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No letter grades in math on new D-200 report card

Published: Monday, July 22, 2013 3:56 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:47 a.m. CST

Starting this fall, elementary students in Community Unit School District 200 will no longer receive letter grades in math.

The district recently unveiled its new elementary school math report card, which is designed to reflect changes related to the new Common Core Standards.

While traditional letter grades will be given for other subjects, such as history and science, elementary math students will instead be assessed based on mastery of skills.

The shift comes alongside a switch to trimesters to give more time for students to meet the standards, as well as changes to learner characteristics on report cards.

"The biggest change is, of course, how we report grades," said Faith Dahlquist, assistant superintendent of educational services for D-200. "We will have very specific math skills that students will be required to know."

Standards range from counting to 31 by ones for kindergartners to multiplying and dividing fractions for fifth graders. From fourth and fifth grade to seventh grade, students will receive both letter grades and standards assessments.

The same practice will be applied next year for language arts, Dahlquist said.

The change represents a shift in how the district evaluates student progress, Dahlquist said. Under the new system, students who struggle to grasp concepts initially, but eventually come to understand them, won't see lower grades due to poor performance on early tests.

"We're giving an opportunity for kids to improve. It's not about when they got the concept, just that they understood it," she said.

Dahlquist said that the district anticipated implementing individualized "interventions" during the school year to identify problem areas with students. That way, she said, teachers, parents and students would have time to fill the learning gaps before the end of the grading period. Those who grasp concepts quickly, said School Board President Barbara Intihar, will be given enrichment material.

Intihar said that the district's reaction to the program was mostly favorable.

"The only reservation we had were that this was a change. The change needs to be rolled out very well for parents and faculty, and they need to be given good resources," she said.

As a consequence of the shift, homework will be seen more as practice and reinforcement, rather than part of the overall grade. Still, Dahlquist said, homework completion will be among the assessments.

Having standards identified by district staff will help students stay motivated and understand what is expected of them, Dahlquist said.

"It's well established that the clearer you are with students about expectations, the better they do."

Intihar also said that, while it is unclear how the new standard-based grades will gauge teacher performance, it will help teachers improve.

"I think that anything that assesses student performance can be used to improve instruction," she said.

So far, the district has received mostly positive feedback on the system from parents and families, though Dahlquist said that once report cards are in hand, that may change. Elementary principals in the district will present the Common Core changes for parents at the Curriculum Night at the beginning of the year.

To learn more about the new report card or to see examples, visit http://www.cusd200.org/ and go to the "student learning" section.

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