Parents do not think a new approach to grading at Virginia Beach public elementary schools is providing enough clarity on their children’s progress and performance, according to a new survey.
The results of the survey, presented Tuesday to the School Board, prompted questions about recent revisions to grading policy and whether more changes were warranted.
“We have discontent out there — how long do you prolong the discontent?” School Board member Ashley McLeod asked.
Superintendent Aaron Spence cautioned against hasty decisions based on the survey’s results. He cited the low response rate and the fact that the grading changes are still new.
“I don’t know if we’re far enough along to pull back,” he said.
At issue is the move away from letter grades to standards-based grading. Before 2011, standards-based grading was used only in kindergarten through second grade. Instead of getting As, Bs and Cs, students are measured for their mastery of a topic and get “N” for novice, “DP” for developing proficiency, “P” for proficient and “AP” for advanced proficient.
In 2011, the district began expanding the use of standards-based learning by site-testing it at four elementary schools. In 2013, fourth- and fifth-graders began receiving hybrid report cards that included standards-based and letter grades. This year, letter grades were dropped altogether.
The survey that the School Board discussed Tuesday was given to parents of fifth-graders across the district. It drew about 800 participants, which accounted for about 15 percent of possible respondents.
Survey-takers were given four statements about the new report card. The majority of parents disagreed with all four statements:
- I feel I have been provided enough information on his/her academic strengths and areas of improvement: 49 percent agreed, 51 percent disagreed.
- The report card gives me a clear understanding of my child’s progress toward meeting grade-level standards and expectations: 42 percent agreed, 58 percent disagreed.
- The report card provides me with a comprehensive picture of my child’s academic progress/status: 42 percent agreed, 58 percent disagreed.
- The report card format is understandable and informative: 45 percent agreed, 55 percent disagreed.
School Board members raised concerns about the parents’ dissatisfaction, as well as their participation rate.
Chairman Dan Edwards asked if the results warranted any action, such as creating a committee to examine the grading practices or possibly switching grading systems again.
Many of the board members asked for another survey to be distributed in early spring to all parents with students covered by the new grading system.
McLeod said she had spoken with students at Kemps Landing/Old Donation Center and that many of them had different opinions about the new grading system than their parents.
“Adults are having the problems,” Board member Kimberly Melnyk said.
The final question on the survey asked the parents if they would be interested in attending information sessions regarding academic achievement. Sixty-six percent said they would not be interested.
Spence and Shirann Lewis, senior executive director of elementary schools, said they want to have more conversations with parents about the new report card and encourage them to reach out to teachers and principals with questions and concerns.
“We will continue to listen to our parents and value their feedback,” Lewis said.