YORK — Parents of York students from prekindergarten to fourth grade will get report cards next month that reflect how well children have mastered academic standards — rather than assigning numerical or letter grades.
The move to standards-based grading for the youngest students is linked to the move toward Common Core standards, a project that attempts to standardize curriculum nationally.
“We’re focusing on the learning,” said Patricia Allen, York schools’ director of elementary programs. “For elementary and early childhood students, I think it’s very important that we begin helping them set their goals on learning.”
Allen said the change to standards-based grading is for math and English language arts for students in pre-kindergarten to fourth grade. Science and social studies are not included, she said, because the schools are using the South Carolina standards for those subjects.
Students in fifth grade and older, she said, are not included in the switch to standards-based grading. They will continue to receive grades scaled from A to F.
Allen said the first nine-week report cards issued by York schools in the third week of October will list each Common Core standard for the student’s grade in math and English language arts.
It will indicate whether the student consistently exceeds the standard (E), is consistently proficient (P), is moving to consistently demonstrating the standard but is not there yet (NY) or has not consistently demonstrated the standard (U). Standards that are not yet ready to be assessed by the teacher will be left blank, she said.
Clover last year began a standards-based report card for first- and second-grade students in science and social studies only, although that change wasn’t linked to the switch to Common Core.
Pam Cato, Clover’s director of elementary education, said Clover made the change to clarify report card grades that included only excellent (E), satisfactory (S) and needs improvement. (N). She said they did not make the change for English and math because they wanted to better understand the Common Core standards before making the change.
“Since the Common Core is new for math and ELA, we wanted to make sure that if we developed something, we wouldn’t be changing in the next year or so,” she said. Cato said Clover might eventually make that change, too.
York’s Allen said the Common Core standards are specific, and they vary by grade level, so parents can see a more accurate picture of their child’s strengths and weaknesses.
“An average doesn’t really give a true picture” of how well a student is doing, she said.
Under the current grading system, children from prekindergarten to first grade receive assessments of satisfactory (S) and unsatisfactory, (U) for each subject area. Beginning in second grade, children receive grades on a scale from A to F for each subject.
Jennifer Bolin, principal of Cotton Belt Elementary School in York, said the standards-based grading will help schools give students more individual instruction “because we’re going to know exactly what they need.”
Jane Wallace, principal of Jefferson Elementary School, said principals at each school are in the process of informing parents about the coming change by hosting meetings. All parents also will receive a letter, she said.
When the report cards are issued in October, Wallace said, teachers will make an effort to set up a meeting with each parent — or at least a phone call — to deliver the report card and explain its meaning.
Wallace said the grading change means teachers “are ultimately going to know their children way better than they ever have before. Does this force our teachers to do things differently? It certainly does.”
Allen agreed. “It will be pretty much real-time assessment,” she said. “Teachers will know if we’re not yet there, then we’re going to provide a little more time and a little extra help so at the end of the year, we can be at a level of proficiency.”