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5 Louisville Elementary Schools Challenge What Report Cards Look Like

Thomas Galvez/Creative Commons
Thomas Galvez/Creative Commons
Thomas Galvez/Creative Commons

What does an A on a report card represent?

For most students it's a mix of homework assignments, class participation, projects, maybe even a little extra credit. But if a student doesn't complete his or her homework but can master the material, what grade does that student deserve?

Principals in five Jefferson County public elementary schools are experimenting with standards-based reporting—in addition to traditional report cards—to help answer this question. The experiment maybe change the way letter grades are granted in the school system.

It's an attempt to give parents and students a clearer picture of whether that student is meeting the individual standards—such as adding whole numbers—necessary for the next step, whether that means moving on to the next standards or grade level.

“We want to be able to really be specific for the children and their parents about which standards they met,” said Lynley Schoering, principal at Luhr Elementary School.

As WFPL previously reported, some JCPS schools, like the Brown School, have already tinkered with standards-based report cards. This could change which students are successful. But it requires buy-in from teachers and parents, said Brown English teacher Deidre Grassi.

“Traditionally, their student has been an A student because they've done all the work and turned it in on time. Now with standards-based [grading], they might be a C or D student because they’re not hitting that standard at the level that we have," Grassi said.

Showing Students What Standards Are Being Met

Luhr Elementary elected to pilot standards-based reporting with 5th graders for now, said Schoering. (One kindergarten teacher has also jumped on board).

So, in addition to a traditional report card, fifth graders' parents or guardians will also be sent home a list of the specific standards that the student is being measured on for that grading period. The teacher assigns a number to that specific standard, based on a rubric. A 4 means they exceeded the standard; 3 means they met the standard; 2 means they're progressing toward standard and 1 means a lot of support is needed, said Schoering.

“It’s good information for parents that need it, that want it, that are ready to ask those kind of questions: What can I do at home?” she said.

Schoering acknowledges that not every parent will use the information to assist their child. She also doesn't expect percentage and letter grading to go away any time soon. (So for those who like seeing straight As, no need to worry).

Instead, Schoering uses standards-based reporting as a supplement to the traditional report cards.

“We believe this is the right thing to do,” she said.

Standards-Based Grading 'Very Far Off'

Karen Branham, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for JCPS, has been working with the five pilot elementary schools: Luhr, Shelby, Greenwood, Laukhuf, Brecken-Ridge Franklin.

The district is currently trying to create a bridge or transition plan for those schools using traditional grading practices but which want to move to standards-based reporting or grading, she said.

“More and more of our schools are experimenting with standards-based grading," said Branham.

One obstacle is the state's online system Infinite Campus—which communicates grades, attendance, assignments and other information to parents. It does not have the ability to plug this information about specific standards into its database, said Branham.

So, schools are figuring it out on their own, she said.

And some schools are working independently of the district. For example, Moore Middle School, Waggener High School, said Branham. Jeffersontown High School principal Marty Polio has "broken the barrier" and is leading the pack in standards-based grading, getting approval from the School-Based Decision Making Council, she said.

Because JCPS is such a large district, moving to more standards-based reporting is going to take time, said Branham. That's why the information being sent home to parents at the pilot schools is an addendum to the traditional report cards, she said.

Standards-based grading and reporting not only requires teacher and parent buy-in, but the state’s KEES (Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship) college money that students compete for is also based on traditional grade point averages.

Branham thinks that moving entirely to standards-based grading is still "very far off," maybe four to five years at least to get the gears in motion, she said.

But next year JCPS hopes to expand its pilot program to more elementary schools and perhaps some middle schools, she said.

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