I spent last Saturday with the 5th and 2nd grade teams from my school and one other in our district learning about a new progress report they will be beta testing. (I was there because my former principal is heading up this project and she knows my very strong feelings about grades. She invited me to join them and give my feedback.)
This progress report is being created by our district and the folks at Thinkworks. They created the thinkblocks that many of us have blogged about recently. I've got a couple of pages of notes and thoughts from the day and other random ideas swirling around in my head. It may take a while for it all to settle and truly make sense to me, much less anyone else!
However, the gist of the new progress report is that it will include traditional content areas (math, reading, art, etc), social/citizenship skills (uses time wisely, works well with others, etc) and the patterns of thinking from the Thinkworks folks. This much I understood before Saturday.
The progress report will not have any letter grades. That's worth repeating in case it didn't really sink in, there will be no letter grades. Everything will be scored on a scale of 1 to 3. 1 means 'needs more time to approach standard.' 2 means 'approaches standard.' 3 means 'meets standard.' There is also what is being called a 3E, 'extends standard.'
Those scores will be used for the patterns of thinking in the same way as the traditional content areas. This will be the progress report for grades 1-6 in our district in a few years (if all goes well). I can't begin to describe how exciting I think this is.
I'm impressed with the elimination of letter grades. For years now I've felt that letter grades do little or nothing to communicate with parents about their children's learning. If that's the goal of a progress report I think it comes up short. I'm also very, very impressed with the idea of communicating progress on the patterns of thinking.
We talked a little on Saturday about students who would be successful in the patterns of thinking but not in the traditional content areas. I immediately thought of a student of mine from 5 years ago. He had a learning disability and was almost completely unable to decode text. As a result, he was convinced he was stupid. However, when I read a book aloud his comments and questions were the most insightful in our class. I'm not sure if it was his learning disability or his lack of confidence that made school so difficult for him, but I am sure that he deserved better. I think if he had been able to see his strengths on a progress report like this one it would have made a world of difference for him.
(I don't think this post makes nearly as much sense as I would like it to. For that, I apologize. I'll try to be more coherent in the future.)