have a solution. You have an ideology.

Thanks for the invite and the more obvious reason why you're here. I guess it was hard to find a recent topic in which to shoehorn that particular post.

Realistically, you and I both know there aren't any "new" ideas being presented next week.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 10 months ago

Again with the false claims and scare tactics. No one is trying to 'dismantle the public education system.' We're just being honest about unacceptably low achievement levels and trying to do something about it (other than the failed 'just spend more' that has gotten Kansas to its current position).

If you'd like the facts, come out to our education summit in Overland Park on Sept. 15 and listen to a group of national experts we're bringing in to talk about what Kansas can do to improve public schools. FYI, we've invited education officials to participate but all have refused; they say it's inappropriate to listen to experts outside Kansas.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

"The number of charter schools in the state has nearly tripled since 2005, and Indiana lawmakers greenlighted several incentives to promote the creation of more charter schools during the last legislative session. But the number of charter schools earning A’s or a B’s for “exceptional” and “commendable” performance, respectively, has remained virtually flat since 2006 — and 11 of the 43 charter schools that have opened since then earned F ratings this year."

Dave Trabert 5 years, 10 months ago

Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools can (and should) be closed when they fail. Instead of looking for the exception as an excuse to avoid change, we should be studying the many successful charter schools and expanding on their methods.

By the way, we should also grade our schools A,B,C,D and F instead of using fuzzy labels.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Unlike traditional schools, charter schools often face regulatory hurdles when they fail... which they do more often than public schools. You can and should close a failing charter, but you've done a disservice to all the primarily middle and working class students who attended under the misguided notion that charters are superior simply because they're a "choice."

Meanwhile, we taxpayers foot the bill for a failed charter - often much more than the per student voucher rate with things like special grants. It's a fiscally irresponsible use of taxpayer money, and it's an example of socializing risks and privatizing profits.

Is it really an "exception" when 83% of charter schools either do the same or worse than public schools? I'd say the successful charter school is actually the exception. Why push for a change that has more chance of hurting students (37%) than it does of helping them? (17%)

Why don't we study the successful public schools to see what they do differently? Why not start by offering high quality preschool for all? That single step is shown by evidence to improve outcomes, unlike charter schools.

Your approach offers fuzzy "choice" for the sake of choice, but not choice for the sake of improved outcomes.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 10 months ago

the statistics you quote about charter schools are not supported by the research, which will be presented at our education summit on Sept. 15 in Overland Park.

This is not a one-size-fits-all solution; we aren't suggesting that it is but while you acknowledge that some charters are successful, you seem to be saying that parents shouldn't have that option because ALL charters aren't successful (just like traditional public schools).

Why not let parents decide what they believe is best for their kids?

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

The research? Oh, like this research I'm quoting right now which covers most charters instead of cherry picking a state with a relatively recent and limited record? 37% did worse. Oh, that's right, you're going to cherry pick bits out of the rates for Indiana where your keynoter with the huge conflict of interest resides.

The pithy "failing charters can be closed" ignores, again, that you're socializing the risk and privatizing the gains. How much more does it cost taxpayers to start a charter vs maintaining a public school? It also ignores that those are children you're failing, not investment bonds, all because parents decide what they "believe" is best for their kids while being sold a false bill of goods. Wasted taxpayer money because you've got an ideology to push. 37% worse. Oh yes, we're magically different in this state. I've seen how well Brownback manages his investments and leverages federal education monies. That's a real confidence booster right there.

The best you can say is that some charters have some modest gains for some students, and many of them don't do any worse. That ignores how poorly implemented plans lack public accountability and make things worse. Much worse. It's not the most effective use of taxpayer money to improve outcomes for those students. It's an ideology. You're selling "choice is good" as a feel good notion, not a real solution. You keep stepping over the issue, but the biggest bang for the buck is still preschool. Get the kids in quality preschools. They could even be quality charter preschools if you're so married to the charter idea.

