December 12, 2019
Dear OPS Community,
If your child is in grades K-3, the report card will look similar to those you have seen in the past. Academic areas will be assessed based on whether students are secure in a skill (S), progressing in their mastery (P), beginning to show that skill (B) or Anticipating that they will move forward soon (A).
In grades 4-6, we have moved toward a standards-based approach. This means that students are being assessed on whether they have mastered the END OF THE YEAR standard. As a result, it is not uncommon for students (in December) to receive a 1 or a 2 in a specific skill. They are only through 1/3 of the curriculum for the year. There are a variety of reasons that we are making this shift (which is a shift that the majority of our neighboring districts including River Edge, Paramus, Wyckoff and Ridgewood have already made) including the reasons listed below.
- Standards-based grading provides more specific information to all stakeholders (parents, teachers and students). Each group knows more about how a learner is doing if they are assessed on a specific skill (such as “Supports writing with relevant details, evidence and reasoning”) than if they are provided a report card that states “Subject: Writing Grade: C+.”
- The information on the report card does not just provide an assessment OF learning but also assessment FOR learning. A student who receives a score of “2” (partially meeting expectations) on the above skill knows what area to focus their learning. They can begin a conversation with their teachers about how to improve on that targeted skill. In this way, students are part of their own learning process.
- Standards-based report cards focus on consistent mastery over time. Many of us have experienced cramming for an exam, doing well and completely forgetting all information needed to do well within the next month! Standards-based assessment focuses on deep, consistent mastery of skills and knowledge. In essence, standards-based reporting is about real learning.
- That state is strongly encouraging all districts to use a standards-based approach that focuses on the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. This creates consistency in teaching and evaluation across the state.
Most importantly, standards-based grading encourages a growth mindset. We spoke with all students in grades 4-6 over the past two days, stressing to them that a “1” or “2” is not a bad score. It reflects that you are not showing mastery YET! Our goal is to help students understand that all learning is about continued growth. Truthfully, as we spoke to students, their biggest concern was YOU --- their families. They were concerned about sending a message that they were not doing well. We assured them that their teachers and their families are a team --- a team that puts students at the center of everything we do. We assured them that their parents would be most focused on helping them continue to grow, whether that meant practicing math facts at home or talking more about how characters change in movies and texts.
As you begin to work your way through your children’s report cards tomorrow, there are a few additional pieces of information that the staff and administration wanted you to have:
- You will notice that in grades 4-6, special areas are also being assessed through a standards-based grading lens. This is because the state does identify specific content and skill standards for these subjects.
- Sixth graders have a combination report cards. There is a traditional component with grades from an “A” to an “F” in Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies. However, students also are assessed based on progress toward the overall 6th grade standard. Therefore, a student could receive an “A” in Mathematics however still receive a “2” in some standards as he/she is just being introduced to some and have not yet shown mastery. This was done to help our 6th graders bridge more smoothly to the middle school.
- Since there is no accompanying conference for this report card period, as the report card should be a tool that speaks for itself with regard to student performance, you will notice more detailed comments. One area that proved an obstacle that we will work to revise for the 2020-2021 school year is that each subject area on the report card was limited to a 250 character count for comments. We promised the staff that we would share this as they felt that sometimes their comments came off very direct as they had to take some adjectives and nonessential words out!
- If you are concerned about the score in a specific standard and your children are in an upper grade, the conversation should start by asking them if they know what they need to do better. If we want to develop engaged students, we need to make them a part of the learning process. If you have an additional question for your child’s teacher (and they want you to be part of your child’s learning journey), please try to ask a specific question about how you can support your child with growth in a targeted skill.
We realize that was a lot of information. We have also added more information to help you below. Your children are on a journey, and they may not be at the standard YET; however, their learning and their growth should be celebrated. So, when you log into the parent portal, remember that every decision we make at Oradell Public School is made because we truly believe it is in the best interest of children (we know change is hard!), and then practice this rhyme that some of our 6th graders helped us to create:
If the score is a ONE, you have just begun.
If the score is a TWO, there is more to do.
If the score is a THREE, in June that's where you should be.
If the score is a FOUR, you’ve learned even more.
The OPS Administrative Team
"A Four is Not an A" - A Parent Academy Presentation about Standards-Based Grading
Did You Know? (Video Referenced in Standards-Based Grading Presentation)
Sample OPS Report Cards
Additional Resources about Standards-Based Grading