Tuesday, June 05, 2012

TOP STORY >> PCSSD: Letter grades archaic

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District elementary report cards could look a lot different this fall.

District officials are tweaking a proposed policy that would do away with traditional letter grades — A, B, C, D and F — for a much more detailed report that includes 4s, 3s, 2s and 1s.

“We want parents to know exactly where their child is at,” said Dr. Linda Remele, deputy superintendent for learning services.

The change comes in conjunction with a new way of teaching. The district, like many in the state, will begin using the Common Core method of teaching at the elementary level, which is more student centered and focused on going deeper into reading, language and math.

Arkansas is one of about 25 states, which includes about 25 million students, making the change.

All are part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a consortium of states working together to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math.

The goal is to prepare students for college and careers.

Teachers and students in kindergarten through second- grade switched to common core last school year and third- through fifth-graders are making the change this coming school year and most teachers are receiving training during the summer.

The new report cards, rather than just listing subjects and letter grades, will list topics and under that will be 12 to 15 objectives or skills, and each of those will have a numerical score from four to one.

A four means the student is above grade level on that skill; a three means the student is at grade level; a two is “approaching” grade level, and a one means the student doesn’t grasp the skill.

“This new report card will have a lot more information in it for the parent, and report cards will be grade specific. The skills listed under reading for first-grade will be different than those listed under third- or fifth-grade,” Remele said.

Reading, language and math will have a number of different skills listed, while science, social studies, PE, music and art will have just two skills listed: one for comprehension and one for participation.

Remele said the district invited parents from all 23 of the district’s elementary schools to a meeting last month to discuss the proposed report card changes.

“We had a good turnout, good input and made a number of major changes based on what the parents told us,” Remele explained.

On June 12, the proposal will be given to Dr. Tom Kimbrell, the state’s education commissioner who is also the district’s acting school board. “We should know something for sure by the end of the month,” Remele said.

She said the district would hold meetings at each elementary school the fall.

“The meetings won’t be in conjunction with the open houses, but be dedicated meetings just to explain the report cards and will meet with teachers and parents at each grade level as each will be different.”

Remele said the report card itself will go from a one-page single-sided report to a one-page double-sided report, plus number pages explaining each skill and what the numerical scoring or grading means.