How about the almost universal re-segregation of schools? Gonna ignore that issue too? Florida has seen it (where their gains are still modest in comparison to Kansas current rankings). Parents, when surveyed, don't pick schools based on academics. They pick them based on social factors, such as race. I guess that's what they "believe" is best for their kids.

How about special education? Low demand by target demographics? Cherry-picked student populations? Ah yes, you've got 8 hours of propaganda you'd like me to spend $35 to come see.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

I find it interesting that you are lambasting a practice that flat out put the US at the top of the education game, so to speak, worldwide.

Now you lament that it no longer works, but what you are not realizing is that the entire system has been gutted like a fish on a griddle.

Your child brings home a spelling test of 20 words. 10 of them are wrong. I really can't fathom how you don't understand that your child only grasps 50% of the material in that test. The same thing goes for any given assignment or test. The wrong answers need to be addressed. To me that is a pretty simple equation. What scares me is you can't, or won't, grasp that fact.

If your child as a 46% grade in math, then it is time to sit down with the teacher and find out what parts of math the child is not getting right. Targeted for improvement. What does that mean, other than some intangible goal hasn't been reached.

My youngest child, in her infinate wisdom, explains it this way:

"If you get them all right, then you are really super smart. If you don't get them all right, you need to learn more."

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

You do realize they still send grade school kids home with papers that mark the questions they missed, don't you?

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

"By the way, as a parent of two children, I would get a report card that said my child had an 88%-B in math. However, I still had not idea what my child knew and was able to do."

How less of a clue can you have if you have the graded homework in your hand, showing which questions were correct and which were not?

How less of a clue can you have when it takes five, maybe ten if you get real chatty about it, to pause when retrieving your child from school and ask the teacher how they are doing so far?

How difficult is it to actually be a REAL parent and be involved in your child's life?

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

This comment wasn't directed to me, but let me break it down for you. You can either have a chid that memorizes a series of individual facts or a child that learns to analyze a variety of problems and come up with the correct answer even when presented with new material.

Knowing that your child missed 15 problems does not tell you if they have a skill gap in a particular area. It only tells you that they missed 15 problems. Do they always miss problems of that sort? Were they just tired the day of the test? Is there some other skill that wasn't tested that day that also needs work?

I appreciate that you're trying to put some of the weight for a child's education on the parent. You're using a rather childish way to do that, but bygones. Anyway, the idea of a standards based approach is to put that power in the hands of the parent to find the skills and not the problems that your child is missing. I'm really not sure why you're so attached to the old method other than fear of change.

PennyBrite 5 years, 10 months ago

“To me, this (standards-based report) sounds more like a Montessori situation"

don't know much about montessori , do ya?

BigfootHunter 5 years, 10 months ago

What kind of trophy do the kids get for participation?? Is it pretty and shiny?

Cogito_Ergo_Es 5 years, 10 months ago

Clearly the district thinks this is a good idea. However, they had better put together a huge educational program to explain it to the parents. They will never get support for it unless they explain how it's better and why we're doing it now. I do think carrying it up to the 7th & 8th grade is going too far. At what point do the kids actually think in terms of A's and B's and how hard they need to push themselves to get there? As we all know, once you hit 9th grade, 'it counts.' So, they need to be able to hit the ground running in terms of their study habits and drive to succeed. In our house when you are in Jr. High and High School, your goal is to get on honor roll as high as you can. What's my child going to say next year? "Look Mom, I made honor roll, I got straight S's! In fact, everyone did!" I'm a proud momma, let's have a party. How bad will my little darling feel about himself if he gets a T somewhere? Will we even have honor roll at the Jr. Highs/Middle schools anymore? And as for why I cannot see my child's grades on Skyward, simply because he's in 6th grade and that's something 6th graders lacked last year, I'd say, if we're going to treat them as though they are still in elementary, then the district should have darn well left them there in the first place.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm with you on keeping the 6th graders where they were and educating parents on why the grading system is changing and why it's a good thing. They already work on homework and study habits starting in kindergarten (I'm not a fan of homework in early grades, but that's a separate rant). I'm not sure that kids are going to be underachieving slackers as soon as they hit 9th grade just because they have a different grading scale in 8th grade, but I do agree that a year of buffer would be good, just to be sure.

