When report cards come home for fourth-and fifth-graders across the Revere Public School district in early December, not a single student will have an ‘A.’
No one will have an ‘F’ either.
That’s because the schools this year have begun to use a new system of grading for Grades 4 and 5 – a system that has been in place at the lower grades for more than a decade. It’s also a system that Supt. Dianne Kelly said she would like to see implemented over time to every grade.
The system is called the standards-based report card, and Kelly said they implemented that kind of grading system about 15 years ago in Grades K-2. The system dispatches with the traditional A, B, C, D and F grading system, and brings what Kelly said is a more informative system.
She said a student can bring home a ‘B –,’ but it doesn’t explain to the student or parent what the student did well and what they need help with. The standards-based report card grades on concepts rather than an overall letter grade.
“This comes from a question we have been asking ourselves in terms of what belongs in a grade,” said Kelly. “That B-minus could be because you did good on four tests, but didn’t do several homework assignments. That B-minus could not tell you that. Some teachers will take a point off the grade because a student acted disruptive in class. This lets them know more about what the student is excelling in and what the student needs help in. It gives them two sets of grades, how they are doing on academics and how they are doing as a student.”
For the past three years, four groups of teachers have been studying the district’s grading policies and what they should convey. The program now unveiled in Grades 4 and 5 come out of that study, which is continuing.
Instead of letter grades, they’ll be graded on concepts, like ‘Recognizes and analyzes patterns.’ The students will be marked as to whether they understand the concept or whether they need improvement on the concept.
“The standard letter grade cannot tell the student or the caregiver what it is that is understood and where more help is required,” she said.
In addition, Grades 6 and 9 are entering a pilot where they will be graded with a standards-based system called ‘Habits of Work.’ That will measure how students are doing adhering to school rules, school values, being a self-starter, working cooperatively, etc.
“It’s not extremely new, but it’s a big shift for parents, kids and caregivers,” said Kelly. “As unhelpful as a B-minus might be to understanding what a student knows and does not know, everyone knows what that letter grade means. That’s why we think it will be a big shift for parents and we’re trying to get the word out.”
So far, they have had meetings at most every school, but they haven’t been well attended. Kelly said they are ready to explain to parents and students who might be confused with the system.
Ultimately, however, it’s a system that Kelly said they want to eventually roll out districtwide, as they think it is more helpful to students than the letter grade system.
“Ultimately it would be a goal to have this system throughout the district,” she said. “That’s going to be some time away in the future…We’re starting to do the work at the high school and it’s helpful to kids, but that’s even more of a shift at the high school level. We have to figure out how that will work for kids applying to colleges and what grades colleges would be looking for.”