"Grading is not an exact science."- Judge DavisOctober 25, 2007
As we move into our second year with a new report card, my staff felt it was important we continue to dialogue with parents about our new report card. There are several key points I would like to discuss to help you understand this tool and the tremendous value it has for you as a parent to monitor your child’s journey towards specific grade level standards from year to year.
Before we even enter into specifics about this report card, I want to illustrate a point about why standards are important. The best way I can explain is to use a restaurant as an example. When you go to a restaurant you need to feel confident there are established standards for healthy handling of food, rigorous hand washing, foods stored and cooked at proper temperatures, certified inspectors regularly check the facilities, food preparation is thoughtful and done with care and sometimes with flair. When you pay a visit to the restaurant next door should the standards be different? I sure hope not, otherwise our health, overall experience and personal safety will be in jeopardy of being compromised and none of us want that for our family or ourselves.
At every grade level New York State has developed learning standards and specific learning benchmarks and competency levels students should be able to demonstrate in reading, writing and math. Teachers are accountable for knowing these standards and using them to guide their instruction, but more importantly assess each child’s learning and journey as they demonstrate mastery through work samples and teacher observation. My point is that learning standards are about the health and safety of your child as they move through grade levels in our school or another school in our district or somewhere else in New York State. Without standards how would we ensure your child gets the same education and body of knowledge in teacher A’s classroom vs. teacher B’s. Learning standards are the health and safety piece that ensures all students receive access to rigorous and attainable learning goals.
Our report card gives you a road map of the standards your child is working on at each grade level. At first glance you may feel it looks a little overwhelming or dense. As a parent your first reaction may be to skip to the narrative portion and find out what your child’s teacher has to say about your child. What ever you choose to do is up to you. However, this report card gives you an opportunity to look closely at the grade level requirements and your child’s journey towards doing independent work. Should your child have I’s in every area? Absolutely not, every child reaches independence on a different day at a different time, or quite possibly a different year. The expectation with standards is it’s a journey not a race. A first grader doesn’t have to have all I’s to move on to second grade. The way we teach today allows for teachers to use this information to meet the student where they are at in their learning and move them along accordingly.
Another illustration of the use of number grades is the old goose egg. I remember getting a zero on top of my paper in red pen. Is there anything more devastating as a child than to see that on top of your paper for not completing work or doing poorly on a test? The purpose of assessing students is not to scold a child or mark a child’s paper with red pen and put a number or letter at the top. The purpose of assessing and the report card are to see if your child is learning and then to teach them in the areas they need further assistance. Grading should not be punitive. In our school there are no zeros for not completing work or assignments. The consequence for not doing work is the child needs to do the work, not get a zero.
I hope this helps you to gain knowledge of how this report card can help you understand your child’s learning. Its purpose is to raise your awareness about your child’s learning. It is also intended to create dialogue between you and your child’s teacher. If you are unclear about any of the language on the report card or need ideas to help your child, please call or e-mail your child’s teacher. Communication between you and your child’s teacher is imperative to ensure success.
We will have a couple open forum meetings to illustrate how the report card is used. Please come to learn more, I promise we will feed you and try to entertain you in some way to make it worth your time.
In closing, you and your child are our customers and the reason we are here everyday. Please feel free to ask us the hard questions about your child’s learning and how we facilitate your child’s growth as a learner and quality human being, who will be prepared for a fast and ever changing world.