Parents to speak to Jackson board about new grading system

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Parents of elementary students in the Jackson School District will voice concerns to the school board tonight over the use of a standards-based grading system used in the schools.

During the last meeting of the board held Feb. 28, district staff gave presentations before more than 50 parents with questions and concerns about how the system affects teaching in the classroom and teacher collaboration. Parents have also cited concerns about how the district implemented the grading system, saying that not enough input was gathered from teachers and parents and that some students are unnecessarily being taught the same material repeatedly. District staff defended the use of the system at that meeting by saying they don't repeatedly test students and that the system allows teachers to tailor instruction.

Jackson superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson confirmed there was a request made last week by parents who wish to speak on the topic at tonight's meeting but said the district does not have plans for any staff to give a presentation.

Many parents want the school board to form a citizens advisory panel to help work what they describe as inconsistencies in the grading system.

Under the system, students do not receive letter grades but are assessed on a set of standards based on district and state expectations for each grade. Students receive a one to four on each standard -- one for basic understanding, two for approaching district and state standards, three for meeting district and state level standards, and four for exceeding district and state standards.

Some parents who attended the last meeting were not satisfied with the information given by district staff, saying they only want a chance to weigh in on use of a system that isn't working properly and make suggestions on how it can improve.

Board member Cathy Goodman said during the last meeting that the board would consider forming a citizens advisory panel but did not specify when the possibility would be discussed. Goodman did not return calls Monday.

"If you have parents who want to be involved in making an improvement, that should be thought of as a great thing," said Kristi Uhrhan, a parent of two students in the district.

Uhrhan said it has been more than a year since parents first voiced concerns about the grading system and board members said they would look into the issue. At the time, parents were urged to be patient with the transition to the new system and that changes would be made if there were problems, she said.

According to Uhrhan, parents who want to see changes do think the system can work, but there was a rush during implementation and many parents aren't seeing the system used as it should be.

"This is not about bad schools or bad teachers," she said, "in fact, I love our teachers, and I think they do a great job."

She said the issue is that the same elements that research shows make for successful standards-based grading systems aren't being reflected in the district as seen by parents.

The board meets at 7 p.m. in the district offices at 614 E. Adams St.

Board members are not required to respond to public comment or take any action per a board policy.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

614 E. Adams St., Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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