ku_tailg8 5 years, 10 months ago

This has to be the most assinine thing I have ever heard. I hope I'm not alone in this. This just seems like an easier way to push, less fortunate, kids through whom don't really deserve to move on. Talk about kids falling through the cracks, this will force the kids through more so than it did before.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

When a business reaches a point that it no longer produces the results that the board of directors, or whomever else is in charge, expect, they don't just up and change the entire business to something completely different.

They cut the waste.

They streamline what it is that they are doing.

Why overhaul a system that has been proven, time and time again, to work? Instead, how about we stop hobbling the teachers with ungodly stupid demands and restrictions? How about we actually teach the children that with success comes rewards, instead of crippling them with the feel-good notion that everyone is a winner?

You are using a band aid to try and patch eviceration.

This is not what the children need.

They need constant, intelligent forward progress in their education. They need a structured system that rewards effort, not demeans it.

I find it hilarious that a goodly number of people that are pushing for reforms in public education are, themselves, products of that same system. Products of a system that actually pushed children to succeed, not bog them down with mediocrity.

A public education used to actually be worth something, but somewhere along the lines, someone got bullied as a child, and in an effort to make up for that shortcoming in their childhood, they proceeded to form some cult-like gathering of other like-minded 'adults'. This mob then began to acheive the retroactive revenge that they hungered for on the playgrounds when Billy Bob was giving them a wedgie and stealing their lunch money.

All you have done is hurt the kids.

How many kids have you disheartened by equating their acheivement of perfect test scores to the kids that couldn't be bothered to do their homework? The bell curve was bad enough, but this load of buffalo bagels needs to be taken back out to the pasture and used for fertilizer like it was originally intended.

You are honestly backing a system that purposely promotes that just doing the bare minimum is the ideal. When these kids go out into the world, and eventually all of them will, what are they going to have pounded into their heads for 13 years? That it is perfectly okay to just squeak by with the least amount of work possible?

Satisfactory is at best a B, and that takes an almost monumental stretch of the imagination to manage. It's a heck of a lot closer to a C. It's middle of the pack. It the safest sheep in the flock.

We are not raising sheep. We are raising ever growing minds that need to be pushed to excel, not hindered with fears that if they do good, it might make someone else feel bad.

I am honestly sorry if you cannot see this for what it is and call it the same way. I'm not budging so much as a millimeter to one side or another.

What you are proposing is nothing short of Communism in our education system.

You should be ashamed of that, not proudly trumpeting it to the heavens above.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Meets expectations.

An expectation, to the best of my understanding of the word and the context it is being used in, is that it is the tableline that is being used to determine if someone is either learning the material or is somehow lacking in that particular skill.

It is what is acceptable, but there is no defining marks for it. No high water mark, so to speak, allowing the student to gauge what he or she is accomplishing, much like the bewildered parent.

It is not being emphasized as being a benchmark, though, but instead as a vague, almost amorphous label that has little to no meaning outside that which is it arbitrarily given.

The definative benchmark that currently exists, the apparently confusing 70% mark, give or take a very few percentage points, however, is clear and concise.

What are these mythical expectations? How can it be measured if not through tests and homework and classwork, which will still yield an actual percentage grade? In truth, it truly can't be judged, simply because it is applying the subjective to the subjective, creating an almost impossible to maintain level of acceptability.

