By Sarah Varney
On Dec. 18, elementary students in Rye will receive their first report cards that measure progress in accordance with the highly-controversial Common Core Learning Standards. The new report cards list the standards deemed most important by teachers, under each core subject.
While the Common Core report card transition isn’t mandated, the Rye City School District took the initiative to do so mainly because teachers were dissatisfied with the current format. “It lacked flexibility,” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Betty Ann Wyks said.
The Common Core Learning Standards were created from the Race To The Top initiative, which in turn came out of the $97.4 billion allocated to the U.S. Department of Education under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed in 2009.
But changing school curricula to meet the standards has engendered opposition.
For parents, the increase and overreliance on testing has been a bone of contention, while school administrators and elected officials have criticized the adoption of the statewide standards arguing it takes control away from the local districts.
Since the 2011-2012 school year, when Common Core was first implemented in the classrooms, report cards for grades kindergarten through six have relied on a standardized pull-down comments menu but retained the traditional grading system. That system used letters to indicate progress. For example, “E” for excellent, “VG” for very good, “G” for good, “P” for progressing and “NI” for needs improvement.
Teachers wanted space for comments returned, which the Common Core report card will now provide. “They wanted to be able to use their own words,” Wyks said.
The traditional “E for excellent” scale had been in use for at least a decade and “probably for many years before that,” according to Sarah Derman, chief information officer for the Rye school district.
Now students will be graded on a scale of 1 to 4.
Grading a child on a certain Common Core standard using the new Common Core report card will allow teachers to detail a students’ progress on a more minute scale, Wyks said.
Amy Carman, a fifth grade teacher at Osborn School, likens the new Common Core report card to a “montage” instead of a “snapshot” of a student’s progress.
The district expects that some parents will balk at the change to a Common Core-based report card. Despite advising parents to refrain from trying to convert the new 1 through 4 grading system to its seemingly equivalent letter grade on the old grading system, comparisons are inevitable.
“Does a 4 equal an ‘A’ or something else?” Midland School parent Beth Sydell said. “My biggest complaint with the new [report] card is that it’s very hard for people to relate [the new scale to the traditional “E for excellent” one]. The grade isn’t based on hard facts and statistics.”
Sydell finds it ironic that the school district is making this move in Rye.
“Rye is a Type A community” she said. “We’re all very goal-oriented. I think it’s kind of funny that they’re trying to [make the transition] with a group that’s naturally competitive.”