Wilfred Volesky: New report cards in Mandan elementary schools
In 2001, the federal government passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires individual states to develop grade level expectations (standards and benchmarks) for each subject area. Schools are held accountable for how well each student learns the standards and benchmarks in the core subject areas of math, reading, and science. Teachers plan instruction and interventions, including acceleration, based on student data in order to meet each student’s individual needs.
In Mandan, standards based classrooms focus on five essential questions:
1. What do we want students to know and be able to do?
2. How will we know if each student has met the grade level expectation?
3. How can we best teach the standards to our students?
4. How will we respond when students experience difficulty in learning the standards?
5. What will we do if students already know the grade level standards?
Next fall, the Mandan School District will join hundreds of other school districts across the nation in using a “Standards Based Report Card.” Mandan’s transition to the standards based report card will begin in grades K-2, during the 2011-2012 school year. The reason the district is making the change to a standards based report card is to give parents better information about how well their child is performing in school.
In Mandan Public Schools, we believe parents have the right to expect the educational experience that their child receives will be similar regardless of who their teacher may be or which elementary school they attend. We believe students should be evaluated on their individual progress toward achieving the set standards and skills in their grade level.
Frequently Asked Questions about Standards Based Report Cards
What was the problem with the old report card?
The old report cards did not measure how well the student was doing in relationship to the grade level standards, but rather they reported the average of the grades the individual teacher chose to record in the reporting period. We have great teachers in Mandan with sound professional judgment; however, this process was very subjective. Decisions about which assignments were graded and which assignments were considered practice weren’t consistent from classroom to classroom. These decisions potentially could have made a difference in the grade a student received on their report card.
Why make this change now?
At the heart of this change is the belief by Mandan Public Schools that reporting proficiency on standards and benchmarks gives the most meaningful picture of student learning. It compares the student performance against a set of standards. It does not compare the student’s performance against the performance of other students. The student is rated on a continuum of performance as it relates to the standards. It is not an average of the student’s graded assignments.
What are standards and benchmarks?
Standards and benchmarks identify the essential knowledge and skills that should be taught and learned in school. They define what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Standards and benchmarks provide the structure for our local curriculum.
Why are all the North Dakota State Benchmarks not listed for language arts and math?
A standards based report card is not the same as a list of standards and benchmarks. The MPS teachers at each grade level, K-2, formed a committee to develop a report card to address the standards deemed most important to our student’s successful learning both in the student’s present grade level and as a prerequisite for future learning.
A complete list of the ND standards and benchmarks can be found at the following website: dpi.state.nd.us/standard/content.shtm
How does a teacher evaluate a child’s performance?
In a standards based classroom, the focus is on giving students multiple opportunities to demonstrate what they know, not simply the grading and averaging of homework and tests. Teachers collect evidence of a child’s achievement on clear learning targets through careful observations, the examination of student work, discussions, projects, performance tasks, quizzes and tests. Teachers record information about a child’s progress on a frequent basis, analyze and compile that information, and finally use the data to evaluate each child’s progress toward the learning targets.
How are students “graded” on a standards based report card?
Students will be given multiple opportunities to demonstrate their proficiency level each reporting period. The following reporting code will be used:
4 (Advanced) = Student consistently excels in demonstrating proficiency with this skill 3 (Proficient) = Student demonstrates this skill independently 2 (Partially Proficient) = Student demonstrates this skill with assistance, but is not consistent
1 (Novice) = Student is beginning to demonstrate this skill but more practice is needed.
If a concept has just been introduced, it is acceptable for a student to be receiving a 1 or 2. The standard and benchmarks being assessed on the report card list the end of the year expectation. It is very likely that students will not be proficient or advanced early in the school year.
Can “Advanced” translate into an A grade, “Proficient into a B grade, etc….?
No, performance is evaluated against a set standard or benchmark. Historically, letter grades have been based on a percentage of questions answered correctly on homework assignments, quizzes, and tests. These letter grades did not measure a student against a set standard.
We realize that in order for Mandan Public Schools to successfully transition to a standards based report card we will need to communicate this change effectively to parents. Next fall we will be sharing more information with parents about the transition to standards based report cards at back to school nights and PTO meetings, to ensure a smooth transition. If you have any questions or concerns about standards based report cards, please feel free to contact either Mike Bitz or myself at 751-6500 or via email at Wilfred.Volesky@msd1.org or Mike.Bitz@msd1.org.