If the benchmark were set, for an example, that the child, by the end of the year, should properly spell and define 75 out of 100 pre-chosen words, that is easily understood. Without that finite set of numbers, however, that benchmark is no longer clear cut and trackable. How do you compare one child's grasp of a topic to another child's grasp without some kind of a set series of parameters?

What is the expectation for math, for example? Is it a set number of problems in a given period of time, or is it a set number of correct answers over a longer period of time? Is it a combination of both, or is it based on neither of those two trackable, definable standards and instead based on some vague assumption?

You ask me who is saying that bare minimum is acceptable and I purposely and gladly point my finger at those that argue in favor of this undefined and unregulated 'expectation' standard.

I ask you in return why is it acceptable to place 'meets expectations' in the first place on the list, and 'exceeds expectations' at the bottom?

Why shouldn't children feel pressured to excel in their life? I can't think of a parent that I know that doesn't want their child, or children, to succeed in life. If you only demonstrate a basic grasp of the material, are you truly succeeding in life or is it the bare minimum of what is tolerable?

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

What is the reason that the child doesn't test well? Anxiety, trepidation, uncertainty, lack of self confidence?

It's why schools had counselors in the first place.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

First off, I think you totally misunderstand the system. You're assigning a letter grade to something that isn't a letter grade, but if you have to assign one, go with a B. That's really more analogous.

There are many ways I'd like to reform the system, but punishing smart kids for being smart and already knowing the answer without doing a lot of work for it is not one of those ways.

If a kid "can't be bothered" to do their homework but is still making satisfactory progress or higher in their scores, that says to me that that kid isn't being challenged. Would a grade that encourages busywork homework assignments that aren't actually teaching them anything new because they already know the answer be that challenge? If the challenge is how to cope with impending lifelong ennui, I guess it would.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

I knew a child that was like that when I was in grade school and middle school.

The school gave him gasp a placement test, which I am sure you know about. If not, I will apologize for the assumption and explain them.

They jumped him two grades, which put him in a bit tougher academic environment.

There was a time when schools actually cared what they produced, not met a bottom line so they could get a seasonal bonus, so to speak. The problem is not, and will never be, letter grades versus merit scores. The problem is tying the hands of hte administration and teachers when it comes to dealing with both ends of the spectrum of kids, the hyper intelligent and the hyper lazy.

My high school was unwilling to advance graduate a student just because of their academic abilities. Instead, they gormed a 'team', for lack of a better descriptive and with the permission of the parents, allowed the children that far surpassed their peers to take college level courses. One of my closer friends in high school graduated with over a dozen college credits.

Don't change the standards. Change the difficulty teachers face when placing the proper building blocks in front of a child so they can excel, not just be average.

I, personally, was also in that advance placement to college system in my high school as well. But that was a long time ago, and sadly, an even longer way from where we are today.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Advanced placement, skipped grades, gifted programs, and other similar programes still exist today. When I was a child they tended to think it would stunt social development to let someone skip grades, but they've reevaluated that position in many areas. However, it still largely depends on where the student goes to school. There's no national standard.

Schools do actually care what they produce. Don't be so dramatic. I do agree that often they have their hands tied, such as with NCLB regulations. However, this grade system is not in and of itself the end of learning as we know it. Relax. I promise it won't turn kids into dunces or make hardworking students lazy.

I think we want the same things. We want our kids to get a quality education, and we're frustrated with administrative hurdles that stand in the way. I'm just not married to letter grades as the only way to achieve that goal.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

I do have one question about your "can't be bothered" child example.

How is the proposed system supposed to counter those that are like you described, since letter grades and percentages seem to be incapable of managing it?

You do realize that high school, and even middle school these days, have little true challenge left to them, right? In the 13 years I was in public education, I never once had a take home test. I never once had an open book test, either.

You moan and groan about how unfair and antiquated the system is now, but yet you aren't truly offering to fix the problems.

You are pointing at a pile of excrement on the living room floor, making a horrific scene over it. Instead of cleaning it up, though, you are spraying air freshener and putting a pretty rug over it, hoping that it will suffice.

