EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 13, 2012

Parents protest middle-school grading changes

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Many parents of middle school students are up in arms over changes being made to the way their children are graded.

Instead of receiving the usual As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs, students are being given grades of 1, 2, 3 or 4. The meanings of the numbers are 1, no progress; 2, needs improvement; 3, proficient; 4, advanced. This approach is called standards-based grading.

An estimated 100 parents attended last night’s School Committee meeting to voice their opposition. When the board moved on to other agenda items following the public comment period, many in the audience loudly objected and Chairwoman Laurie Burzlaff loudly banged the gavel to restore order.

The parents said they don’t understand what the numbers mean and neither do their children. They were alerted to the meeting by email.

The school system should return to “more traditional grading,” Thomas Holland, president of the North Andover Boosters Club, told the committee.

Holland said there was a “lack of teacher preparedness” and that his daughter, ordinarily a very motivated student, hates the new grading system and has lost enthusiasm for school.

Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson said learning about standards-based grading “is like learning a new language” and that “standards-based education is here to stay.”

Nick Cincotta, the student representative on the School Committee, noted that standards-based grading has not yet come to the high school. “I don’t have a specific opinion,” he said, but his brother, a sixth-grader, had a 3 average in one of his classes, but wasn’t “sure what that means.”

Adele Gaulocher, mother of a sixth-grader, said her son recently got a 3 — on an assignment where he did everything correctly. “He said, ‘3 is the best I could do,’” she told the committee.

“I’m not really against standards-based grading,” said Thomas Nolette. “I’m against the ambiguity.”

“What is proficiency?” Nolette asked. “I’ll bet I would get a different answer from everybody.” During a presentation on the new grading system at the middle school, there was no question and answer period, he said.

School Committee members said they expect to schedule a public forum to provide answers about standards-based grading in the near future.