A while ago I wrote an entry about my middle school's eminent transition to a standards based report card. It seems that now we are not only going to give parents feedback in the new "check," "+" and "N" style, but also in the traditional "A, B, C..." manner as well. There had been some doubt about this, but as next year draws nigh, we have been given the directive that this will indeed be the case. Of course only the standards based report matters, but the additional letter grade is supposed to give parents a better idea of how their student would be doing under the old traditional system of letter grades.
This of course brings to mind the first obvious question that I know I will receive from a savvy parent. "If my child is meeting the standard, why did you give them a 'C' on the regular grade?" Oh and then there will be, "If my child would have earned an 'A', then why did they only earn a 'check,' not a '+', on the standards based report?" Good question.
One must also keep in mind the other major problem I know other teachers out there are experiencing: How do you motivate a bright or talented student to challenge themselves, when they could easily earn a "check" with little effort? Other teachers that have already implemented this new system have reported that kids with high ability, especially junior high level students, will often only do the minimum to get a "check" since there is no other ranking system to motivate them. Why do "A" work, when there isn't a system in place for recognizing those efforts? And before you say it, the much touted "+" is only to be given (at least in our school system) to kids who consistently exceed the standard on their own, with no prompting from me. I have many students who do "A" work, but wouldn't necessarily earn a "+" by that definition.
To make matters slightly worse, my middle school team and I won't get the official training on the new system until this summer, which will make any sort of real coordination between us difficult until the school year starts which, of course, is too late. This is most frustrating. My principal, in an effort to help us out, has arranged a meeting with other middle school teachers to help us figure out how we'll implement our new system and to get their advice on questions like those above. However we do it, I think my school system gets an "N" for not anticipating these problems and addressing them early on.