You say I am the one backing a broken system. I say I am the only one actually wanting to clean up the mess on the floor.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

What I'm saying is that if your concern is that lazy students are going to get the same score as hard-working students, there's a different issue at play. The only way that would happen is if that student is either very smart or the work is unnecessary busywork that doesn't further the academic objectives. Either way, the work and the student placement should be evaluated rather than blaming the marking system for the problem.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 10 months ago

Good move. Grades don't mean much; that's why the average is now a "B" in most schools. To make the current system work, we need a "Super A" given to no more than 10% or so of the students. Since this won't happen, this approach will be a reasonable one. Parents like one mark beause it's simple, and they can assume if a child 'earns' an A or a B that they have learned a lot and actually mastered the skills required in the class. This is an approach that gives parents and students much more information. You are on the right track, USD 497.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Since you believe this to be a good idea, perhaps you can shed some light on what the requirements for each of the four 'grades' will be?

GardenMomma 5 years, 10 months ago

Part of the confusion, I think, is that my definition of "expectations" differs from your definition of "expectations."

So far, I have not heard exactly what constitues the earning of an S, M, T, or E. And if my child is being graded in fractions in math and earns an S because he correctly got 87 out of 100 on the fractions test, why not just call it a B or 87%?

Now if he consistently shows that he had good study habits - turning in completed homework on time, class participation, or whatever the criteria is for that behavior, then by all means let me know he has satisfied the requirements and give him an S.

But to not use a hybrid of quantitative and qualitative grading is not a true assessment of my child's academic achievement.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

How we managed to make it to this point from yesteryear I will never understand, given the viewpoints that are being expressed.

I really don't know what scares me more, an education system that bluntly admits 'exceeds expectations' is not what they want children to strive to reach or the people that gladly jump off the cliff they are proposing.

Do any of you that are cheering this proposal actually have children that are in the school system? Are you so wrapped up in your own lives that you are incapable of sticking your nose into what they are doing for ten minutes a day, other than the perfunctory "How was school today?".

You are free, I suppose, to ignore the pit that is looming in front of you, but you are not exempt from the consequences of falling into said pit. Sadly, though, you won't be the one that falls into the pit. You child will be.

I have yet to be given even a cursory reply as to why set expectations are horrible. I have yet to hear why a percentage grade isn't a firm measure of what a child grasps and doesn't grasp on a given topic. If the child chooses to not study, neither system is going to demonstrate anything other than his/her performance on the test.

How many of you in the workforce today can honestly say your employer, and the management therein, doesn't want the employees to go above and beyond the basic job requirements? At the time when children are learning how they should face the world, we are telling them that it's okay to be average. How many of you want the doctor operating on you, or even just checking your lymph nodes to see if you have a cold, to have just met expectations in school? The lawyer representing you in court? The person in the back of the restaurant in chrage of preparing your food?

We demand and expect a very high degree of ability and acheivement from every place of business we encounter daily, but in the same breath, we are looking at our children and saying they don't have to go by those same standards. 80% of the students in school right now are most likely middle of the pack, ranging from a low C to a higher end B grade point average. The remaining 20% is roughly split down the middle between the upcoming Stephen Hawkins' and the upcoming Would You Like Fries With That.

I will never understand why, as a parent, you leave it to the school system to decide what is best for your student, like they are some public supported babysitting club, instead of being actively involved. Perhaps if you took ten or twenty minutes to stop and find out why your precious Johnny or Jane has a D in history, instead of leaving it up to the school to figure out what to do with them, more will be fixed in a shorter time.

Try finding out why he or she isn't doing the homework, or blowing the tests. Try being involved in your child's education instead of treating it as an ant farm.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Let's all take ten minutes a day, shall we? Ten minutes per day X 27 students = 4.5 hours of teacher time per day.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Better yet, take care of your own child. Gee, and here I was thinking that was part of the JOB DESCRIPTION for being a parent.

