Young students get new grading scale By PAMELA GOULD

Parents of early elementary students in Spotsylvania County shouldn’t be shocked next year when their children don’t make excellent or satisfactory progress.

It’s not that the county school division predicts that years of staffing cuts will suddenly prompt a nose-dive in student learning.

It’s that Spotsylvania is implementing a new evaluation system for kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders that relies on numbers.

The School Board on Monday unanimously approved a new report card that is geared toward providing better communication to parents about how their early elementary children are doing in the classroom.

The new report cards will be put in place for the 2012–13 school year and will use a 4-point numeric scale to more precisely convey how a student is progressing academically.

The cards will still have space for teachers to make additional comments but will be standards-based, meaning students will be evaluated against a standard for all areas of academic proficiency, according to Carol Flenard, the division’s executive director of instruction.

The current report card uses three letters for feedback: “E” for excellent progress, “S” for satisfactory progress or “T” for time needed to develop.

A committee of parents, administrators and teachers came up with the new report card after a year of work that included researching tools in place at divisions across the country, Flenard said. The new card also reflects current research on instructional practices and the best means for communicating information to parents about how their children are doing in the classroom.

She did not know if other schools in the region may have already begun using a similar report card.

With Spotsylvania’s new report card’s numeral-based evaluation, a “1” means a student’s performance is below the standard and the child needs a lot of support from the teacher.

A “4” means the student’s performance exceeds the standard and the child consistently does outstanding work independently.

Board Chairwoman Linda Wieland, who retired from the division after a career as a second-grade teacher, said when the proposal was presented this month that she was glad to see an update to the report card for this age group.

She especially liked the idea of including the division’s mission and vision statements on the new report cards.

The vision is to provide a “premier education  in a positive, collaborative environment with high levels of community engagement.”

The mission is to “prepare all students to excel in a dynamic global society.”

A three-letter evaluation won’t be completely abolished with the new report card.

Work and social habits of students will be judged as meeting the standard most of the time (“M”),  some of the time (“S”) or not at this time (“N”).

Currently, teachers use a plus (+), minus (-) or check mark for those categories.

“Work habits” include things such as using time wisely, following directions and asking for help when appropriate.

“Social habits” include things such as demonstrating physical control, interacting well with others and accepting responsibility for actions.

Monday night, board member Bill Blaine said he likes the new report card but is concerned whether parents will understand what it seeks to explain.

School division spokeswoman Rene Daniels said Monday that the division will be investing efforts in educating parents about the change before it goes into effect.

In addition to better communicating progress, the new report cards have the advantages of being produced electronically and accessible to parents electronically through the division’s “PASS” system.

Board member Dawn Shelley, who was a Ni River Middle School teacher when she was elected to the board, said earlier this month that teachers will like that the new cards can be filled out from home.

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