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Allegheny Valley School District considers new grading system for Acmetonia Primary students

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Some Allegheny Valley School District parents may have to go to school to understand their children's report cards.

The district is considering a new report card format for students at Acmetonia Primary School. It would replace the familiar letter grades — A, B, C, D and F with E, M, P and N.

At least one board member isn't sold on the proposal, saying it appears the new system is designed more for teachers than parents.

The “standards-based” report card is tied to Pennsylvania's adoption of the Common Core standards. A committee of teachers has been working on it for three years.

The new “academic progress indicators” are not meant to directly replace traditional letter grades, teachers recently told the Allegheny Valley School Board. During the school year, students would be expected to get a “P,” meaning they're progressing toward meeting grade-level expectations.

Going up the scale, an “M” means students meet grade-level expectations consistently, while an “E” means they exceed them. An “N” says they need improvement.

The new report cards are meant to give parents more detailed feedback and information about their child's strengths and weaknesses to help focus on what each child can do and what he or she needs. They emphasize what is learned rather than what is taught, according to the committee's presentation to the school board.

Instead of receiving grades for subjects such as language arts, math and science, subjects are broken down into the skills and knowledge that students need to learn or master. Each skill is assessed separately.

The report card has sections for language arts, math, science/social studies, fine and practical arts, work habits/social behavior and attendance. There is also a section for quarterly teacher comments.

The indicators, rather than grades, reflect a student's proficiency level on specific standards for each subject. Parents will be able to see a student's growth over time, and which standards students have mastered or require more work.

Traditional report cards score students on assignments they haven't had enough practice in order to master. Letter grades don't tell parents or teachers which standards students know or don't know.

The school board may vote to approve the new report card on Monday. If so, it could be in use for the 2014-15 school year, Superintendent Cheryl Griffith said.

Board member Salvatore Conte expressed concern that the new report card may confuse parents. The teachers committee said that may be true; but noted parent familiarity is the only factor favoring traditional report cards.

Conte said the new format would help teachers more than parents. Letter grades are goals for students to go after, he said.

“How do I know what an ‘M' is?” Conte said. “Are we here to make it difficult for the parents to understand this?”

If adopted, the district would hold meetings — two in May and again in the fall — to explain the report cards to parents, Griffith said.

Use of the new report cards would eventually be expanded through sixth grade, Colfax Upper Elementary Principal Jennifer Vecchio said.

“There's a lot of information on it,” board President Larry Pollick said. “Parents will adjust.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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