Twain Sullivan Elementary School. All elementary schools in Houston will be starting a new grading system this school year. Secondary schools soon to follow. Brian Vike photo

New grading system for Houston

Broad descriptive terms to replace specific scores

How schools report back to parents on student learning is changing with the new curriculum, as broad descriptive terms will replace specific scores on certain tests.

That goes for both the standard Foundation Skill Assessment (FSA) tests given in Grade 4 and Grade 7, and the new high school provincial tests in literacy and numeracy.

Both are being re-vamped along with the new curriculum, and both have a new scale to describe a student’s level of learning.

It’s called a proficiency scale, and describes test results using broad descriptive terms, not specific scores.

In the past, the results from FSAs in Grade 4 and Grade 7 have been reported based on expectations of what students at that level should know. An FSA report might say a student was “not yet meeting expectations,” or was either “meeting expectations” or “exceeding expectations” in writing and numeracy. Click here to see an example of a chart summarizing B.C. FSA results in 2015-2016.

But under the new curriculum, those words have changed.

The FSA results will now list students as either “emerging,” “on track,” or “extending” in their understanding of reading, writing, and math.

“Emerging” leans towards the struggling end of how well students understood the concepts, and is explained by saying that “the student demonstrates an early understanding of the concepts and competencies relevant to the expected learning.”

“On track” means students have a “partial to complete understanding” of what is expected, and “extending” means a student shows “a sophisticated understanding.”

The previous five provincial exams are being replaced with one numeracy test, and one literacy, which students can take anytime in Grade 10 and above.

They’ll have three shots at the test, and only their best score will be recorded. The content will include math concepts up to and including Grade 8, with some from Grades 9 and 10.

The results will be reported in a fashion similar to the FSA tests, with no exact scores but rather the four-point proficiency scale.

Raw test scores will be available after the FSA tests, but the test result assessments will come separately in February, using the new proficiency scale to describe the results.

“We’re in the middle of changing assessments with the province,” said Michael MicDiramid, assistant superintendent for School District 54. “Twain [Sullivan Elementary School] and Silverthorne [Elementary School] this September will not be issuing letter grades.”

MicDiramid explained that a different electronic format is still underway, which is a computer program that will allow teachers to send off student learning information to parents faster.

“This is not specific to assignments, rather this will replace traditional reports cards to be more along the lines of communicating student learning, and yet have more information than just a number or a letter grade,” said MicDiramid.

He added that the province is still in the discussion phase as to what that means for high-schools.

According to MicDiramid, adoption of stopping issuing letters grades has been progressing around the province of B.C. at different rates.

“Telkwa [Elementary School] and Lake Kathlyn [Elementary School], before it closed, has stopped issuing letters grades about four years ago,” he said.

“We’re moving away from the idea of grading and ranking kids,” said MicDriamid. “Parents will get information about children in a more comprehensive way. Letter grading is more limiting.”

MicDiramid explained that the broad descriptive terms of the new grading system are not so much as broad, but towards “trying to make the language more parent friendly with clear communication.”

He added that parents can expect more communication from their children’s teachers.

The goal is to have better communication with families and parents,” said McDiramid.

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