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What Report Cards Look Like Under the Common Core State Standards

If you think about it, it makes sense.

Most of the country is embarking on using new educational standards, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These standards are vastly different from what most states were using, with the overall goal being to better prepare our students for the world of college and career.

The knowledge standards are roughly the same. There might be less of them, and they might be more rigorous and appear in a different order, but they still ask for the same basic skills. Students will still have to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Complete sentences are still required in language arts.

But moving things around wasn’t all that the CCSS did. It asks teachers to help change the way students interact with the knowledge. More collaboration. More critical thinking. More abstract ideas. In other words, concepts that are very hard to grade on a 0 to 100, A-F scale.

So, at least in a few districts and states so far, report cards are changing too.

What do they look like?

  • In Lincoln, Rhode Island, the report cards will be quite different from those many of us were used to. The appropriate standards will be listed for every grading period. Instead of As through Fs, each standard will be graded on a scale from 1-4, with 3 representing that the child is meeting the standard.
  • Allegheny Valley School District in Pennsylvania is considering a slow rollout of a similar report card approach, but using a letter system instead of numbers: E for exceeds, M for meets, P for progressing, and N for needs improvement.
  • West Chicago District 33 is also going to a standards-based system of grading, but they are including a system they call the Learning Feedback Skills Rubric. The rubric measures abstract and behavior-based skills like participation, work completion, overall behavior, and working with others to form a complete picture of the student’s experience in the classroom.

What do we want to accomplish?

The goal is for grades to no longer be punitive, as bad grades used to be, but rather to give parents an accurate representation of the progress the child is making toward the standard. Even if the child is stuck at 1 or 2 on a progress report, they still have a chance to make a 3 by the end of the trimester—catching up to higher-performing peers.

How do they do that? It’s not through extra credit or other stopgap measures to artificially boost a sagging grade. They just need to learn the skills. It might take one lesson or ten, but that’s the ultimate measure.

Leaders in Lincoln made a point of noting that behaviors important to learning, like listening and following directions, would still be accounted for, but also using the 4-point scale.

Parental adjustment

This will obviously be a period of adjustment for parents who are used to letter and 100-scale grades. Parents in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is not currently considering changing their report cards, are struggling with the new tests aligned to the Common Core, even though the tests are still in beta.

Parents are used to the up-and-down nature of grading. If a question is answered correctly, a student should get credit. Under the new tests (and, by extension, any new report card scheme), students have to explain their way of thinking. Remember, abstract concepts are also a part of the new standards. So a correct answer doesn’t necessarily mean credit is given.

Whatever the case, big changes are coming in how we assess student learning and report that progress to parents. Students have been graded in roughly the same way for the last 100 years of the formal education system.

Proponents say that these new systems of grading better reflect the current goals of education: does a student know what they are supposed to know at this time? No longer is progress measured by assignments completed, behavior, or any other inauthentic measure of classroom work.

Although it will take some adjustment, parents should see the value in this new system and how it more accurately represents student progress. When progress is measured accurately, the student can receive a more personalized educational experience

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