Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

How are the New Elementary Progress Reports Different from the Old Report Cards?

The most obvious difference that you’ll see is that students in grades 3 through 5 will no longer receive “A” through “F” letter grades and younger children will no longer have the excellent/good/satisfactory/unsatisfactory scale. Instead, they will earn a score from 1 to 4 that indicates the progress that they have made during that quarter toward meeting certain benchmarks based on their individual instructional level—in other words, a score based on what they have demonstrated that they have learned.

A score of 3 indicates that the student has achieved the level of proficiency that was expected of her during that grading period. That is the target score for students. A score of 4 indicates that the student “shows strong understanding of key knowledge and skills, consistently applying them independently and creatively.”

The hope is that the new progress reports will convey more precise, detailed information to parents, and that they will better reflect the new curriculum and more closely match the instruction.  Indeed, the sample progress report that the PTA presidents had a chance to see last week has great detail about the specific skills that should be mastered during each quarter.  It also contains important information about the student’s current reading level and math instructional level. (Do you know your child’s Lexile score?  Ask them!)

Parents of children who are struggling to come up to grade level will get a clearer picture of how much progress their child is making—and still needs to make.  Say you have a 3rd grader who begins the school year reading at a 1st grade level.  The child makes terrific progress in 3rd grade and finishes the year reading at a level that’s appropriate for a 1st-semester 3rd grader.  The student is still not yet on grade level, but the new system can more fully recognize and reward the progress that was made than the old grade cards could. A student is likely to be more motivated by a 3 for making the progress that’s required of him than by a C or D because he is not at grade level.

The new design was created by a team of teachers from every elementary school who worked for 18 months and reviewed progress reports from all over the U.S. These teachers were getting feedback from their colleagues throughout the process. The two field tests that were conducted included parent focus groups from Community Lodgings and Brent Place.

My own concern about the new multi-page progress reports are that they are text-heavy.  Busy parents may not take the time to study the reports carefully, and parents who are only somewhat literate in their own language may be intimidated by them. Several school board members have suggested the possibility of a one-page “snapshot,” though that may defeat one of the purposes of the redesign—to help parents better understand the progress that their students have made and the distance that still needs to be covered.

Over the next few weeks, ACPS will be mailing postcards to the home, sending flyers in multiple languages through the Thursday packet, and posting information on the ACPS website. A two-page guide in four languages will be included with the first progress report. The progress reports themselves will be generated in the language that the parents selected on the student information form at the beginning of the year.

Also, by the end of the second quarter, elementary school parents will be able to use an online tool called Academic Access that’s already available to middle-school and high-school parents and students. Parents can use that to find their child’s most recent Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI), Scholastic Math Inventory (SMI), Criterion Reference Test (CRT) and SOL scores, as well as their progress report.

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Homework by any other name is still, well,…

I’ve heard from my own daughters and from a few parents that homework is no longer called homework in ACPS but is instead “out-of-class assignments.” The rumor mill has it that the reason for the name change was because there are homeless students in ACPS who are not able to work at “home.”

The real reason goes back to changes that were made in May to Policy IKB-1, “Course Assignments,” that were initiated by the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council at T.C. Williams. http://www.acps.k12.va.us/board/manual/ikb.pdf

According to Dr. Holmes, the changes require that assignments given to students be meaningful and connected to what is being taught in class. The assignments can be done at home, in after-school programming, in class, or sitting in a tree with wi-fi, but they must be very purposeful and meaningful, and not just a practice sheet that gets you credit if you merely complete it.

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