Educators back new report cards

Despite leaders of the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s plea to officials with the Department of Education to do away with the new, standards-based report cards, state DOE Kaua’i Complex Area Superintendent Daniel Hamada defended the new report cards, and said he hasn’t heard any complaints.

Elementary students will no longer receive letter grades such as A, B, C, D or F, but instead receive grades that reflect the student’s proficiency level.

The students now will receive MEs, meets with excellence, MPs, meets with proficiency, N, approaches (nears) proficiency, and U, well below (under) proficiency.

“We piloted this new program for two years, and the report card was OK,” Hamada said.

“I think we’re going to see an alignment with the standards. (The report cards) will not be subjective anymore, because it is no longer taking up an average of grades. It tracks how the child is doing.”

The new report cards were in the works for five years, and then piloted for two. Ten schools statewide were chosen to test out the new report cards. Kalaheo School was the only school on the island chosen.

Hamada described the new reports cards as being “very focused.”

“It’s not ambiguous. It shows the overall improvement of the student,” he said.

Principal Erik Burkman of Kalaheo School said that, when students and teachers were in the pilot testing stage, the teachers sat down with parents individually to explain the new reports, and he received very few complaints.

“This is a transition time, which is difficult,” Burkman said. “Anytime you go through change, you’re going to have that.”

Burkman said he thinks it’s only a matter of time before students, teachers, parents and others at other schools get used to it the way they have at Kalaheo.

“We want to communicate to the parents that the students have learned the standards,” Burkman said.

There will be two types or reports: the quarterly report, formerly known as the progress report, and the status reports.

The quarterly reports will be given out at the end of the first and third quarters, and the status report at the end of the first and second semesters.

They will consist of two major areas, those being the General Learning Outcomes (GLO) and content areas.

The GLOs indicate observable behaviors, such as student work habits, thinking skills, and quality of performance, and are checked on the reports cards as demonstrated consistently, usually, sometimes or rarely.

In the content areas will be an evaluation of the student’s achievement of standards.

In the regular tests students take during the week, like the spelling or math tests, students will receive regular grades. Those grades will show whether or not the students meet the standards.

“In the traditional system, where you get the A, B or C, you input points,” Burkman explained. “In the standard base, it is generated by performance and proficiency. We want to get students to concentrate on what it takes to meet the criteria.”

As far as recognizing the Honor Roll or the Principal’s List, Hamada said each school’s leaders will have their own way of handling that.

The DOE leaders are looking to phase the standards-based report cards into the middle and high schools within the next couple of years. To handle things such as grade-point average for high schoolers, Hamada said members of a group are working on that.

“We’re going to field-test it first,” he said. “We want to do our homework, and iron everything out. We need to see what the secondary report card should look like, and have a clear understanding as to reflecting the benchmark of what the students should be able to know and do in each area.”

Hamada said high school leaders might keep letter grades.

Burkman said that the transition for the standards-based report cards for high schools may be a tougher transition.

“It was a real cooperative system, and is more accurate. It will be tougher for the secondary schools, but it will work out in the end,” Burkman said.

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