Anne Jacobsen doesn’t mince words when asked about revised report cards for some of Stafford County’s fourth- and fifth-graders.
She hates them.
Meanwhile, administrators say the concept is catching on nationwide.
The School Board discussed the numerical grading scale during a meeting this week, with some recommending changes.
Five of the county’s 17 elementary schools, including Stafford Elementary, will use it for the second time this year, Director of Curriculum Chris Quinn told the School Board.
It’s already in place for students in grades one through three at every elementary school. Rather than A through F, they’re graded on a scale of 1 through 4, with 4 being the best.
Using numbers instead of letters gives a more detailed account of student progress, he said. Instead of receiving a single grade for writing, for instance, students get separate marks on composition and written expression.
Let’s see, with A through F, that’s one, two, three, four, five levels, right? With one through four, that’s only one, two, three, four levels, right? (“Look, ma! I can count!”) So how is that more detailed?
Respondents in a recent survey, which questioned parents and teachers involved with the pilot program, gave the initiative mixed reviews.
But some School Board members say they’re hearing a lot of concern from parents of students in all grade levels.
“I’m just dumbfounded that in the face of all this opposition, someone found a reason to continue it,” Jacobsen said.
In an e-mail, one parent said she likes the layout of the new report card but suggested using letters instead of numbers.
The numerical scale enables students to rebound from poor test scores, as long as they understand the material by the end of a grading period, Quinn said. That’s not necessarily the case with the old formula, he said, which averages all scores into one grade.
So, you don’t have to do anything until the end of the grading period? The work you do has no basis on your grade? Where was this system when I was in school?
Still, many parents say they think it will make for a harder transition to middle school, where students receive letter grades.
But Quinn said the new report card will be passed along to middle school teachers, giving them a better idea of their students’ strengths and weaknesses.
All fourth- and fifth-graders in Spotsylvania County and Fredericksburg receive letter grades.
School Board member Dana Reinboldt is skeptical of the new scale, saying she likes the concept but wants to incorporate A’s and B’s.
Others think it is unclear. For some students, a 2 might be equal to a D-plus, unbeknownst to parents, said School Board member John LeDoux.
“If the teachers, the students and the parents don’t understand it, we just can’t point at them and say, ‘Try harder,'” LeDoux said.
In a telephone interview, Quinn floated some adjustments, such as assigning a letter grade based on a student’s overall marks in a subject.
For example, a child with a total of 35 to 40 points in math categories could receive an A.
As for Jacobsen, she has two kids who made the honor roll in fifth grade. But now, she said, students have little motivation to shoot for such accolades because they seem to get 3 grades no matter what.
The kids “are told a 3 is great,” said Bonnie Knight, the mother of a rising third-grader at Stafford Elementary. “They’re told that 4’s are basically impossible to get.”
Gotta teach those kids to love mediocrity.
This fall, school officials plan to host informational meetings for all of the county’s elementary school parents.
But some parents don’t want any more explanations.
“I don’t know why they’ve ever wanted to change something that’s been working for so many years,” Knight said.
Because they’re the government? D’uh.