New report cards confuse parents across the country, not just in Montgomery County

May 30, 2013

Parents in Montgomery County aren’t the only ones struggling to understand the new standards-based report cards that replace traditional A, B, C, D letter grades with different codes.

At least one parent in Fairfax County said recent changes to progress reports in her child’s school system has left her confused too.

Debbie Schwartz wrote in response to a story about how Montgomery parents are asking for more clarity on how their children could earn top marks on a new grading system for first- to third-grade students.

Schwartz said Fairfax recently changed elementary progress reports from a system of Ss, Gs and Os (satisfactory, good, outstanding) for first through third grades and replaced As, Bs, Cs, etc. for fourth through sixth grades. Now students receive a numbering system: 4 = consistently demonstrates; 3 = usually demonstrates; 2 = sometimes demonstrates; 1 = seldom demonstrates and NA = not assessed, Schwartz reports.

“I am a Fairfax parent of a fifth grader,” Schwartz said. “She received Ss, Gs, and Os for three years, As, Bs and Cs for a year and now is on the 1, 2, 3 system. If that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is!”

Not all parents think the new standards-based report cards are bad.

Lauren Barton is a Fairfax parent of three children, two of whom receive a standards-based report card.

While she didn’t like the money the county spent on revamping the grading system, she said she does like that report cards are now more specific and detailed.

She also said that parents should stay in constant communication with their children’s teachers to stay updated on their performance.

“Teachers are always responsive to my questions about how my kids are doing,” Barton said. “If you wait until you get the report card, I think you’re way behind.”

School systems across the country have been reforming report cards in response to Common Core, state and federal rules calling for tougher education standards. While Montgomery and Fairfax counties spent years piloting the report card changes in their districts before rolling them out, smaller school systems in other parts of the country are facing more parent pressure to scrap the new grading systems.

Last year, Henry County Schools delayed changing their report card system for some grade levels because of parent confusion and the need for more teacher training, reported the Henry Daily Herald. And earlier this month, the Billerica school system in Massachusetts restored As, Bs, Cs and Ds to the report card, creating a mixed grading system after parents protested and submitted petitions demanding change, reports the Lowell Sun.

Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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