EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 2, 2013

School chief vows more clarity on grading plan

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson said he and other educators will do a better job of explaining the new standards-based grading system, in which A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s are replaced with numerical marks.

He also said the schools will tighten up consistency, so that a 3, which is given for proficiency, means the same thing regardless of the teacher doing the grading.

North Andover Middle School is making the change from the traditional letter grade system to 1’s, 2’s, 3’s and 4’s. Eventually, all North Andover schools will have standards-based grading, with students receiving numerical rather than letter grades, Hutchinson said.

North Andover High School is not currently affected by the change.

More than 100 parents attended the Dec. 12 School Committee meeting, where many of them voiced opposition to the new grades. A common complaint was the lack of consistency, with students sometimes getting a 3 when they had all the right answers on a test, according to some parents who spoke.

Under the new system, 4 is the highest grade and it means a student has performed at an advanced level. A 3 means the student has achieved proficiency while a 2 indicates improvement is needed.

If a student has not made any progress, he or she receives a 1. While some parents complained about their children getting a 3 instead of a 4 for making no mistakes, others said the new grades discourage high academic achievement.

Hutchinson said “dumbing down” is not the intent of standards-based grading. Rather, the goal is to spur greater achievement.

Hutchinson said he plans to meet with the faculty today to discuss how to make grading more consistent. Hutchinson and the School Committee will host a forum in the North Andover High School auditorium Thursday at 7 p.m. to discuss standards-based grading.

Parents will have the opportunity at that time to ask questions about the grading system and learn how it works.

Thomas Holland, who spoke out against the new system and criticized the administration for not communicating about it effectively, urged parents to attend the Thursday night forum.

“Parents have to be there to understand it,” he said. “We need to get parents on board.”

Holland said he agrees with Hutchinson that students need to be challenged more.

“Everybody has gone into this with good intentions,” he said. The communication, however, needs to improve, he added.

School Committee member Christine Allen said she is confident parents will be able to get their questions answered at Thursday night’s session. A newsletter sent to parents by Hutchinson answers many questions, Allen said.

She also noted the superintendent has proposed temporarily having a dual grading system, in which students would receive both traditional letter grades and the new standards-based marks.

“I hope that a lot of people come (to Thursday night’s meeting),” Allen said.