There are reasons that some genetic strains should be a cul-de-sac.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

My goodness, we are dishing out the assumptions. I'm just pointing out that if ten minutes per day of teacher time is every parent's duty, teachers need some serious overtime, stat.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm still trying to figure out why you are using the assumption of 'teacher time' when discussing a parent being involved with their child in their own home.

If a regular citizen takes it upon himself to stop a fire in a house or rescue one of the occupants, does that person suddenly qualify to get the same pay a fireman would?

That is the same argument that you are trying, for some unfathomable reason, to defend.

If you feel it should be defended, that is all well and good and completely up to you. Just don't be suprised when it is called into question.

I've tried about every direction that I can find, but I still can't follow the path that you are trying to lay out. Please hand your pencil to someone that doesn't have palsy and ask them to trace it out for me, if you don't mind.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Huh? Why would you choose to insult me with a swipe about a disability? Stay classy, Armored_One. Stay classy.

Yes, we know parental involvement is important for student success. Gold star for you. The rest of your rant is a little wordy, but suffice it to say that insulting your audience by implying that they don't involve themselves in their children's education isn't exactly a persuasive argument. I see now that you meant ten minutes of the student's day, not the teacher's. My mistake. I mixed it up with the tail end of your rant where you went off about finding out the root cause of why a student was failing a subject by talking to the teacher. You know, as if having a different marking system would eliminate that possibility. In fact, it might make it easier. Meanwhile, involved parents will stay involved, and uninvolved parents won't care.

As I've said before, I think you've got some weird idea of exactly how this would change student expectations. In the end, not much. It seems like you think it would discourage students from doing homework, but you don't have evidence to back this up, just a feeling that somehow slacking students would achieve the same grades as hard working students. If that's happening, there's a different issue at play, and it isn't the grading system.

I do have some concerns about how students would transition from 8th to 9th grade, but I'm not going to conclude that disaster is inevitable as you seem to be doing.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

I am still seeing a very distinct lack of any actual information about this proposal.

I see none of the proponents even attempting to hazard a guess at what will define 'meets expectations'. As that is the direct stated goal of this proposal, shouldn't that be the first of the four levels to be defined?

What is the expectation?

If you can't directly and openly answer that one simple question, how in the world can you support it as being an improvement?

I can define a 'C', which defends my position.

Can you do as much with anything actually solid and not just a supposition or vague, formless assumption that the proposal is actually good?

I am really starting to doubt that anyone knows a single thing about this whole concept and are simply backing it for the sake of wanting to be at the head of the line for something, regardless of whether or not that line should exist in the first place.

tbaker 5 years, 10 months ago

T: Targeted for growth? Really? Bring home an F and see what gets targeted. We spend more per student than we have in my lifetime, yet the High School graduation rate is the lowest it's been since I graduated, and the US continues to fall behind the rest of the developed world in academic performance. Increased education funding and teachers unions have either done nothing, or had a negative effect. We need to replace this paradigm with a bonus schedule, and a voucher program.The better the students perform, the more the teachers get paid. The parents who pay the property taxes should be able to chose which school their child attends. No child should be forced by government bureaucracy to attend a failing school. These approaches work everytime they are tried.

salad 5 years, 10 months ago

Just fifteen years we'll all be reading about how many engineers and scientists we're importing from India and China, because American kids can be bothered to suck it up and work for a change. Thank God this generation didn't have to fight WWII; we'd all be speaking German or Japanese.

tomatogrower 5 years, 10 months ago

The people who oppose this change are people who want simple-minded answers. They think in black and white. They want a letter or a percent. They want a simple score on a state assessment to show improvement. Learning and life is not that simple.

