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.”

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