Will removing letter grades increase student success?

Carol’s Summary:

The Palm Beach County School District is removing student letter grades from 13 elementary schools and replacing them with a new system that more effectively rates student performance and progress, which they hope will spread to all 107 elementary schools in the district by next year. Educators are concerned that the damage behind receiving an F or low mark as a young student is hard to shake as the student matures. “If you say to a student, ‘You’re failing,’ they start to wear that internally,” Superintendent Art Johnson said of the stigma. “They become that.”

This year, students will be receiving “performance codes” — exemplary, proficient, approaching or needs development — instead of the old A, B, C, D, F. This grading system will also apply to work done in the class. Currently, most students bring home two grades to show their parents – one that represents their work done in the class and another that represents their progress toward moving to the next grade. This old grading system has been confusing for parents because a student can get a B on an assignment but still have too low a score to move to the next grade.

There has been controversy over this system since it was originally implemented five years ago, due to parents worrying there will not be an accurate enough measuring tool to track their children’s mastery of certain objectives and by teachers who are unwilling to change. However, parents and teachers have to be patient to see if the grading system works until a student reaches higher levels of education. Already, parents like Andrea Sandrin whose elementary student is now a ninth-grader, says her daughter who has a learning disability would have been taking home F’s. Now, after finding her learning disability early on in elementary school, she is taking advanced placement classes in high school.

This concept has some similar threads to Dr. Robert Sternberg’s theory of “successful intelligence.” If you are able to understand that your effort and energy can make you smarter, than you are more likely to “grow” your learning potential and skills. The downside of grades and standardized tests is that labels can contribute to entrenched student concept of inability. Whether or not the performance-based system works, it deserves investigation. In the world of work, performance-based assessment is how employees are evaluated and considered for more sophisticated work.

Article: Letter grades vanishing from some Palm Beach County report cards

Palm Beach County administrators and principals say the timing is right because the report card had to be revised this year to match new state standards.

Read the full article at: sun-sentinel.com

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