When students return in August, our grading system, for the fourth year in a row, will be different. In recent years, our district has toyed/experimented with the trendy, popular standards-based grading. Teachers were to maintain evidence of mastery for each student, which meant parents were often left in the dark throughout the year as to their children's standings in the class. Additionally, there were so many standards constantly being assessed that it became difficult for a teacher to maintain all of the paperwork.
To be honest, a complicated system like this (made even more complicated by a gradebook program that did not perform as it should) encourages teachers to "game" the system in order to keep up. Enter the parents, who could never be sure what the report card was trying to communicate. When the grades are Mastery, Approaching Mastery, Progressing, and Insufficient Evidence, every score seems to be pretty positive, and it was hard to tell when a student was performing poorly.
At this point, I must apologize that my suggestion for grading by using emojis failed to pass committee approval. Couldn't you imagine...?
I'm a parent (for 12 years) as well as a teacher (for 26 years), and in a former life I was a student (from kindergarten to three degrees in college), so I feel like I can look at this from a variety of perspectives (while I must acknowledge that I am of a single mind). I am a firm believer that each of the stakeholders in our system - the student, the teacher, and the parent - would more greatly appreciate a simple system. We've been known to refer to the KISS model where KISS refers to Keep It Simple, Stupid (That's what it meant when I was in high school; today we might prefer Keep It Super Simple.). The point is that any reporting system is more effective when it is kept out of the weeds, out of the mud, and out of the clouds. Too complicated, it becomes cumbersome, too heavy to lift, and therefore an unnecessary burden.
When students return for the 2016/7 school year, Joplin Schools, at the request of parents and teachers, will return to traditional letter grades. Some of the more "progressive" educators might be mocking our "regression" to a traditional system, but this is certainly for the best and will benefit all involved. Parents will understand the new, grades (an averaged grade for each subject), while teachers will be able to better communicate by passing back the papers instead of keeping them as "evidence" (Am I using too many quotation marks here?).
As a parent, I want to know where my child stands in the classroom. I want to know how she is performing compared to others in her level. If I want to know more about a particular grade, I know I can ask the child and the teacher for clarification.
As a teacher, I want to be able to subject the standards to a more objective number. I want to be able to put all the math scores together, rather than pull them apart into dozens of sub-categories. I want to make assignments that cover multiple skills and practices, and be able to provide multiple grades for each assignment. The truth is, I could do that in either system, but now it's less subjective.
As a student, I may not even understand the standards as they are reported, and I want to be able to go to grandpa with my report card and have him pay me cash money for every A and B on a sliding scale. Perhaps we can even bring back the Honor Roll for more encouragement and a source of pride.
This change, though welcome, does not take away the responsibilities and accountability of a teacher. In fact, while it may add to the time that it takes to grade assignments, it will simplify the process on so many levels.
Of course, we have yet to see the final product along these lines, but we remain hopeful that where ever we land, it will increase our ability to effectively assess, communicate with, and do the things we need to do to help our students and our community.