A crowd of parents, concerned citizens and teachers attended Monday's Wyckoff Board of Education meeting at Eisenhower Middle School where several parents voiced concers over changes made to report cards for fourth and fifth graders at Wyckoff Public Schools.
Following changes this summer, the report cards now bear one of four numerical grades — 1 through 4 — rather than the traditional A through F grades. The changes had already been implemented, but parents said they were unaware until they received a letter and word of the changes on "Back to School Night" on Sept. 11-12.
According to Wyckoff Public Schools Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jessica Anspach, an overall grade is a composite that wasn’t consistent and didn’t accurately reflect the child’s progress.
“The reason why the report card has been slowly changing over time is because just as our curriculum is moving toward a common core and standard based format, so too are our report cards to reflect our instruction,” said Anspach.
“We have to adhere to and review New Jersey State Standards and common core standards, and then determine what’s appropriate for that grade level,” she said.
Some parents claimed that the new grading system leveled the playing field for all children and was merely an attempt to try to make every child feel better.
“I heard some rumors last year that the fourth and fifth grade report cards were being changed,” said Kelly Cahill, a Wyckoff resident. “Typically, fourth and fifth graders have always gotten the letter grades.”
“Now this year, it’s changing and there’s no more letter grades, it’s on a number-based system," said Cahill. “So, I was just curious why that change was being made and what was wrong with the old system. What’s the rationale, the positives?”
“We look at end of year indicators and progress over the course of the year, instead of an overall grade for the core subject areas, because it’s not particularly telling of where students are over the continuum,” said Anspach. “Our goal over the course of this year is to include teacher communication and teacher resources and support, as well as communication with parents.”
“The language of this report card is much more detailed and refined,” said Anspach. “The language is much more specific compared to previous report cards which were much vaguer, with open-ended indicators.”
Wyckoff Public Schools Superintendent Richard Kuder disagreed with the representation of the situation and told parents they were being encouraged to be part of the conversation.
“We will explain to parents a number of times over the school year," Kuder said. "It’s not about leveling the playing field and making kids feel good about themselves.”
Over the course of next month, there will be parent information sessions on report cards, with the exact dates still to be determined.
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