It isn’t the grade, it’s the learning - The Buffalo News

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It isn’t the grade, it’s the learning

One of my favorite spectator sports – competitive parenting – seems to have reached new levels.

The Alexandria public school system in Virginia is the latest to adopt a new grading system that abandons traditional letter grades for one that assesses how kids are mastering skills. In Alexandria’s case, scores of 1 to 4 (for developing, basic, proficient and advanced) have replaced A, B, C and so on.

As my colleague Michael Alison Chandler reported, parents are upset and confused by the change.

Change is hard. Having your children judged is hard. Changing the way your children are judged is a double whammy.

At a recent PTA meeting, parents were told that a 3 (or being proficient) is the goal.

“The way it’s been presented, we are striving for average,” said Mary Ritley-White, a parent who attended the meeting. “We want to know how to help our kids strive for excellence.”

Ritley-White is the parent of a kindergartner and a first-grader.

You see, the new grading system is only for elementary students and is designed to put more emphasis on specific feedback for parents rather than on achieving a specific grade. But the questions at the parent meeting focused on things such as how children will make the honor roll without GPAs and how competitive middle schools will be able to assess the grades.

When Montgomery County, Md., instituted a similar policy this year, there were complaints that second-graders were bringing home too few ES’s on their report cards. (An ES means exceptional, but it came to mean “elusive secret” for disgruntled parents because they couldn’t figure out what Janey or Johnny needed to do to earn straight ES’s.)

I did mention that this angst about GPAs, striving for excellence and admissions decisions comes from the parents whose children still have their baby teeth, right?

As hard as it is to admit in a town where Harvard-educated parents schedule high-stress preschool interviews for their toddlers, what a child receives on a second-grade report card in math or reading isn’t going to cost her a spot in Harvard’s class of 2028.

This new “standards-based” grading system is meant not to judge just what a child has learned but how that child can apply that learning.

Learning. I’m 400 words into this column and that’s the first time I’ve used that word. That’s what education is all about … learning and learning how to learn. And for these youngest students, it’s about learning how to love to learn.

Does your child come home with words tumbling out of his mouth, his tongue not able to keep up with the excitement in his young mind?

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