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January 4, 2013

Educators tout new grading system


“My job is not to grade your child but to teach your child,” said Nancy Chandler, who teaches sixth-grade math and science. Chandler and other teachers said the standards-based system provides a more detailed picture of how well a student is learning.

Rachel Darley, a social studies teacher, said she began using numbers instead of letter grades last year.

“I am able to be a better teacher to your child,” she said.

Another middle school teacher, Barbara Sparks, noted that earning the highest grade, a 4, is more difficult than getting an A.

“Last year’s A is this year’s 3, because we have raised the bar,” she said.

Barry Connell, a science teacher, said the more detailed numerical system gives parents “tools that you never had before.”

“Our job is to help you (parents) help them,” Hutchinson said.

The superintendent had said many times and reiterated the point last night: “Our goal is to improve student achievement.”

He also noted that “we are required to teach to the standards.” Hutchinson said many school systems have not adopted standards-based grading. Superintendents know changing the grading system is bound to be unpopular, at least initially, he said.

Lincoln, Shrewsbury, Methuen, Brockton, Dartmouth and Billerica are some of the Masschusetts school districts that have adopted the new system, he said. Standards-based grading is prevalent in other parts of the nation, he added.

“I want to see evidence this is working,” said Donald Nolette.

“Has there been any discussion about getting rid of it?” Timothy Goland asked. School Committee members said they have not talked about doing away with standards-based grading.

“We realize there’s plenty of work to be done,” Hutchinson said. School Committee member Brian Gross said the plan was “not fully vetted.”

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