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Archive for Monday, August 26, 2013

Middle schools modify ‘standards based reporting’ for 6th graders

August 26, 2013

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Parents with sixth grade students attending Lawrence middle schools this year will receive a lot more feedback based on the traditional A-through-F grading scale.

But Lawrence school district officials say they have not completely abandoned the “standards-based progress reporting” system that grades students on an E, S, M and T scale.

Instead, according to district spokeswoman Julie Boyle, middle schools will now use a hybrid system in which students will see only the traditional A-through-F grades on their report card for their courses, but will continue to receive standards-based grades to rate certain learning behaviors such as coming to class prepared, listening, following instructions and using time wisely.

Will Fernandez, principal at South Middle School, said it should be a welcome change for parents.

“There has been a bit of problem with parents understanding the E, S, M and T on the old report card,” Fernandez said. “Because of issues they've had with it, they've looked at it — who the audience is supposed to be, what's in the document — and tried to make it user-friendly,”

Lawrence introduced standards-based grades at the elementary level in 2003. The system is intended to rate students' performance based on how well they meet state academic standards, as well as a wide range of behavioral factors, using the non-traditional E, S, M, T letter scale. But many people have said they find that confusing.

Those letters stand for “excels,” “successfully meets standards,” “making progress,” and “targeted for improvement.”

The new system sparked controversy in 2011 when the Lawrence district reconfigured schools by eliminating junior highs and moving sixth grade students into the newly formed middle schools.

Because the standards-based system requires a great deal more more work on the part of teachers, it caused a big increase in the workload of middle school teachers, who often are responsible for upwards of 100 students a semester, compared to the 25 or so students in a typical elementary classroom.

Many parents also were upset with the use of the grading system for sixth graders. And the district itself ran into difficulties, because the Skyward computer system used to manage student information didn't fully support standards-based reporting.

Dozens of parents, teachers and administrators turned out for a series of public meetings the Lawrence school board held in November 2011 to discuss those concerns.

As a result, Boyle said, district officials have modified the system last year by reducing the number of indicators on which students were graded on the E, S, M, T scale, and adjusted schedules to give middle school teachers more time for recording and reporting grades.

This year, she indicated, the district has dropped standards-based grades entirely for reporting on academic progress in classes and is only using it to monitor learning behaviors.

“The district continues to dialog with middle school teachers about the research-based practices when educating young adolescent students, including grading practices,” Boyle said.

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Contact Journal-World education reporter Elliot Hughes: ehughes@ljworld.com

Comments

Jayhawks64 1 year, 3 months ago

Congratulations USD #497! Took you two years and the loss of several teachers to swallow your pride and make the right decision for our students.

bevy 1 year, 3 months ago

WOW! Does this mean that some students might actually, for the first time in their lives, FAIL at something? It's good for them, and it's good for parents to be able to really grasp their children's performance. So they can be armed with information when they go to corner the teacher and defend their young 'uns from the consequences of their own actions.

Deb Engstrom 1 year, 3 months ago

I knew this would be the common reaction but I am very disappointed in this decision. The letter grades actually communicate nothing. They simply tell how a student performed based on some teacher's arbitrary grading system. Some use a curve, some use percentage, some give grades based on individual student's ability. My sped students' A's meant something totally different than others, but looked the same on paper. I really want to know what my child is actually learning as reflected in the standards.

Nikki May 1 year, 3 months ago

While this is true, I don't think the original POINT of the SBG was followed everywhere. When the "new" grade cards came out, I went a meeting so they could go over what the standards meant. I believe it was during PTA, but I enjoy knowing as much as possible about everything that I can. So, they explained that these standards meant a certain thing and that it was all based on what they were to know by the end of the year. So, in theory you could get Marked for growth or Targeted for progress at the beginning of the year and it would be ok, you just hadn't learned it. BUT you wanted Secure by the end of year. Well, on that same theory, if I'm secure in a skill, at the beginning of the year, how can I lose it later in the year? I saw it happen on so many of grade cards of both kids. I finally just quit caring. I know some teachers had a rubric how they were grading things, but many I feel like were random. I feel like if it's a letter grade, there is a reason for the grade. Skyward will tell you this reason. It will tell you they aren't turning in homework or their quiz scores are low, or even participation. I just feel for the most part, it gives more useful information. Yes, the skills that were supposed to be assessed are important, but I just don't think it was done properly across the board.

ConcernedResident 1 year, 3 months ago

When viewed with Skyward, a traditional letter grade is extremely informative. It tells exactly where strengths and weaknesses occur. If you were to put Standards Based Skyward next to traditional Skyward, the differences would be clear. Standards Based Skyward offered very little information to parents and students...talk about arbitrary!

Traditional grading in middle school has the advantage of preparing students for receiving a GPA in high school, as well as motivating high achieving students.

Thank goodness USD 497 saw the error of its ways before anymore damage occurred. Thank goodness SBG was not pushed up to 7th and 8th grades as the district originally planned! Hats off to the parents and teachers who spent countless hours speaking up for Lawrence students.

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