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District will adopt new report cards for K-5 students


Pilot program tests new format, which offers more detailed information, aligns with Common Core standards

In order to provide parents with more useful information and to align grading with the upcoming switch to the Common Core standards, all elementary schools in the Newberg School District will implement a new report card system beginning in the fall.

The new format was first introduced in a pilot program during the 2013 fall semester, with one grade level at each of the district’s six elementary schools participating.

One of the main features of the new report card is an increased level of detail, especially in the core subjects like math, reading and writing. Those now include several subcategories and evaluations of specific skills, such as whether a student can add or subtract fractions with unlike denominators in math.

Currently, various unrelated subjects, like science, physical education and health may be grouped together and assessed with one mark, but each subject will now be treated individually.

“There’s at least a little detail under each area, including, social studies and science,” district director of assessment and data Don Staples said. “Math, reading and writing definitely have a lot of detail broken out. We’ve made it more distinct.”

In addition, report cards for grades 1-3 will no longer have the same exact format, but will include details specific to the skills and subject matter covered in each of those grade levels. Students in grades K-3 will continue to be graded on a rubric that utilizes a scale of 1-4, where a 3 means the student can demonstrate a certain skill or generally meets expectations.

Fourth and fifth grade students are currently graded on the A to F letter system, but Staples said that the discussion to stick with that or move to a new rubric will continue.

“One of the big things for use to work on, no matter what our scale is, is coming up with some common agreements across the district about how we evaluate students and determine those so that a student in fourth grade in one of our schools, their marks will mean roughly the same as in another school,” Staples said. “That’s a very ambitious goal. I don’t think a lot of people get there quickly or easily.”

With more information, the physical size of the report card will certainly get bigger and visually busier, but Staples said the new format is confined to the front and back sides of one piece of paper.

The district solicited feedback from parents after report cards were sent out in early February and that the main takeaway was to ensure that the language in the document is clear. One way to do that would be to create an accompanying document with more information for parents who want more detail on how to read the report

“We know that, but it’s hard for us sometimes to move outside the education jargon,” Staples said. “I know that the committee took a look to see if there were areas we could clear up but still say what we needed to say. We can’t avoid using the vocabulary of the curriculum, but hopefully we can make it as clear as possible.”

The 12-person committee, which features two teachers per grade level, continues to work on revisions that resulted from the parent and staff feedback and will need to complete its work by late May in order to be ready for the fall.

The next steps will be to train teachers on the new format and help them find assessment tools they can use in student evaluation.

“That committee did the great share of the work and then the pilot brought in a few more teachers to actually test it out,” Staples said. “We’ve made sure all of those pilot teachers have given us feedback on their experience so far and that’s been very helpful.”