What's really in a grade? That is a question parents often ask
as they stare at their child's report card during the end of a
grading period. While we all have a basic understanding of what it
means to be an "A", "B" or "C" student, today's educators are
finding new ways to help parents look beyond the letter grade and
get a better idea of how their student is really doing
For some schools, 'narratives' have been added to the grading
process, giving parents much-needed detail on their student's
classroom experience. "Our narratives include an overall look at
the classroom itself-concepts being taught, units being covered,
etc.-and then it goes into the individual child," says Melinda
Orzoff, Lower School Division Head at Roycemore School in Evanston.
"Teachers detail a student's progression, successes and challenges,
which really gives parents a full picture of the child and why they
received a particular grade."
In addition to giving parents details about the child's grading
period experience, Roycemore educators also include ideas for how
the child can improve his or her grade moving forward. "We really
believe we are in partnership with our parents and want to give
parents a more complete picture of their child as a student," adds
Orzoff. "You just don't get that with the basic 'letter grade'."
These narratives not only come from the child's classroom teacher,
but from each and every one of his or her 'specials' such as PE and
Music. "It is definitely a task that takes a long time to
complete," says Orzoff. "But our teachers will agree that creating
these narratives is one of the most important parts of their
Phillip Jackson of Chicago Grammar School agrees. "Long narratives
try to synthesize the information for parents," says Phillip
Jackson, founder of Chicago Grammar School. "It tells you the
culmination of what information they have been given throughout the
quarter." Chicago Grammar School students receive percentages
instead of grades, which, Jackson feels, is a more realistic look
at how the student is doing. "The focus of our program is learning
for mastery," says Jackson. "The percentage a parent sees
represents how well the student has mastered the knowledge for that
Lombard's Delphi Academy of Chicago has also moved away from the
traditional grading system and instead shows if the student is
meeting and/or exceeding educational goals or if they still need
help accomplishing set objectives. Believing that all students
should have a full understanding and an ability to use the
information before progressing on to the next level of learning,
achieving anything less than 100% requires an immediate teacher
intervention. "If a student isn't understanding the concept enough
to achieve a 100%, we need to know why," says Debbie Voss, Dean of
Students at Delphi Academy of Chicago. "This helps us avoid having
students move forward with their learning using the wrong
thought-process-we correct what is wrong immediately so they can
continue to succeed."
Regardless of the letter grade, percentage or narrative a parent
receives at the end of a grading period, one thing is certain:
there should absolutely be no surprises.
"Our teachers have such great communication with our parents that
all the 'telling' has already happened. They already know how their
student is doing in the classroom and the report card is just a way
for us to put closure on the quarter," says Jackson. "Report cards
should not tell you something you don't already know."
To make sure you are not 'shocked' by the end of the grading
period mark, here are some tips for how you can stay in the
Involve the Student: Give your student some
ownership over his or her academic success. "Our students can pick
their own faculty advisor each year," says Orzoff. "This makes them
feel they have a real advocate inside and outside of the
classroom." At home, ask your student what their goals are at the
beginning of each grading period and periodically sit down with
them to discuss their progress throughout the course of the
Use Technology: For schools like Chicago Grammar,
parents can view their child's progress electronically. Check your
child's grade on a regular basis and communicate any of your
concerns with your child and his or her teacher.
Talk to the Teacher: "Parents pick up from the
classroom at our school, so there is daily opportunity to talk to
their child's teacher," says Voss. Even if you don't see your
child's teacher every day, you should still reach out on a regular
basis. Send a note to school with your child or just shoot a quick
email to see how your child is doing. And, always ask what you can
be doing at home to help them succeed.
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