Bumper stickers boasting elementary students’ honor roll status will soon be a thing of the past in Montgomery County.
Principals and parents in Montgomery County Public Schools will need to find a new way to recognize student achievement with the roll out of new report cards for elementary school students, according to Ebony Langford-Brown, the school system’s director of elementary instruction and achievement.
Students will no longer see A, B, C, D or E, but rather ES for exceptional, P for proficient, I for in-progress, N for not-yet making progress or making minimal progress, or M for missing data.
There will be no more traditional honor roll at schools, she said.
“Schools are redefining what it means to be on an honor roll,” she said. “They are making decisions about how they reward student work. ... The language we are using with schools is around recognizing students in a multitude of ways. But there is no mandate otherwise.”
School districts nationwide are shifting reporting systems to match their grading with federal curriculum guidelines that most states are adapting, called the common core standards.
The county’s new “standards-based” report cards will be delivered for the first time in all kindergarten through third-grade classrooms this November, and in fourth and fifth grade in the next few years, with the implementation of the new Curriculum 2.0, Langford-Brown said.
Curriculum 2.0 focuses more on what Superintendent Joshua P. Starr calls 21st century skills, such as critical thinking. The report card is made to match, noting progress not just on subjects, behavior and effort, but also on more complex concepts such as analysis, elaboration, intellectual risk-taking and metacognition.
The new grades do not correlate with the traditional grades, Langford-Brown said — they will not be based on percentages, and they are more focused on seeing that kids understand and can conceptualize material, rather than if they can answer test questions correctly.
Getting through the changes will take a lot of communication from principals to parents, said Laurie Halverson, curriculum co-chairwoman for the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations.
“A lot of kids are probably going to be getting P’s, and there is a shift that parents need to make,” Halverson said. “It is going to be important for MCPS to meet with parents, or at least the principals should be meeting with parents, to help them understand what it means.”
Students’ progress will be reported on not only main subjects, but also areas studied in that subject; in third-grade science, students will receive grades for engineering and technology, life sciences and physical sciences. This will also be true for special subjects such as art, where students will be graded both for analyzing and responding to art and creating art.
Despite the greater number of categories, parents may have less of an understanding where their student actually stands, Halverson said.
There will no longer be a space for teachers to provide comments on student progress — something that parents fought for when the school system was testing the new report cards in schools, Halverson said.
“Parents would like to see something else to personalize the report card,” she said.
She said face-to-face conferences are going to be very important.
The report cards have been altered several times, and parents, teachers and administrators have had a chance to weigh in during the process, Langford-Brown said. Twenty-five schools have been testing the report cards for the last few years.
The school system has directed principals to hold meetings with parents, and to include explanation sheets with their first report card they send out, Langford-Brown said.
All materials can be viewed on the school system’s website, along with a 10-minute video explaining the changes.
The school system told principals that parents should be familiar with the changes before report cards go out, Langford-Brown said.
“We said that should not be the first interaction with how to read the report card,” she said.