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Massena elementary schools revamping report cards

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MASSENA - Massena Central School Parents will know exactly where their elementary school students need extra assistance with standards-based report cards that will be coming to them in the new school year.

Evelyn M. Fiske, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment said the revised report cards will also align with state assessments, in which students are scored at levels one, two, three or four.

Four on the report cards will mean students are exceeding the standards and is equal to a 90 to 94 grade, three means they’re meeting the standards and is equal to an 80 to 84 grade, two indicates they’re approaching the standards and is equal to a 70 to 74 grade, and one means they’re not meeting the standards and is equal to a 69 or below.

Teachers can also add a plus sign to indicate the student is exceeding expectations, a check mark to indicate they meet the skills level, a minus sign to indicate the student needs additional practice or an X to indicate an area was not assessed.

“There really was a disconnect between how we were awarding grades and the New York state assessment,” Mrs. Fiske told board of education members Thursday night.

She said they were trying to get away from situations in which a student would receive an 85 classroom average, but then a two on the assessments.

“We wanted to correlate with the assessment,” she said.

Mrs. Fiske said the report cards will have “specific key indicators” to show parents where their students are performing well or need extra help.

“There are key ideas for each (subject area),” she said.

For instance, in the English Language Arts/Writing area of a first grade report card, teachers are able to grade in four areas - writes to communicate ideas and information effectively; focuses on a topic and adds details to strengthen writing; uses grade-level appropriate conventions such as capital letters, complete sentences and punctuation; and uses learned spelling skills.

“It really is quite telling,” she said. “That kind of helps parents understand where their child fell. It shows parents where their child is and where they need extra help.”

It also allows teachers to see where students need the most help in the different subject areas so they can be addressed in the classroom.

Mrs. Fiske said a Report Card Committee with representatives from each elementary grade level and subject area was formed to work on the report card revisions using other standards-based report cards that are found throughout the state. Those report cards, she said, had “certain key elements” that could be incorporated into Massena’s report cards.

“We needed to prioritize,” she said.

The district will be changing their student management system to School Tools, and the change in how students are graded will be part of the initial cost. Mrs. Fiske said that if they waited and changed it down the road, the cost could be as much as $10,000 to incorporate it into School Tools.

Board members approved the change Thursday, and Mrs. Fiske said their next step is to have committee members meet with their peers on Sept. 3, before school opens, to review the report cards and get their input.

“We don’t want to create the wheel and start over,” she said, noting they could address anything that was missing and needed to be added.

Board members will also need to address the changes in their district grading policy, according to Interim Superintendent William H. Flynn.

The bottom line was to help the students, according to Mrs. Fiske.

“It’s all about gaining proficiency and getting them ready to graduate,” she said.

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