Why did the district change to a new report card system?
It is the goal at the elementary level to share as much information in a clear manner with parents so parents can learn about the strengths and needs of their child’s academic and behavioral achievement at school. The new report card and grading system allows parents to see where in the process their child is with various skills and concepts: Is the child demonstrating complete understanding of the skill and is he able to demonstrate the skill independently? Is the child demonstrating the skill but with additional support or extra practice? Is the student in the process of learning the skill, but is not yet able to perform the skill independently?

Why didn’t the district wait a year to implement this new grading system?
After many discussions with the grading and assessment committee about when to implement, the decision was made to begin this year. By doing this, we are able to refine and immediately consider all concerns that arise, so that we will have a very good process in place for the 2012-2013 school year.

Why didn’t the district start with one grade level and implement a year at a time?
This option was also discussed. However, if we had implemented this new system one grade at a time, it would take six years to become fully implemented. It was decided that six years was too long to wait for the new grading system to be put in place.

Why are we no longer using percentages or letter grades?
Using percentages does not allow for a clear communication of the student’s expected performance on each assessment. To say a student got a “9 out of 10” on an assignment does not tell you what skills he/she has mastered or which still need additional support to master. By using rubrics, work samples, and assessments, the teacher has the ability to continually reteach and support a student until he/she has become proficient, earning a 3, on that specific skill.

How are we helping students to understand that a 3 is the goal?
Teachers have been sharing assignment results with the students since the beginning of the school year. Students have had the grading system explained to them to ensure that they understand that a 3 is the expected level of achievement. They also understand the difference between each score: 1, 2, 3, and 3+.

Why does the report card have a 3+, if a 3 is the true goal for our child?
A 3 is the expected goal for all students which shows that the student has a complete understanding of the skills presented on an assignment. However, at times, a student may far exceed the grade level expectation of a 3. The 3+ allows teachers to report advanced understanding to the parent. We are always trying to challenge our students, and having the 3+ provides this additional challenge when necessary. However, it must be repeated that a 3 is what we are striving for, as the goal, on all skills for all students.

What does a 3 really mean?
A 3 means that a student has a complete understanding of the skills presented on an assignment. When presented on the report card, it means that the student demonstrates an understanding of all the skills presented during that marking period. The student is able to perform these skills independently.

How can my child earn a 3+?
Our goal for our students is to achieve a score of a 3, demonstrating that they are proficient on that skill or concept. In math, many grade levels have added advanced problems to their assessments to give students an opportunity to demonstrate that they excel in this area. In spelling, students may earn a 3+ when they are able to spell words that are not words from the weekly spelling list, but that follow the same pattern as words studied during the week. In some cases, a student may not be able to earn a 3+ due to the type of skills. This may happen with a skill such as alphabet letter or site word recognition.

What happens if my child is not meeting the expectation of a 3?
If a student has not yet met the requirements for a 3, that means that he/she needs additional support from the teacher to reach the goal. This support may include reteaching, additional practice, additional time, small group support, individual support, etc.

Is it okay for my child to get a 2?
Getting a 2 means that a student is progressing toward meeting expectations, but he/she still needs additional support and practice to perform the skill independently. Sometimes it is a matter of time before certain skills/concepts “click” in with students. Other times, it is a matter of providing reteaching opportunities for the student. Please remember, the first time a skill/concept is taught and assessed, some students may not get it consistently.

What are the criteria for a 3+, 3, 2, 1?
Teachers at each grade level have been working together since the summer and throughout the school year to establish the criteria for the numeric grade in each subject area. This is still a work in progress. However, the following types of scoring criteria are being used to date: reading anthology assessments, math common assessments, writing prompts, running records to determine students’ reading levels, and teacher observation during small or whole group instruction.

Are the criteria for a 3+, 3, 2, 1 the same at each grade level?
The criteria may not be the same at each grade level. However, teachers from the same grade level across the elementary have been working together to determine the criteria for a 3+, 3, 2, 1 in the various subject areas. This will help us to be consistent across the grade level and across buildings, using similar assessments and grading tools. Due to subject difficulty and variables at each grade level, it is not possible to have the exact same criteria from one grade level to the next.

Will the same grading system and report card be used for a student who receives learning support services?
Yes. The report card of special education students will look exactly like all students’ report cards. A student receiving special education will also receive a copy of his/her IEP goal progress monitoring each marking period.

What do the teachers use to determine report card grades?
Teachers use a variety of assessment tools to determine grades. These tools include reading anthology assessments, math common assessments, writing prompts, running records to determine students’ reading levels, scoring rubrics, and teacher observation during small or whole group instruction.

Why is my child’s reading level listed on the report card?
The report card is shared with students and parents to communicate as much information as possible to help you understand the strengths and areas of need that your child has. By providing the reading level, parents are able to see the span of reading levels for each grade level, and see what level their child is currently reading. Parents can help at home to improve their child’s reading by working as a team with their child’s teacher. Specific suggestions may be provided by the teacher to strengthen the child’s reading, such as reading together each night, asking the child to recall questions to check understanding, having the child retell what he/she has read, search for word chunks if stuck on a word, use context clues to help with unknown words, etc. It is a true team approach to improve a student’s reading.

How will the middle school or other districts know what the report card means?
The changes to the report card have actually made it clearer for other schools and levels to know the strengths and needs of each student. In addition, teachers at the middle school and high school at South Western School District were members of the grading and assessment committee and were a part of all the discussions related to the report card and grading changes. Other secondary teachers have had information about the report card and grading system shared with them, so they have an awareness of the new system, as well. Other school districts will be receiving a summary sheet with the report card for a thorough explanation of the grading system, as well.

What is "Capping"? How does it affect my child?
Capping is a term used to describe the process used when a student is reading a year above grade level expectations for that marking period. Students who are fluently reading with successful comprehension one year above grade level, will be provided with an opportunity to be assessed in their understanding of vocabulary and in their ability to express their thoughts in writing at that reading level. This additional data provides the classroom teacher with information about how to teach the student in all areas of his/her literacy development. the capping process helps to ensure that students have a depth and breadth of literacy skills, and are not passing through to higher levels based only on their ability to read well orally and to respond to comprehension questions. Teachers will use the assessment information from the capping process to better address these advanced readers to ensure their success at subsequent higher reading levels. They will continue to conduct on-going less formal assessments so as to continue to advance students in their reading, writing, and vocabulary instruction as they are showing mastery at their level. All students, including these advanced "capped" readers, may move on to higher reading levels for guided reading instruction between assessment periods.