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As we approach report cards and conferences, there are a lot of questions that come up.  I want to pre-empt those questions at the beginning of our time together so you know what is coming down the pike.  Just before conferences, Students are busy gathering work samples and reflecting on personal growth.
Grades stress out students, they stress out teachers, and some parents.  Why, when they aren't kept secret before they are given. In fact, they aren't given, they are earned. It isn't like the olden days when the more points you have, the higher your grade.  Grades in elementary school reflect your knowledge of a skill.  Teachers keep track in a grade book but that's simply because there are so many kids to keep track of and we have to be able to read growth. and we must justify to parents how we arrived at a simple grade. Here is what it breaks down:
Grading Scale
1= Below Basic. This grade shows that a child is fairly lost in their understanding of a benchmark concept or does not understand how to apply a skill.  If you see a BB at any point in the year, you need to get to work. Put this item at the top of your priority list. Work with your child. There is a lot to understand and you should be very concerned. The average scores on subject matter is probably fairly low.  

2= Basic.  There is a basic understanding of the benchmark content or concept. This grade has a wide range of meanings because it can range from fairly lost to "almost has it". In other words, doesn't really know how to apply the concept/strategy even though this child may know a bit about a concept OR mostly understands a concept but just misses mastering it (almost proficient).

3= Proficient. This child always knows how to use the content with about 80%-100% accuracy. This child has shown mastery of the benchmark concept or strategy.

4= Advanced.  This is not an "A" such as most of us parents remember it. This child knows the 4th grade content AND also knows at least part of the next content going beyond into the next grade level. This can also mean that the child has a deep understanding of the content. For example, 4th graders must multiply multiple digits by multiple digits.  If a child can multiply multi-digits with 100% accuracy, use decimals, percentages, and explain the process conceptually as well as knows the algorithm (which is above grade level) etc, they would qualify for an advanced.  You can see why an advanced is rare. 

Arriving at a Grade
Many things are taken into consideration when grading.  Growth, student reflection, and teacher observation are all important. Obviously, a teacher keeps track of grades in a grade book and I often distribute progress reports but grades aren't that cold. In the fall, we may be using multiple digit addition or subtraction for number sense and then the winter report might include multiplication and division. We are looking for progress and mastery. How can we figure it out? We have to know the child as a learner. When students are working on a group project, do they contribute? What did they contribute? What was the depth of the contribution? Did it further the conversation? Did the child come prepared? When the teacher asks a question, usually one on one, does the student know how to answer?  How thoroughly is it answered?  Does the child do the homework and classwork with accuracy? Can the child "show their thinking" or "show the work"? What does the child know now? Even if they didn't "get it" at the beginning of the year or trimester, do they get it now? In essence, can a child use what is being taught accurately and explain their thinking. If the answer is "Yes" The next question is "how well?".  

Parents, keep in mind that these grades won't follow your child into college but they do inform you.  They are a chance for you to know where your child is at in terms of concept development.  They are more useful if they are honest than if not.  The grading scale will change back to the traditional A,B,C,D,F scale in most middle schools, high schools, and some private schools. 

Practice Smarter Balance Testing does not effect classroom or report card grades.