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Editorial: Grading-scale expansion to help parents, students

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For generations, kids have brought home report cards, and their parents have puzzled over just what thegrades mean.

Even if they know their children’s classroom scores on assignments and tests, they still are unclear what the youngsters really know and, more importantly, what they ought to know.

The Clark-Pleasant school district is seeking to change that.

Parents can still expect to see the traditional A, B and C grades on students’ report cards, but over the next several years educators want to add to them. That likely will include creating more detailed grade reports and a numbered grading scale running from zero to four, showing students and their parents which math, English and other lessons the youngsters have and have not learned.

For example, when students get a B on a math test, their families can see that they understand how to multiply one- and two-digit numbers, but before they’ll be considered at grade level they need help learning to multiply three-digit numbers.

“This gets (students) focused on their achievement: ‘This is what I have to do to improve my learning.’ The feedback we’re able to give students is much more impactful,” director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.

Schools have started creating the new grading scales and more detailed grade reports, and are beginning to use them in kindergarten through fourth grade. Teachers also are creating similar grading scales and reports for fifth through 12th grade. Rains said some may be ready to use next school year, but teachers need time to create more detailed reports for higher grades.

Teachers at all Clark-Pleasant schools already meet throughout the school year to ensure that students are learning the same lessons at each building and that they’re being prepared for what they’ll be taught in the following grade. Rains said teachers now also are creating checklists of lessons that students need to have mastered before they’re considered ready to move on to the next grade.

So students taking world history at Whiteland Community High School might receive an 80 percent on their midterm, but they also would receive more detailed, individualized feedback on whether they need help mastering certain lessons, whether they’re on track to understand all of the course’s concepts on time or whether they’re working ahead of their classmates. Rains said that’s more valuable to students and families than a letter grade or a percent that otherwise has no context.

“If you’re able to show them where they are and what the next step is, they’re able to see what they need to work on,” Rains said.

He said the next step is for school officials to meet with parents and teachers to get their feedback.

Grades are an important barometer for students, their parents and teachers. Offering enhanced assessments is a solid step beyond traditional report cards. They will help everyone better measure how well students know material and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t know.

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