October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Schools ditch grades

SHEFFIELD LAKE – Not one second-grader has received an “A” so far this year at Tennyson and Knollwood elementary schools.

In fact, no one has received any B`s, C`s, D`s or F`s, either. Neither have the kindergarteners nor the first-graders.

That`s because teachers are using a new way to grade the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake school district`s youngest students this year, and, if deemed a success, the system could broaden to include third- through eighth-graders next fall.

Instead of letter grades, new “standards-driven” report cards are being used to report how the student is doing in specific areas of each subject.

The teacher reports how each student matches up against standards already prepared by the Ohio Department of Education, which tell what students should be proficient in at each grade level.
For example, a math teacher could write, “student is able to model fractions” as one of eight different lessons that the student was supposed to learn by the end of the year. Each subject would receive several messages about other lessons that the student is supposed to grasp.

“Under the old system, you might have an A, but that could be masking strengths or weaknesses that student might be having in that subject,” said Tennyson Elementary Principal Jason Call.

Elyria, Amherst, Avon and Avon Lake elementary schools also are using the system but are combining the messages with letter grades. Greg Ring, director of educational services with the Amherst Schools, said in the two years the system has been used, he`s found that parents still like to see A`s and B`s.

“It`s the best of both worlds,” Ring said. “You want to be able to tell them where their child is at in the whole area of language arts and reading, for example, but you still want to give them that benchmark.”
Students in Sheffield-Sheffield Lake also receive a grade based on where they are with each lesson: a BG means the teacher is just beginning the lesson, DV means the student`s knowledge in that lesson is developing. PR means the student is proficient in that lesson and N/A means the teacher has not covered that lesson yet.

The goal is to have each student receive a PR in each lesson on the final report card, Call said.
“This gives us a better idea of what the students are actually learning,” he said.
Report cards are sent out each quarter, and mid-term report cards are sent out four additional times, which means parents will have an idea about where their child is at every six and a half weeks. Call said that some parents have been having a difficult time adjusting to the new grades because they want to equate them with the old letter grades.

“They don`t really equate,” Call said. “They still want to think of proficient as ‘A,` but it`s not really like that.”

The district is still discussing whether to use a hybrid formula of letter grades and standards for the upper grade levels, and might implement the standards-based system at William Barr and Forestlawn elementaries, too, he said.

Elyria Schools has been using a similar system for the last six years in grades kindergarten through six, which the officials had devised for the district.

Superintendent Paul Rigda said parents still like to see that letter grade, but having the messages alongside it help them understand what their child is learning.

“Parents love it because it gives them academic information in terms of their child`s strengths, but they still like to see whether their child is an ‘A` student,” Rigda said.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.