Letter: Parents need info on standards-based grades

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Emily Parkhurst reported that Portland schools may move away from traditional grade levels and grades.

In a standards-based grading system, there are many standards for each subject. Each standard is graded separately on a 1-to-4 scale. Students must reach level 3 (or proficient) before moving to the next standard. Students move at their own pace through standards, instead of through grade levels. Often, 4’s cannot be achieved until the end of the year.

The 1-to-4 scale replaces the 100-point scale. A proficiency “range” must be determined. Student behavior (homework, class participation, etc.) is not calculated when determining proficiency. Behavior and life skills are graded as a separate subject and become part of the student’s data.

Some questions: Will leveled students of all ages be grouped together to allow for direct teacher instruction? If students at all levels are in the same class, will peer tutoring increase? If direct teacher instruction is decreased, will online instruction fill in? Once all standards are met, will students move to college level online classes? Is the decision to move to a standards-based grading/instruction a local or state decision? Must schools switch to standards-based grading to receive a NCLB waiver? How will schools accurately calculate GPAs for college applications? How will individual differences between proficiency levels be calculated? If parents prefer a traditional school with traditional grading, should school choice be granted?

Parents deserve answers to these questions.

Beth Schultz