How often will families be informed about students’ progress?
Middle school families will receive quarterly reports every nine weeks (at the end of first quarter, first semester, third quarter and end of the year). Many teachers will opt to send additional progress reports home with students more frequently. As part of the ongoing development of our family engagement plans, teachers are taking steps to frequently communicate about what is happening in their courses and what parents/guardians should be looking for through take home assignments, electronic newsletters, web messages, etc. Families will also be able to log on and use Family Access to review information in the Skyward student information system.
A standards-based reporting system is designed to inform parents about their child’s progress towards achieving specific learning standards. Our state and national standards establish high and challenging performance expectations for all students. They describe what students should know and be able to do, and serve as the basis for the Bellingham Public School’s curriculum, instruction and assessment model. The reporting card and reporting system has been changed to provide more information to parents about student progress on the state and national standards.
The purpose of the standards-based report card is to clearly communicate student performance toward grade level standards and expectations to families.
The change to a Standards-Based reporting system comes from the belief that our previous report card and reporting system did not fully communicate what students are expected to know and be able to do as set forth in the state and national standards. This new reporting system will benefit students, teachers and families. It will allow students to be more aware of what is expected of them. It will provide families with a more detailed outline of the expectations in each of the major academic areas. We believe that your understanding of what is expected of your child and how well he or she is progressing towards the goals at his or her grade level is very important and that the standards-based reporting system will assist in this endeavor.
On the previous middle school report card students received one grade for each class (one grade for math, one grade for language arts, one grade for science, etc.) On the new standards-based report card, each of these subject areas is further expanded to include additional detail for reporting student skills and knowledge. Students receive a separate mark for each indicator. In addition, students receive scores for effort, behavior and attributes separate from their academic marks.
Success Attributes represent student behaviors that lead to success as a student and contribute to future success in educational, career and personal pursuits. At the middle school level, we have separated Student Success Attributes into two areas: “Takes Responsibility” and “Attends to Detail”.
- A, B, C, D, F represent percentage of points accumulated
- Non-academic factors affect grades, such as participation, attendance, late work, etc.
- Everything is graded and averaged together
- Early assignments can skew the final grade
- Reports a single grade for each class
- 4, 3, 2, 1 represent student performance in relation to specific standards
- Based on common core national, state, and district standards
- A report of what students know and are able to do
- Reflect academic performance only
- Behavioral information (called Student Success Attributes) reported separately
3 = Meeting standard. Demonstrates solid knowledge and understanding
2 = Approaching standard. Demonstrates progress toward grade level standard, but not yet at standard. Demonstrates some knowledge and understanding.
1 = Well below standard. Not meeting grade level standard.
The Report Card Guides for Families provide descriptions on all scoring marks. Some additional descriptions are included here:
A “4” indicates the student has advanced understanding and exceeds grade level expectations. A student receiving a “4” demonstrates academically superior skills in that specific area. This student applies learning and concepts in new and varied ways, challenges him or herself to think deeply to make connections, and demonstrates this advanced knowledge at school.
A “3” indicates the student has proficient understanding and meets grade level expectations. We want all of our students to reach a level “3.” A student receiving a “3” is right on track with our high academic expectations. A “3” is something to be celebrated!
A “2” indicates the student has basic understanding and is partially proficient at meeting grade level expectations. A student receiving a “2” understands the basic concept or skill, but has not yet reached the proficient level. A “2” should indicate that the student’s performance varies in consistency with regards to accuracy, quality, and level of support.
A “1” indicates the student has minimal understanding and does not meet grade-level expectations. Performance is inconsistent even with guidance and support. Students receiving “1” will need additional support and/or interventions to learn the materials and progress toward meeting standard.
If your child received all A’s in the past you can most likely expect them to receive 3’s or 4’s in the new reporting system. However, you may see some occasional 2’s in the gradebook along the way, especially when new concepts are being introduced and learned. Learning in many instances is cumulative and understanding grows and develops. As we align our grading practices, and at the same time implement more rigorous national standards, we may see that the obtainment of 4’s is more rare. This is not an indication that your child has changed or is struggling, it is an indication of higher and more aligned standards across our system, state, and even nation.
A four means that a student is significantly exceeding the standard. Our goal for all learners is to earn the grade mark of 3, to show that they are meeting our challenging grade level standards and expectations. In the new system, a 3 is to be celebrated! Within this goal of all learners earning 3’s, we also need to continue to recognize individual student performance, goals and achievements. For some students the goal of a 4 is the correct reach and the system should challenge and motivate them to demonstrate their understanding in ways to earn the score of 4, significantly exceeding the standard.
