ELMHURST – Students at all Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 elementary schools will soon join their Hawthorne and Field peers in being evaluated through standards-based reporting instead of letter grades.
The district began piloting standards-based reporting at Hawthorne Elementary School and Field Elementary School in fall 2017. Next school year, all elementary schools in the district, which are currently using a letter grade system for their student progress reports, will use this form of grading, which is a number-based system that focuses on proficiencies.
Mary Henderson, assistant superintendent for learning and leadership development for the district, presented on standards-based reporting progress and plans within the district at the Jan. 9 Board of Education meeting, along with various faculty and staff members from Field and Hawthorne.
"Our current progress report is not aligned to any sort of standards, nor is it aligned to our current district curriculum," Henderson said.
Eureka Math, for example, is a standards-based math program.
Henderson added the current grading system at the schools that have not employed standards-based reporting trains students to focus on earning a grade instead of learning all the essential content for the course, and it does not take into account that students learn at different rates. In standards-based reporting, students have additional opportunities to show their learning, Henderson said.
Valerie Baxter, a fourth-grade teacher at Field, said there are eight to 10 descriptors in math and eight to 10 descriptors in literacy the teachers use to assess students. Last year, the students received letter grades.
"As teachers, we spend a lot of time working on understanding those descriptors, building proficiency scales and making sure we're assessing each of those standards and the content matches what we're supposed to be working on for that semester," Baxter said.
She said she and her students have had numerous conversations about the shift in grading, the learning continuum and the mearning of proficiency.
"They have a better idea of what they're doing, how they're doing and what they can do to do more and do better," Baxter said.
Anne Perrone, a first-grade teacher at Hawthorne, said students in her class have been able to self-assesss and justify what proficiencies they have reached and determine what they need to improve on.
"Using the proficiency scales has allowed my first-graders to have meaningful academic discussions that drive their learning," Perrone said.
Henderson highlighted findings from a survey that 89 parents participated in after the first trimester. She said half the parents who responded to the survey strongly agreed or agreed the standards-based report card gave them sufficient information about their child's academic performance, while 38 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed on that measure.
Next year, there will be professional learning for sixth grade, in addition to the rollout of standards-based reporting for kindergarten through fifth grade at the district's elementary schools. In the 2019-20 school year, standards-based reporting will be implemented at the sixth-grade level, and there will be professional learning for seventh grade. This process of adding one grade in the year following professional learning will continue through the 2021-22 school year.
There will be ongoing implementation through various high school courses, Henderson said.