First Bell: ‘Grading for Learning’ to include large-group Q&A; district offers free developmental screenings

Each of the “Grading for Learning” informational forums tonight and Wednesday will, in fact, include a chance for attendees to ask questions of district officials during a large-group setting.

Such a format has been sought by some opponents of the district’s use of standards-based grading in middle schools, a system initiated this year with the inclusion of sixth-graders at Liberty Memorial Central, South, Southwest and West middle schools.

Sixth-graders long have received standards-based grades, but that was when the students were in elementary school. Dozens of parents and some teachers have opposed the use of such grading — “S” for successfully meeting standards, “M” for making progress, “T” for making progress and “E” for excelling consistently — in middle school, for several reasons.

Among them:

• Teachers say the standards-based marks add to an already heavy workload.

• Parents say the grades discourage students from striving to do their best, prevent parents from keeping track of how their kids are doing in school and lead to confusion by having two different grading systems — seventh- and eighth-graders receive only traditional letter grades — in the same schools.

The concerns have led district officials to schedule two informational forums, called “Grading for Learning”:

• 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. today at Southwest, 2511 Inverness Drive.

• 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Liberty Memorial Central, 1400 Mass.

Kim Bodensteiner, the district’s chief academic officer, said that each session would include an introductory presentation from district officials, intended to answer common questions or address common concerns. A teacher also will show how the grading system is reflected in Skyward, a computer system used by teachers and parents to track students’ academic performance.

Attendees also will be able to ask questions during a “large-group question and answer,” Bodensteiner said. Such a session has been sought by opponents of the system, many of whom showed up twice previously to meetings of the Lawrence school board, only to find that their questions weren’t answered and their concerns not addressed.

“We’ll either respond, or take them (questions) down and send answers later,” Bodensteiner said.

Forum organizers also intend to conduct “small group” discussions, during which facilitators will ask attendees a series of common questions, including:

• What’s going well with the system?

• What’s not going well?

• What is the value of report cards?

• Etc.

Organizers also intend to distribute blank forms so that attendees can pose questions or make comments in writing. Email addresses will be collected from people who wish to receive answers electronically, or to receive other updates.

We’ve been writing stories about standards-based grading — and the opposition spurred by the use of such reports in middle schools — since August, and the topic promises to remain a point of discussion for at least a bit longer.

Members of the Lawrence school board anticipate discussing the issue at some point once district officials have had a chance to conduct the Grading for Learning events.


Free developmental screenings are being offered by the Lawrence school district to assess preschoolers’ walking, talking, hearing, vision, thinking and social skills.

The screenings — offered by Lawrence Early Childhood Special Services — are available for children who are 3 to 5 years old. Parents concerned about a preschooler’s development are urged consider taking advantage of the free screenings, organizers say.

Screenings will be offered, by appointment, during two upcoming Wednesdays — Jan. 11 and Feb. 8 — at Kennedy School, 1605 Davis Road, which is across Harper Street from the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds. Screenings also will be conducted Dec. 14, but that day’s scheduled appointments already are full.

A screening is conducted during a single appointment.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call or email:

• Edie Boehle, secretary, 330-1643,

• Morgan Carter, school psychologist, 330-4389,