I get that. The standards-based grading system we used was cumbersome to teachers and confusing to parents. Not only that, but the grades all sounded pretty positive, even when a student was, for lack of a better term, failing.
Mastery is good.
Nearing Mastery sounds pretty positive.
Progressing sounds like we're on the right track.
Developing seems as if things are coming along just fine. Is Developing better than Progressing, or vice versa?
Even Insufficient Evidence appears to take all fault out of the student's hands; it's not his/her fault the teacher couldn't collect enough evidence. Nothing to see here.
Our school's namesake, Cecil Floyd, was a real man. A hundred years ago, he attended West Union School. This is the report card he received when he was eight years old. For more about the man, explore my website, The Cecil Floyd Historian.
What does a parent see on that multi-page report card? It was a bunch of educational jargon and trendy, educational bandwagon stuff to satisfy people who never met your child. Did you, the parent, really take that report and do anything with it? Did you find your child underachieving in a particular skill only to give him/her some one-on-one time until s/he mastered it. Did you hand the report over to grandparents so they could pay a dollar for each of the 40ish "M" grades?
And while we're at it, could you ever brag to your relatives about making straight A's or making the honor roll? No, you could not. When granny asked how they were performing in school, all you could do was hem and haw about the convoluted grading system and talk about how the kid got this many M's and that many AM's. Meaningless to grannies, right?
This year, we've made some changes to the grading system. We've simplified it. At the request of parents and educators, we are making a return to "letter grades". Now your child will receive an A (90-100%), a B (80-89%), a C (70-79%), a D (60-69%), or an F (0-59%), based on class performance. These grades will be averaged from daily work and tests in the classroom. Simple.
The report card will be equally simple. In addition to grades from Music, Art, Media, and Physical Education, and in addition to a few conduct grades, there will be a letter grade for each of five major academic subjects (Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies). No so-called levels of mastery, no whiz-bang jargon, no weird coding system.
But as we know, with grade freedom comes greater responsibility. It is our job - parents and teachers - to open and keep open some distinct lines of communication. It is still my responsibility to teach the state standards. I will still administer the state tests. I will still collect data. In fact, I'd better not squander the activity, but always remain worthy of stakeholder trust. If I'm teaching the curricula, engaging students, and keeping conversations with parents open, I will fulfill my duty.
Likewise, there is a responsibility for parents and administrators. Administrators must support the classroom and have students best interests at heart. They must help teachers teach, and they must help parents understand. Administrators are here to keep us all on track, to make sure our needs are met, and to identify areas that need our improvement.
Parents, on the other hand, are in unique positions. More than others, you know your child. Yes, I have 27 years of experience with children - all kinds of children - but I have never had your child. In the same way, you and your child have never experienced me. In short, we don't know each other. Because of that, we have an obligation to trust each other. We need to give each other the benefit of the doubt. We should listen to each other. Our direct lines of communication must remain open (Tools like ClassDojo help with that.). When those lines are open and we remain receptive, all the best things can happen for your child.
When finally trusted as professionals, peers, and stakeholders - when we count on one another to do what is right to do - trust will return to us manifold. It takes more than a written note or report card with a bunch of words to make this happen; it takes committed and connected adults working in orchestra for the betterment of our community.