EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 10, 2013

NAMS to go back to traditional grades

NORTH ANDOVER — Traditional letter grades have returned to North Andover Middle School.

Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson announced this decision in a message sent to parents and guardians of middle school students. The middle school had adopted a standards-based grading system in which students received numerical grades instead of the traditional A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s.

North Andover High School has retained letter grades.

The purpose of the numbers was to give a more exact report on how well students were learning in accordance with the standards established by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Hutchinson and other educators said.

Many parents, however, objected, saying that the number grades were frustrating their children and taking away their motivation to learn. They cited examples such as a student who got five answers wrong receiving the same grade as one who had everything right.

The Dec. 13 and last Thursday’s School Committee meetings drew large numbers of parents who expressed strong opposition to the numerical grades. Several middle school teachers said the numbers provide a more accurate method of measuring student achievement.

While the middle school is returning to letter grades, the marks will still be based on how well the students are meeting state standards, Hutchinson said.

“Teachers will still align feedback and instruction with the standards,” the superintendent said.

The School Committee, scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. today in Town Hall, is expected to discuss the change back to traditional grades. Committee members interviewed supported Hutchinson’s decision.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” School Committee Chairwoman Laurie Burzlaff said. The inconsistencies in grading that parents talked about showed the teachers were “not on the same page,” she said.

“We have wonderful teachers,” Burzlaff said. She and others praised the teachers for their hard work in making the change from traditional to standards-based grading.

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