Would't it be great if we got rid of the whole grade level concept too. No more promotions to 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade, etc. When a student proves they understand a set of concepts they move ahead. This would allow the bright ones to move ahead quickly, and the ones who need to move at a slower pace to not be pushed ahead before they are ready. Yes, you might end up with some 20-year-old high school graduates and some who are 14-years-old, but they would graduate with knowledge, not just be passed on with no skills.

This might give some incentive for those who are just being lazy. It also might prevent dropouts, if students weren't pushed ahead to levels that they can't handle yet. Many students drop out because they are too embarrassed to admit they don't understand what is going on in math, because they were pushed to the next levels without understanding the level before.

Of course, that would really disturb some people, because they would have to actually be more involved in the details of how their students perform. God forbid we make their lives complicated. Just give them a number or a letter, and let them get to their football game.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Letter grades, or percentage grades, were used in the 50's. I certainly doubt that any that have read this thread will argue with my ascertation that it was a less technologically evolved era.

The requirements of graduation, however, still demanded a passing grade, but there was no concerted effort to preserve the feelings of the children learning. In fact, as I have been told and have read, corporal punishment was at the very least condoned, if not legal.

Today's education environment is saturated with technology. I am willing to bet that no one will argue with that statement either.

The requirements of graduation are still the same, namely passing grades. Corporal punishment is now abhorrent and the thought of a teacher belittling a student is usually grounds for a lawsuit these days.

Drop out rates in the 50's were negligable compared to the rates of today, but obviously the fault must lie with the letter grades, not with the failing education policies such as No Child Left Behind, or with the lack of funding to properly operate a school, unlike the 50's, when they were adequately funded, or at least the white schools.

That is yet another distinction between the times, the lack of segregation. But I digress.

Why is the solution a changing of the grading system from one that is blantant and obvious to one that is at best subjective? Why is the solution not a restructuring of the system so that it returns to a functional state, not the crippled, limping existence it eeks out these days?

Why is the answer changing the one aspect that not only hasn't changed in 60+ years, but is in fact one of the last remaining fully functional aspects?

Why is the answer something other than actually addressing the problems that exist within the concept and system?

The education system is, by and large, perfectly functional. The policies that have been crammed down it's proverbial throat has proceeded to choke it. If someone is choking to death on something, do you clear the obstruction or do you perfect an appendectomy?

Restructuring the grading system is just as superficial and unneeded as that appendectomy.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Wrong. Although it's difficult to get exact measures of graduation rates in that time period and experts argue about whether or not to include GEDs, most say the graduation rate is now higher than it was in the 1950s, especially for minorities and women. We haven't made huge gains, like we did in the first half of the 20th century, but we have made gains.

Remember, the 1950s had segregated schools, and there wasn't as much of a financial penalty for not graduating high school. They also regularly excluded kids with disabilities who would otherwise have been capable of graduation, and those kids simply weren't counted in their estimates at all. Girls took home ec to prepare for getting their MRS. It was not uncommon to get married right out of high school, and girls who "got in trouble" had to drop out of school.

I agree that the education system is by and large perfectly functional, and we tend to be looking at the wrong things to fix. However, this isn't the hill to die on.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

So your first word is to all but call me a liar, but you expand on it by saying every reason you could have to dispute the claim is itself disputed.

You spend two reasonably sized paragraphs to expound against the example, but one sentence to address all of the questions I posed at the end of my post.

Your attempts to detract from my arguement doesn't address the fact that there are parallels that correlate between the segregation and the lack of funding provided to inner city schools.

The drop out rates in schools such as those could easily be compared directly to the segregation of the 50's and earlier. Not in terms of the denial of rights, but in the completion of education. Since this is supposed to be a discussion about education, I would prefer to keep it in those terms.

The reason that I chose the 50's in lieu of another, earlier decade is that in the 50's, even the rural schools started enforcing the requirement to complete high school to the same levels as the incorporated cities, instead of allowing students to end their education at roughly 8th grade.

