Parents pan new grading system
A new elementary school grading system didn’t get a passing grade from parents and teachers, who responded to a survey conducted last month.
But Douglas school officials are hopeful study and communication can help bring parents and teachers onboard for the new standards-based grading system.
Of the 176 parents who took the survey, 137, or about 78 percent, said they were opposed to the new three-tiered grading system that replaces the standard A-F grades.
Of those parents, 159 indicated they had been informed about the system and 122 said they understood it.
According to the district, there are 1,057 parents of students in third- through fifth-grades, who could have responded to the survey.
Of the district’s 54 teachers in those grades, 31 responded to the survey. Half of the teachers who responded said they did not support the new system. Two-thirds said they understood the system, but a similar number said they didn’t feel comfortable using the new grading system or explaining it to parents.
“We clearly have some work to do,” Superintendent Teri White told school board trustees at their Jan. 14 meeting. “I think we need to have some time to do some better training for our teachers and our parents. There’s a lot of research that supports standards-based grading.”
Education Services Director Rommy Cronin-Mack said in a memo that the district plans to provide more support and education to parents around standards-based grading.
In November, school board trustees asked the district to survey parents and teachers after hearing parents’ concerns about the new grading system.
Students in kindergarten through second grade have had standards-based reports cards for 15 years, according to Cronin-Mack.
According to minutes of a Nov. 12 meeting, Cronin-Mack said there are benefits to reporting information to parents on the new system as opposed to the A-F grading system.
Standards-based grading reduces the scale to a three-tier system with a 3 equaling meeting standards independently, 2 for not meeting standards but improving and a 1 not meeting standards.
Parent Marcus Zinke spoke at that the November meeting and took out a full-page advertisement in The Record-Courier a few weeks later.
Zinke said he was resigned to the new grading system being used in elementary school, but is dead-set against its expansion into secondary levels.
Not all the trustees are on board either, with Board President Robbe Lehmann expressing concern at the parent reaction.
“If this were a product we were releasing and 78 percent of people said they didn’t like it, that would be a concern,” he said.
School administrators were asked by trustees at the Dec. 14 meeting when they could determine whether the new grading system should be continued.
“We need to give the district more time,” trustee Linda Gilkerson said.
School Trustee Keith Byers said he supports standards-based grading.
“My No. 1 issue as a parent is grade inflation,” he said. “Comparing my kids’ letter grades with standardized tests was discomforting. We need to try to think about concerns parents have and how we can communicate that we’ve thought about them.”
Cronin-Mack pointed out that part of the concern with the grading system is that it’s new.
Trustees asked the district to conduct another survey at the end of the school year, with parents having an opportunity to include comments, something Cronin-Mack said she’d wished she had done in the December survey.