Parents of elementary school students in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 will need to become acquainted with three new letters in the alphabet soup that already is a report card.
Beginning in August, the district's 13 elementary schools will move to a standards-based grading system to evaluate students' math skills.
Aside from traditional letter grades being given in all subjects, specific math skills will be listed for each grade level and teachers will report whether each student has mastered each skill.
Grades for the math standards will indicate whether a student can do the skill independently (I), can do the skill with support (S), or if the skill is not yet evident (N). At grades four and five, there will be the traditional A, B, C, D and F grades along with the standard-based grades.
For example, first-graders will be rated on their ability to perform specific math tasks such as:
• Name and write numbers in the range of 1-11;
• Count backward from any number in the range of 31 to 1;
• Mentally find 10 more or less than any two-digit number.
Faith Dahlquist, assistant superintendent of educational services, on Wednesday outlined the differences between standards-based grading systems and the traditional system for school board members.
"In standards-based grades, the grade is determined by achievement only; it's not about how hard they tried," she said. "Effort and persistence is important but in (a standards-based system) it's whether you can add the fractions and whether you can apply those skills."
The decision to change report card formats, she said, was not made lightly but was a necessity with next year's arrival of the Common Core math curriculum. At the elementary level, students also will have new textbooks, materials and manipulatives.
"Having a new elementary report card sounds simple, but it is usually controversial," she said. "We felt like we really needed to start on this because our current report card does not indicate and does not look at the new Common Core math standards."
By using the detailed report cards, district officials believe parents and students will have more information about the specific skills that are needed to be proficient at a grade level. A similar grading system will be implemented in the fall of 2014 to coincide with the adoption of the Common Core language arts standards.
In addition to the math changes, the new report card also will be organized into trimesters instead of quarters. Elementary parent/teacher conferences will be held between Oct. 15 and Nov. 7 prior to the end of the trimester on Nov. 15.
"By doing that at the elementary level, we'll have a longer period of time, especially at the beginning of the year, to allow students to show progress and growth," Dahlquist said.
Staff members will continue to be trained on the new grading system into the fall and parents will be invited to curriculum nights early in the school year to introduce them to the new system. Report card models also will be available on the district's website at http://www.cusd200.org.