Feedback sought on report cards
Teachers can explain new grading system to parents
No news is good news with the lack of parent feedback about the transition to standards-based report cards at St. Mary’s public schools.
Audrey Ellis, Benjamin Banneker Elementary School principal, said at the Dec. 12 school board meeting third-graders received their inaugural standards-based report cards on Nov. 14. The newer style of report cards “are what’s best for kids and our community,” she said.
Ellis said “there have been very few questions related to the report cards” and school administrators are seeking feedback through surveys.
Of the 32 responses from a third-grade teacher survey, 71.9 percent said the newer style of report cards provided an accurate picture of student progress. 54.8 percent of teachers said they’ve received no feedback from parents, while another 25.8 percent said they were able to answer the few questions parents had. About 96.9 percent of teachers said they felt moderately or very supported during the transition process with professional development and time to plan with each other.
Of the 13 principals who responded to a different survey, 61.5 percent said they’ve received no parent feedback about the new report card style. Superintendent Scott Smith said there are currently 18 elementary school principals.
Ramsey estimated there are “between 60 and 64” third-grade teachers in county schools.
Jim Davis, school board member, asked if it was good or bad that parents had no feedback or questions about the transition. “I was thinking ‘that’s bad,’ but then I got to thinking ‘that’s good,’” he said.
“We always think the same thing,” said Beth Ramsey, Capt. Walter Francis Duke Elementary principal. She said staff have been available at parent information nights and will continue to be as questions crop up. She said, “Teachers are able to talk with confidence … about why this is best for that specific child.”
She continued, “If people were really concerned, we would hear more concerns.”
Karin Bailey, school board chairwoman, said with the new style of report cards there is less likelihood of teachers straying from the required standards while lesson planning.
Smith said teachers are working together to have a more unified way to present their students’ progress to parents. He said St. Mary’s schools are moving away from a style of teaching that may have been more acceptable 30 years ago where they “taught a lesson that they were comfortable with a resource that they enjoyed themselves, and created an assessment afterwards that may or may not have truly had any meaning.”
Bailey said some parents and teachers initially expressed frustration about the transition.
“It’s not that [teachers] weren’t teaching what they were supposed to teach, it’s just they weren’t aligning what their lessons were to the standards” to help create a report card, Bailey said.
The switch to a standards-based report card system is meant to focus on teaching the standards for each grade level, Ramsey said. Having narratives provides specific feedback to families about their child’s progress as well as more information about a child’s progress toward the Maryland College and Career Readiness standards required by the state, she said.
Prior to mandating the standards based report cards, teachers would assign an A through F letter grade, and optional coding linked to descriptions of skills accomplished. Staff have been working since 2015 to transition to the updated reporting, with this school year being the first that students received the newer style of report cards, she said.
“In the next two years, we’ll continue to roll it up to the fourth and fifth grade,” Ramsey said.
Along with the student specific narrative, another components of the newer style of report cards indicates “a level of command a student has demonstrated on an end-of-theyear goal,” Ramsey said, adding the narrative will note a child’s strengths, reading level, areas of academic growth and more “in parent friendly terms.” She noted that standards based report cards may differ slightly from school to school.
This school year, fourth grade teachers gathered “to prepare for the change next year,” she said. Information about the new reporting style was released in school based newsletters, parent information events and through the main schools’ website, she said.
See www.smcps.org/ dci/elemreportcard for more information.