Montgomery Co.’s new report card system confuses parents

WASHINGTON – A report card system designed to facilitate a more advanced learning environment is causing confusion among parents in Montgomery County Public Schools.

“It came out at the beginning of this year,” says Erika Leatham, a mother with a second grader at Ritchie Park Elementary School. “To be honest I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now.”

The grade scale replaces the traditional A with an ES as the highest possible mark. ES stands for exceptional work. Grades also include P (proficient), I (in progress), and N (not yet making progress/making minimal progress).

According to district officials, the county implemented the system in response to reforms on the state and national levels that called for tougher education standards. District officials also note the program was piloted in 25 schools for nearly 10 years before Montgomery County adopted the program.

The scale purposely makes the ES rare and difficult to attain. Officials say the system forces students to advance knowledge they have learned instead of merely memorizing facts. However, parents are struggling to understand what actions and achievements warrant a particular grade.

“I’m not sure what the purpose of the ES is,” says Leatham. “I’m confused, and I asked the teachers about it. I understand it means they are achieving above grade level, but I don’t know how much above grade level.”

A student can get every answer on a test correct and still receive a grade lower than an ES. The Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations is responding to concerns.

“Our focus has been on working with MCPS to make sure parents understand the ‘new’ elementary report cards and what the grades represent,” reads a statement provided to WTOP by MCCPTA President Janette Gilman. “Our understanding is that this new format matches up well to the new Curriculum 2.0 and that with time, communication, and clarity many if not most concerns will be alleviated,” Gilman writes.

The so called “standards-based” report card system will, starting next year, include fourth and fifth-graders.

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