flag image
Beline Obeid
December 13, 2012
Elementary school parents expecting to see A's and B's on their child's report card last week were instead met with some combination of "ES," "MS," "AS," "CA," plus signs and apetails.

The combinations represent a child's learning progress measured against the new Michigan Common Core Standards and the Grosse Pointe Public School System's push toward a standards-based report card across the elementary level.

"Traditional grading does not tell the full story," GPPSS Director of Pre K-Elementary Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Technology Maureen Bur said during the November regular meeting of the Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education. "It reports the overall grade only. For example, it may give us a snapshot of a weekly spelling test. Behavior might be embedded into that. But, is that directed feedback for a student? For example, a student can ace a spelling test, but can they actually apply those spelling skills in their daily writing? What do students do versus what they know?"

In the age of 21st Century Learning, of critical thinking and real-world application versus memorization and end-of-unit tests, schools around the country have made the shift to standards-based grading.

Educators like Bur and others believe in the system, praising its adherence to setting clearer benchmark expectations and depth of understanding — for both student and parent — and aligning with the rigorous academic standards set forth by the state of Michigan Department of Education. Now, when a child receives an "MS" instead of an "A" or "B" it means he's meeting the standards, consistently and accurately demonstrating skills in that subject during that marking period.

That's not to say, Bur said, that traditional standards are completely extinct.

"The mechanisms and the information provided is still going to be as concrete, probably even more so because you're going to get more detailed information," Bur said. "As far as overall classroom performance, students are still taking the NWEA, students are still taking the MEAP assessments, there's still the common assessments of the end-of-the-unit, everyday math, the science FOSS and Delta assessments as well.

"They're going to provide a depth of information and specificity that I don't think we've ever provided before."

Bur said she and a team of teachers and administrators spent the past year developing the report cards, elements of which were already in use at the kindergarten to third grade levels, as well as in some high school classrooms.

The change to include fourth and fifth grades was necessary for that more detailed feedback across the board, and Monday night, Nov. 26, at the board meeting, the board majority agreed.

"I think this is moving in the right direction," said Brendan Walsh, board treasurer. "It is very student-centered at a time when we've got so much emphasis on testing and performance because it clearly articulates to a student, you're doing well in these areas, you're not doing as well here."

"Change is never comfortable, but I think we're moving in the right direction also, and I hope the community learns to embrace this," said Judy Gafa, board president.

To read the rest of the story, log in or subscribe to the Grosse Pointe News >>

Parkway 071317
Spectrum Pine Ridge Garfield
Ed Rinke Right