Sunday, July 8, 2007

Everyday Math and Report Cards

"As part of the implementation process, many Everyday Mathematics Schools have revised their report cards to bring them into better alignment with the curriculum. "

This is from the Everyday Mathematics webpage. Just think about this for a moment. Why should a school change their entire report card to align with the math curriculum? The website even posts samples of schools that did. Here are a couple:

New York sample report card- 3rd grade
Michigan sample report card - 3rd grade

"Schools have revised their report cards to bring them into better alignment with the curriculum." I highly suspect that my school is one of them. This past year they introduced a new grading system for grades 1-4. In fact, they had to publish a handbook to explain it all to parents.

The following is a description of grading criteria at our elementary school:

(S) Secure- Student consistently shows strong understanding of the concept and skill. (90-100%)*
(D) Developing- Student shows satisfactory understanding of the concept and skill. (70-89%)*
(B) Beginning- Student shows minimal understanding of the concept and skill. (69% or less)*
(N) Not Demonstrating- Student is not currently demonstrating this skill. (?)*
(N/A) Not Assessed- Skill is not being assessed during given marking period.

*The percentages are not included on report cards. I have included them here for some perspective. When parents wanted to know what this grading system meant in real terms, the answer was to come up with these ranges in which the lowest anyone receives is a "B".

Generally, a "minimum" is meant to indicate the very bottom limit to what can be considered acceptable. Webster's defines it as follows:

minimum adj : the least possible; "needed to enforce minimal standards"; "her grades were minimal"

In the case "her grades were minimal", it would appear that unless you score an "N" for "Not Demonstrating", you are meeting the minimum standards. As far as I am aware, the lowest grade assigned this year to any student was a "B" for "Beginning" which by definition still meets the "minimum" standard even though it's below 50%. The only point of having such a range there could possibly be is for everyone to meet the minimum standard. This is school reform at its very finest, folks.

I don't know, but that kind of a range has quite a bit of wiggle room, doesn't it? What's even more worrisome than such a loosey goosey assessment model is that the Everyday Mathematics publisher actually encourages schools to change their report card to fit their curriculum. They want loosey-goosey report cards where everyone meets the minimum standard, they suggest that schools should change the report cards, and schools do!

I had no idea publishers had this much influence in our schools.... did you?


Tony said...

I don't believe that the assessment system ought to change with every new curriculum implemented, but I do like that the idea of getting away from the bell-curve grading system. Are the ratings given out for each class or for individual skills within those classes? It would be nice to know exactly what skills need improvement, so that as a parent you could focus on them.

Founder said...

I think it just goes to show how ill-prepared schools are to handle a business savvy approach.

And the publishers are quite savvy.

Schools - change your grading to make my materials - why? Because then I (the publisher) can show you (the school) how my materials have made all of your kids meeting the standards.

Forget the slight of hand trick my grades do.

Shame on the schools for being so blind to such a move.

concernedCTparent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
concernedCTparent said...

I don't know how far from the bell curve we really are with our new report card because there is still this HUGE middle range. An "S" is 90-100%, a "D" is 70-89%, "B" is anything 69% and below. If there was a % range for "N", it was not expressed in the grading scale given to stduents and parents and per the definition it is still considered meeting the minimum requirements.

On the up side, individual skills are assessed independently which can clue you in on specific areas of strength/weakness. However, given that pretty much anything 69% and lower is considered meeting the minimum skill requirement, that doesn't say much in the final story.

It also doesn't do much in the way of incentive to excel. If you cannot score 90% or higher, the payoff for effort decreases significantly. Pretty much anything you do (short of not turning the assignement in or taking the test) will score you a "D". So why bother?

Fortunately, I have very high achievers who push themselves to score an "S" because to them scoring 89% is the same as scoring 70%. What's the point?

Tony said...

With each skill assessed individually, they have the ability to raise the standards and increase time available to meet them. Each student could, at least in theory, work at their own pace. They only "pass" the skill with say a 90% mastery, but they can take as long as they need to do it. I would compare it to my Scouting days. Each rank or merit badge has a defined list of skills and each boy meets them in his own time. You do not increase in rank with age, as schools increase grade level, but instead with specific achievement.

I would really like to get away from the constant quantification. It seems objective on the surface, but it is based on often arbitrary factors, and it is a lazy brand of assessment.

I would also like more integration between those who design curricula and those who implement them. There is no reason for schools to bow down to the requests of textbook editors. The textbooks should serve the school, not the other way around. When I am a teacher, I would just as soon not use a textbook. I'd much rather create my own lessons from scratch, with the freedom to pull from any source that I deem useful.

concernedCTparent said...

When I am a teacher, I would just as soon not use a textbook. I'd much rather create my own lessons from scratch, with the freedom to pull from any source that I deem useful.

We were in a different district last year where the teachers did exactly this. Even in 3rd grade and it was a beautiful thing. The teachers met regularly about math, took apart the state standards and put together a curriculum that addressed learning needs in an order that made sense and a pace that fit the students. Students could learn a lesson on place value (just an example) at the 3rd grade standard level or if they were advanced enough at the 4th grade level. Same lesson, different depth and pace. Brilliant.