CCPS explores big changes to elementary school grading system
— A committee of Cecil County Public Schools teachers and administrators has been working since September to explore potential changes to the way elementary school students are graded.
The elementary grading policy was updated about three years ago, but a lot has changed since then and the school system wants to make sure it’s keeping up with these changes, said Georgia Clark, executive director of elementary education.
“Since that time we’ve had curriculum updates, we’ve had changes in the way that we are instructing students, so we wanted to continue to be up to date with how we’re reporting out what our students know and understand,” she said.
The committee, which includes about 20 teachers, administrators, technical consultants and content specialists, is still in the exploratory and research stages, Clark said. Committee members are still reading various books on the subject of grading and have also administered two surveys, one to parents and one to teachers, she added.
Though Clark doesn’t have a definite timeline for when the committee will be ready to make a recommendation, it will likely take more than a year to complete.
Under the current system, depending on the subject, elementary school students receive either a letter grade or one of three descriptors: consistently evident (CE), developing (DEV) and having difficulty (HD). However, there are several different grading models out there, Clark said.
In the more traditional model, students receive one letter grade per subject area. A standards-based model, on the other hand, uses curriculum standards as a basis for communicating how well a student is doing and what they’re learning. So, for example, instead of a student receiving a C in math, they would receive a grade for a group of standards such as “interpreting products and quotients for whole numbers” and “describing a context for multiplication and division basic facts,” Clark said.
“So when a parent or student looks at that, they know exactly what they were studying at the time and what they were supposed to have achieved and learned,” she said.
Another difference between the two grading models is that grades in the traditional system are all weighed the same and then averaged together for the final grade. But this doesn’t show how a student may have improved over the course of a marking period, Clark said.
In a traditional grading model, a student who earns grades of D, D, C, C, B, A in a semester and a student who earns six Cs would both receive a C grade. But in the standards model, the first student would receive an “achieves standard” mark and the second student would receive an “approaching standard” mark, Clark said.
The committee hasn’t made any decisions on a grading model yet and still needs to review the survey results and determine what a pilot program for a new grading model would look like, Clark said.
Board of Education President Dawn Branch said she likes the direction the committee is going in and appreciates that a new grading model would allow parents and teachers to better communicate a student’s strengths and weaknesses.
Board member Lauren Camphausen also praised the committee’s philosophical approach, but was more wary about how parents would react.
“I think it will drive them absolutely bonkers because I think they’ll think that it’s way too subjective,” she said. “Even though we know the math doesn’t add up, there’s comfort in PowerSchool and seeing the grades and knowing exactly why it’s an A or a D and being able to figure that out. It doesn’t tell them anything about their kid’s learning, but it allows them to hold teachers accountable to being fair to their kid.”
Clark replied that the school system has looked into how a new grading model would affect PowerSchool, CCPS’ online portal, and said there’s a way to transfer a more standardsbased grading model into the system. But she did note that some school systems have a parent guide book for report cards that is more than 30 pages long, which is not a direction CCPS wants to go in.
Superintendent D’Ette Devine agreed with Camphausen that a new grading model would be an adjustment, which is why CCPS is moving slowly.
“It’s a shift. Therefore we will take it slowly, we’ll be methodical and have a communication plan and an implementation plan,” she said. “But we need to establish the groundwork. We need to understand first the philosophy in how a grading system will support us.”