BEACON FALLS — Elementary school students in Region 16 will no longer see any As on their report cards—or Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs for that matter.
The school district is switching to standards-based report cards for all elementary school students beginning this school year.
“The migration to standards-based report cards is a major shift in how we do business,” said Superintendent of Schools James Agostine during the Board of Education’s Aug. 17 meeting.
Students will no longer be graded using the traditional system in which grades were calculated by taking the average of a student’s scores over the trimester. Now, elementary students will be measured against national and state standards for subjects on a scale of 1 to 4.
Standards-based grading focuses on whether a student masters the concept they’re being taught, and doesn’t take into account past performances leading up to mastery of the concept.
Hypothetically speaking, Agostine explained, if a student scores 50 percent on nine math assessments then scores 100 on the tenth one that student has shown mastery of the concept and is scored appropriately on the scale of 1 to 4. The ten scores are not averaged out to equal a final grade for the trimester.
The new format doesn’t penalize a student for a delay in mastering a concept, Agostine said.
“If they master it by the end of the trimester, they show mastery,” Agostine said. “That’s the cultural shift.”
The change has been a goal of the school board. For the past two years, Laurel Ledge Elementary School Principal Regina Murzak led a committee, comprised of parents and faculty from each of the district’s three elementary schools, which worked to design the new standards-based report card system.
Murzak said the old way of grading didn’t really show where a student stood compared to national and state standards. Each number in the 1 to 4 scale equates to how a student measures against those standards.
Murzak explained a 1 means a student is not meeting the standard, a 2 means a student is approaching the standard, a 3 means a student is meeting the standards, and a 4 means a student is exceeding the standard. A 3, she said, is where the district expects students to be.
The new format, Murzak said, will give parents a more thorough knowledge of their child’s strengths and weaknesses. She added one of the most important aspects of standards-based report cards for people to understand is that the numbers do not equate to a grade like A or B.
With the impending change, school board Chair Donna Cullen asked what would happen if a student shows mastery of a concept on the first try.
School officials explained that as students progress through the year the standards are raised. So, if a student masters a concept on the first try they will have to meet rising standards.
The board also emphasized the need to ensure parents understand the new system.
“The parents all are brought up in the culture of A, B, C,” board member Robert Hiscox said.
Hiscox said the better parents understand the idea the better equipped they will be to help their children.
Murzak said school officials will be giving out information about the new standards-based report cards during each elementary schools’ open house night in September. Also, she said officials will hold a public workshop in Beacon Falls and Prospect following the open houses on the issue and will post instructions on how to decipher the new report cards on the school district’s website.
As the school district makes the change to standards-based report cards, it could be blazing a new educational path in the state.
Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of School Boards, said he hasn’t really heard too much about standards-based report cards and school districts in the state making the switch.
“I think it’s very interesting and I look forward to learning more about it,” he said.
Rader surmised that as education moves to more standards-based curriculum there’s a good chance other districts will follow similar paths as Region 16.
Connecticut Department of Education spokesman Mark Linabury said the state doesn’t keep statistics on Connecticut school districts that use standards-based report cards, which he felt add texture to the traditional report cards.
Linabury said this model may become more of an interest for school districts as more of an emphasis is placed on national and state standards and assessments so parents have a firmer picture of the academic success of their children.
Other cities in the country, like Denver, are already following this model, he said.
“I think it may become more common,” Linabury said
Murzak said she is proud to be a part of a forward-thinking district like Region 16.
“I think we’re ahead of the curve with this,” Murzak said.