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New Grading System Draws Ire from Concerned Parents

Fourth and fifth graders will now receive a number-based report card rather than the traditional letter-based grade

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.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

John A. Unglert September 29, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Actually Mr. Ed. I am not a teacher.
Ed September 29, 2012 at 10:06 AM
Oops!!!!!!
Q September 29, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Hope I'm not too late to chime in...Merit pay, based on test scores, is a very bad idea. Even the best teachers may succumb to "cheating" when their bread and butter relies upon Joey, with the crackhead mother, to make the proficiency level on the test and continue to make gains year after year. Standardized test scores are directly related to socio economic factors. Take our teachers and put them in inner city Newark and the Newark test results won't be any better. Bring the Newark teachers to Wyckoff and the scores will be the same. Our standardized test scores will have some minor ups and downs, but for the most part, they will always be as good as our poverty level is low. It's extremely rare to have a school outperform it's educational reference group (towns with similar socio economic status). Let's not encourage the teachers to teach to the test more than they already do by insisting upon merit pay related to standardized test scores. Regarding letter grades versus a number system at the local level: It doesn't matter. A number system style report card is fine to determine if a student is learning the material; actually, the style is more detailed than a letter grade. Written comments are especially helpful as well as conferences with the teacher(s) to understand how a student is performing.
Kelly C September 29, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Ed, this is, at least for me, more of an informal type discussion forum. I am well aware that sentences do not start with "and." In situations such as these, I write more as if I am speaking, you know, having a conversation. That is why I did and will continue to have some of these types of "errors" when I add comments to articles and such. I think many people would agree. I try to focus on the content of the message and I think most people get the point. However, if you want to judge my writing skills based on this small sample, you are free to do so. Glad to hear you are on board with me about not slamming all of our teachers.
Randall B October 01, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Sure sounds like somebody is trying to figure our how to make our kids feel better about themselves. The convoluted answer to why we are doing this is pure spin. I still don't see how 1,2,3,4 is better than A, B, C, D, F. By the way shouldn't the new system be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5? What number is the equivalent of F? I also wonder why parents found out about a major change like this at back to school night. The board and administration say they want open dialog with parents but this came down as an edict not a discussion. Wyckoff residents pay a lot of taxes and they deserve to be heard before decisions are made not after. I am also curious about the overall direction of our strategic initiatives regarding education. Is Wyckoff trying to become the great experimenter in school reform? I seem to remember last year that the PTO wasted ten thousand dollars on a quack who recommended that we drop homework. What is next?

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