It is difficult to compare letter grades with the number system because the marks stand for completely different things. In a standards based system the score represents what is learned – where the student is in relation to the expectation or standard. In a letter grade system the grade mark indicates how many points a student has accumulated, through assignments, extra credit, participation, etc. In that system, the goal of the student was to gather as many points as possible to get to an A. Now we are looking at where student work is in relation to a standard (performance expectation), rather than an accumulation of points.
It is important that parents and teachers have honest conversations with students. Some concepts and skills are more difficult to grasp than others, but given time, motivation, instruction, and support students can continually challenge themselves. Attitudes are contagious and it is important that adults involved convey to the child that learning is a process that needs to be respected. A score of 2 while learning a new skill or concept is appropriate. A score of 3 demonstrating mastery is to be celebrated. A score of 4 indicates a strength being recognized that is above and beyond the grade level expectations.
Another change for students is understanding the concept of exceeding the Standard. Exceeding is not the equivalent of an A on a traditional report card. For example, if a fifth-grader received A’s on every math test during the marking period, he or she would probably receive an A on a traditional report card. If those math tests measured only the concepts fifth graders are expected to master, those A’s would be the equivalent of meeting the standard on a Standards-Based report card; the student is doing what he or she should be doing very well, but not necessarily more. Standards-Based report cards encourage students to demonstrate their ability to apply skills and knowledge beyond grade level expectations. Performance is characterized by self-motivation and the ability to apply skills with consistent accuracy, independence, and a high level of quality.
Research has shown that letter grades do not motivate students to learn. On the contrary, research has found three consistent effects of using – and especially, emphasizing the importance of – letter or number grades:
- Grades tend to reduce students’ interest in the learning itself. One of the most well-researched findings in the field of motivational psychology is that the more people are rewarded for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward (Kohn, 1993). Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that when students are told they’ll need to know something for a test – or, more generally, that something they’re about to do will count for a grade – they are likely to come to view that task (or book or idea) as a chore.
- Grades tend to reduce students’ preference for challenging tasks. Students of all ages who have been led to concentrate on getting a good grade are likely to pick the easiest possible assignment if given a choice (Harter, 1978; Harter and Guzman, 1986; Kage, 1991; Milton et al., 1986). The more pressure to get an A, the less inclination to truly challenge oneself. Thus, students who cut corners may not be lazy as much as rational; they are adapting to an environment where good grades, not intellectual exploration, are what count.
- Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking. Given that students may lose interest in what they’re learning as a result of grades, it makes sense that they’re also apt to think less deeply. One series of studies, for example, found that students given numerical grades were significantly less creative than those who received qualitative feedback but no grades. The more the task required creative thinking, in fact, the worse the performance of students who knew they were going to be graded. Providing students with comments in addition to a grade didn’t help: the highest achievement occurred only when comments were given instead of numerical scores (Butler, 1987; Butler, 1988; Butler and Nisan, 1986).
Intrinsic motivation is the most powerful kind of motivation – when a student is involved in the learning process by knowing their strengths and where they need to improve, the student can work with teachers and parents to set meaningful goals of excellence, strive to achieve the goals, and experience success.
My child is academically strong. How will standards-based teaching, learning and grading challenge my child?
Through standards-based instructional methods of pre-assessment, teachers will know if students have already mastered concepts prior to a lesson or unit. It will give teachers an early opportunity to provide meaningful and challenging work for these students. In the classroom, teachers have always been, and continue to be, required to challenge the students who are achieving at or above grade level. Teachers differentiate instruction so that students continue to grow and progress. This will be no different with the new reporting tool. In fact, more than ever, they will be able to see who really has mastered the standard and who needs additional instruction or intervention.
What about the transition from standards-based reporting in middle school to traditional grading in high school? If a student receives mostly 3s (meets standards), what kind of grades can they expect in high school?
The grades that students receive in high school will depend upon the degree to which they meet their teachers’ communicated expectations. Students who meet grade level content standards in middle school and practice developing scholarly skills reflected by the student attributes (such as taking responsibility and attending to detail), are potentially on track to perform very well and receive good grades in high school. Historically, students who pay attention, study and produce quality work find educational, career, and personal success no matter what the grading system.
How does standards-based reporting affect my child’s high school credit class?
Currently, some middle school students are enrolled in high school level courses such as algebra, geometry and Spanish. Some students opt to apply credit in these classes towards their high school transcripts. Although all high school credit classes at the middle level are using standards-based instructional practices, the reporting process for these classes will reflect traditional grading like the high school courses that align with state transcript requirements. Our high school teachers are also engaged in standards-based practices work related to the common core state standards.