For elementary students in Kannapolis City Schools, the first report card of the year will have more than just a different look.The school system has moved to standards-based grading in kindergarten through fourth grade at all five of the district’s elementary schools. The new grading system aligns with the N.C. Standard Course of Study for reading, math, writing, science and social studies, school system officials say. Administrators believe it’s more consistent reporting, based on students’ level of mastery rather than on grade percentages and traditional letter grades. Cabarrus County Schools piloted a similar system last year for kindergarten through second grade at eight elementary schools. This year the grading system has been applied to all 19 elementary schools.“We’ve had positive feedback from parents, because they say they get specific info about their student’s progress,” said Tara Nattrass, director of elementary education for Cabarrus County Schools.Annie Parker, curriculum and instructional coach for the Kannapolis City Schools, led a committee of administrators, teachers and parents to evaluate grading consistency and set standards of measurement.“Two years ago we took a look at the elementary schools in the district and started evaluating (grading) consistency,” said Parker. “We were not consistent across the district.“When we dug further, we wondered, ‘Do we really know what our children know?’”Rather than relying on an average of test and work scores, the standards-based grading system measures progress toward quarterly goals. Students receive grades of E, M, P or L, which indicate whether they are exceeding, meeting, progressing toward or showing limited progress toward quarterly expectations on concepts and skills.The system also measures non-subject-related skills, including whether the student uses critical thinking, is able to set goals, works to solve problems and is an effective communicator.“One thing we’re proud of is that the standard is a year-long standard,” said Parker. “We break it up by quarter and where a student should be at the quarter mark.… It will help identify students who are struggling.”Administrators in the Kannapolis City Schools plan to extend the new system to fifth and sixth grades in 2014.“Our intent is to scaffold it up into the higher grades over time,” Parker said. “The philosophy is the same, but it may look different to reflect the type of information colleges generally expect on applications. “This is an organic thing. It’s a work in progress, and we may have to tweak some things.” The Kannapolis school system has an extensive section online that answers the most frequently asked questions about standards-based grading. To learn more, visit www.kannapolis.K12.nc.us.
Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
Kannapolis schools launch new grading system
Carole Howell is a freelance writer. If you have a story idea, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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