NEOSHO, Mo. — When school starts in Neosho in about two weeks, some students won’t have to worry about receiving an “F.”
Kindergarten to sixth-grade classrooms will be implementing a new grading system that is standard based.
The new system breaks down subjects into standards. The students will receive a 1 to 4 for each standard, with “1” meaning the student is “emerging,” but does not yet understand the standard. A “4” means the student is “advanced” and understands the standard completely. Participation and behavior will still be important, but will be evaluated separately from academics.
“Ultimately, the benefit as a school leader is that once you put standards in place and you have a way to assess where a student is,” said Superintendent Dan Decker. “It allows us to tailor make the education for each student.”
Students who master content more quickly than others will be able to move on to more challenging material. Teachers will be able to pinpoint where other students are struggling and help them to move ahead.
Becky Sears, assistant superintendent of curriculum, said the goal is for every student to be at a “3” in each standard by the end of the year.
“It’s all about progress and learning,” she said.
Though Sears said she hopes to implement some of the standard-based grading philosophy at the high school, she doesn’t expect to be able to be able to stray away from the traditional letter-grade system.
“If they have an assignment and do really poorly, but go spend some extra time working on that standard, they could come back and show us they have improved in their learning,” Sears said.
Students and parents will receive detailed explanations of the new grading system, what each number means and how to progress from one number to another.
“It will really put the ownership of the learning back into the student’s hands,” she said. “They will have so much information and will know how to get to the higher level.”
Students will have ample time to work on each standard. Unlike traditional grading, after the final test on the subject they will still have chances to learn and show their teachers they have mastered the standard.
“It will help to keep us from leaving students behind that really haven’t grasped it yet,” Sears said.
Sears said that eventually they will individualize instruction for each child. This, she said, will require more work and research from the teachers, but a lot of teachers have already started doing this on their own.
A few teachers began using the grading system last year as a sort of test run. Sears said that in those classrooms, students are already “taking ownership of their education and are more motivated and engaged in their learning.”
Eileen Ford, principal at Neosho Middle School, said she is excited about the change.
“With standard-based grading, the number is only what the child knows,” Ford said. “So it actually gives you a more valid picture of their learning level.”
Ford said she thinks parents will like the new system, too. “It will let them know how to help and their child know how to improve to reach that goal and that standard,” she said.
Some schools adopted a standard-based grading system as early as the 1970s and 1980s. T.H. Bell, the U.S. Secretary of Education at the time, created a task force that wrote “A Nation at Risk” in 1983. The report detailed educational standards and gave recommendations to improve the quality of education in the United States.