WESTFIELD, NJ — At Westfield’s public elementary schools, report cards are about to look a lot different.
Standards, rather than letter or number grades, will become the focus of report cards at the district’s six elementary schools starting next fall. Teachers will assess whether each student is meeting each of these standards during three trimesters throughout the year.
“I’m really excited about the change to standards-based grading report cards,” said Cathy Chao, a third-grade teacher at Tamaques Elementary School, during the school board meeting Tuesday night. “I really feel like the administrators have really prepared the teachers to make this shift.”
Under the new system, students will be scored based on a number of performance standards in academic subjects. For each standard, students would receive one of four scores: E (exceeds standards), A (achieves standards), P (progressing toward standards) or N (needs support).
Each standard will have multiple indicators, which clarify whether the student is meeting the standard. The number of indicators for each standard will increase as the year progresses. For example, the standard “Demonstrates literal comprehension” may be predicted by indicators including “describes the characters in a story” and “explains how characters’ actions contribute to the plot.” Students and parents will be able to view these indicators on rubrics posted to the district website.
Students will also receive Effort Key scores, which demonstrate the extent to which various social and emotional learning behaviors are being met. These scores include C (consistently), U (usually), S (sometimes) and I (infrequently).
Paul Pineiro, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and programs, explained the report card changes in a school board presentation Tuesday. The changes come as a result of a change in state educational standards, as well as new instructional frameworks in the district such as Readers and Writers Workshop and Engineering Design Process, Pineiro said.
Students in grades 1 through 5 will receive report cards at the end of three trimesters: end of December, end of March and end of June. This replaces the current four marking period system.
Meanwhile, kindergarten will maintain its two-semester system. Students will receive report cards at the end of February and the end of June.
During each trimester, teachers will collect evidence to assess whether each student is meeting standards. This will include assessments at the end of each unit, each of which will have itemized standards-based feedback expressed on a cover sheet. The cover sheet will show which standards are covered on the exam, and how students are meeting them.
Pineiro said the district has discussed the system during several meetings with parents in recent months. The district will provide additional information on the changes during back to school night and parent-teacher conferences, and is open to making changes based on the effectiveness of the program during its first year, Pineiro said.
The district has consulted other districts that already use a similar system, Pineiro said, to see what aspects of the program work best. Several public school districts in New Jersey, including those in Middletown and Sayreville, use standards-based report cards to assess their students.
Additional information about the standards-based report cards can be found on the district’s website.
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