Do we need an “E”?

Last year, our school district moved to a standards-based reporting system. Well, that’s not quite right. The middle and high school in our district apparently had the choice to opt out and they did. That’s another story altogether, really. But we in the elementary schools are in the second year of standards-based reporting, which is sure to change again next year with the Common Core standards coming into play in Massachusetts.

One area of contention has been the “E” designation for student achievement, where students are assessed based on how they progressing or meeting the individual curriculum framework standard. The “E” stands for “exceeding the grade level standard.” My sixth teaching team has had many discussions about the E and when it might be warranted. We were very stingy with it and I think I may have given out two or three E’s all of last year. Total. And even there, it felt like I was rewarding students for their overall work and not that they were exceeding the sixth grade expectations. It didn’t feel right to me.

During district-wide meetings last spring about thestandards-based report system and how it was going in year one, a clear message emerged from the upper grades: let’s get rid of the “E” since none of us are teaching curriculum that goes beyond the grade we teach, and figuring out how to justify an “E” makes it trickier than it is worth. Plus, parents of students who traditionally received straight A’s in the old system expect to see straight E’s now.

But the “E” remains in place this year again, as one grade level in particular apparently argued for it to remain (and the designation of achievement levels is standard across all grades). I’m not sure why that one grade has more sway than the rest of us, but I guess it does.

I’m curious to know what others are doing on this issue. Do you have a designation that shows student achievement beyond the standards that are being taught in a grade? How is that determined? Please share your thoughts.

Peace (in the mulling it over),

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