Is there some aspect of my stance that I am not communicating completely? I am honestly curious, because I am left with the impression, after reading your responses, that I am either being dismissed out of hand, or I am somehow not expressing my views coherently. While the former would be disturbing, the latter wouldn't be all that shocking. It wouldn't be the first time and most likely won't be the last time.

If I might ask, though.

There is a chance that this proposal could very well be an improvement.

There is much more evidence, however, that the current grading system is the better option.

My question is this.

What do we do for the children that are impaired, in terms of education, if this proposal is the wrong option to choose?

This isn't rats or gerbils we're talking about.

This proposal is, literally, an experiment with the future accomplishments of our children, particularly those associated to education.

Do you feel comfortable experimenting with your child's future? I don't.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

Wrong does not mean liar. Mistaken. Misinformed, incorrect. The rest of your post? TL;DR.

chootspa 5 years, 10 months ago

I like the idea of doing away with grade levels, but in practice it's been a bit tricky, and the results have been mixed. You also have to wait several years to see results, and in this climate there's no incentive for anything that isn't an instant fix. I do think there's some real potential to use technology to track students and assess them on the fly while applying targeted and individualized instruction.

We'd have to have the collective willpower for that sort of change, though, and now we're stuck between nostalgic "When I was in school, it was always done X" people and the Dave Trabert/Koch/Brownback not so subtle agenda to dismantle public education and feed the taxpayer money to private companies using the intermediate step of expanded charter schools.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Incredibly simple question for anyone willing to answer.

How does changing the grading system from letter grades to a 'standards' system improve the quality of the education?

It does not change the material taught, the length of the school day, the student to teacher ratio or any of the other myriad issues facing education today. It does, however, obfuscate parental understanding of the grading system. It does complicate the grading system for the teachers. According to every teacher that I have spoken with about this issue, both in Lawrence and across the country, the tests and homework they assign and administer have correct answers. They create a grading sheet that shows the correct answer, or in the case of multiple choice tests, the correct letter or number.

If this style grading is still going to be used, then why the need to change the grading system? All it does is complicate the issue by adding ambiguous appearing letters, instead of a letter grade directly tied to a percentage score. Said percentage score be reached, of course, by dividing the total number of correct answers by the total number of answers.

To translate, at least in a vague approximation of the letter grades to the merit system, I proffer the following chart.

S: Successfully meets standards. -- 70-84%

• M: Making progress. -- 60-69%

• T: Targeted for growth. -- 0-59%

• E: Excels consistently -- 85-100%

In other words, you are removing some of the letter grades, such as the B+ and A-.

But this is just a rough guess, not a definitive.

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 10 months ago

My first question is, "Who is Angelique Kobler ?" and what are her qualifications for advancing such a radical change in our schools.

First of all, I am very much against this.

This sounds like something being implemented because of someone's political leanings and not something that will benefit students.

My kids excelled in the Lawrence school system and I asked their opinions. Perhaps if adults spent more time talking to actual students instead of developing their own pet theories they might understand a little better about how improvements can be made. The kids know better than anyone what works and what is just plain stupid.

Armored_One 5 years, 10 months ago

Sort of like how LHS doesn't have fire suppressant materials in part of the school, nor a PA system of any sort to warn people in that general area?

Got that tidbit directly from a currently attending student.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 5 years, 10 months ago

I will not ask why we are doing this, because the district will only point to some bit of research which will, not surprisingly, support their decision. Angelique Kobler doesn't get to make decisions. Talk to Doll about that. Write your school board members. They have the authority to override Doll. My question to them would be twofold, 1) Why are we doing this now (read, what perhaps does this have to do with our not making AYP the last two years in a row?) and 2) Who else is doing this? (Regionally or Nationally. When we went to the 4 year high school configuration it was because we were the last school in Kansas that was 10-12. We wanted to do what everyone else was doing, so we changed. If that's good logic, then what other districts think this is a good idea???)

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