Herricks looks to overhaul elementary school report card system

Herricks looks to overhaul elementary school report card system
Elizabeth Guercin, assistant superintendent for instruction, and Mary Louise Haley, principal at Denton Avenue, presented ideas for the new standard-based elementary school report card at last Thursday's board of education meeting. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

The Herricks school district is looking to replace the current elementary school report cards with standards-based report cards.

Elizabeth Guercin, assistant superintendent for instruction, and Mary Louise Haley, principal at Denton Avenue School, announced the proposed change at last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.

Guercin and Haley are heads of the committee drafting the new report card. The committee’s focus is to create a tool that reflects what Herricks is all about – growth and progress, Guercin said.

“It isn’t about one grade or one score,” Guercin said. “We really are looking at students’ growth of progress over time… and it’s not necessarily one point that’s going to be an indicator of that.”

The new system would also be more in line with the common core and New York state standards the district already follows than the current 10-year-old report card system, the administrators said.

Guercin added that the goal is to choose standards for the new report card that do not have to be changed each time the state puts out new language and standards.

The standards-based report card will also be detailed and reflect specific skills and values, to limit confusion between teachers and parents, the administrators said.

Guercin added that they are going to limit “teacher talk,” or education jargon, to help facilitate communication with parents.

The new report card system may also do away with the traditional one through four grading system, Guercin and Haley said.

Guercin said the grading change is still being discussed, as is the entire draft report card, but said the majority of the committee is in favor of doing away with the number system.

“[The numbered system] very much sends a message that is antithetical to what it is we’ve been talking about here today,” Guericn said. “Which is we are looking at not necessarily sticking a score that says ‘Johnny you’re a three.'”

Guercin said that the committee is still unsure what the final grading would look like, but it will likely use descriptors of proficiency based on established criteria.

For example, a four-tier system ranging from N, needs additional time to progress toward standard, to E, exceeding standard.

This system would also help with confusion parents might have as to why their child is not receiving the highest marks, according to Guercin.

As opposed to a number, a descriptor explains more specifically the child’s level of understanding.

For example, instead of a two or three, a P, for progression toward leaning standard, or M, for independent mastery, more specifically describe the students’ comprehension of certain skills.

“It doesn’t say ‘Johnny is a one, he’s done, it’s over,'” Guercin said. “It says, ‘At this juncture in November, Johnny is not ready yet, and that he’s progressing.”

Shifting away from the number grading could also limit students identifying themselves with a number.

Haley and Guercin said they often hear students say “I’m just a two,” or “I’m all fours.”

With the potential new system, Guercin said, a student can recognize what the standard is asking him or her to do as well as why he or she might not be mastering it yet.

Jim Gounaris, a trustee, said that while he thinks the new system would be good, it could cause issues as students progress through higher grades since the system differs from what is used in the middle school and high school.

Superintendent Fino Celano said that the middle school is also interested in a standards-based report card, especially in the beginning as the students are transitioning between schools.

He said that in the higher middle school grades, and in the high school, it is difficult to put in place because of the traditional transcript colleges and universities are looking for.

The report card revamp is still in the starting phases and the committee is currently working on drafting the new report cards.

There will be parent informational sessions held in the winter of 2018-19. The new report card is expected to be implemented in spring of 2019.

Guercin said it may seem counterintuitive to switch to a new system midyear, but said that it helps facilitate communication as the parent already knows the teacher and is more comfortable with him or her.

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