Wednesday, February 11, 2009

WOW! All I can say is WOW!

What is wrong with our school system? I don't get it.

Ok, last week it snowed, and the roads were getting a little bad, so they called to say that school was closing early. Ok, I can understand that.

Then school got back in session and were closed for MLK day, but the Friday before it was too cold to go to school and then they closed on Inauguration day for some reason too. I think because of floods. I can understand that, but being too cold to go to school. I remember times that we stood outside until the bell rang in the cold weather.

But today really got me. I decided that I was gonna have lunch with PJ. Now, he did forget his homework, so I had to take that. But, I haven't made the time to have lunch with him. So, I thought lunch would be good today.

The weather here is iffy at best. You never know what Southeast TN is gonna hand you. We have some pretty strong winds today and threat of storms later today, but nothing right now.

I get there and he tells me that they are letting out early. Why? Well, there is a tornado warning until 6pm. What the heck? The bad weather was West of Nashville, not anywhere close to us here. They could have finished school. But the Director decided that it was taking a chance.

Well, I am at school, texting Chuck to let him know that Eric would be out soon, explained to him why he was coming home soon and then shook my head.

PJ is sruggling through school right now. I don't really know why, but I do know that the school system is sorry around here. Of course the economy has something to do with the teachers assistant being let go of, so that is a lack of help right there. Then the over crowding doesn't help either, they don't have the money in the budget to build a new school. Then on top of that, the grading system that they hit the schools with is way out there:
Parents demand 'fair grading' for students
Arleah Difebbo
Banner Staff Writer
Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009

NEW GRADING SYSTEM IS ‘CONFUSING AND FLAWED’ — Rachel Southall of the Parents for Fair Grade Reports told Cleveland City Board of Education members she and the parents’ group felt the Standards Based reporting used in kindergarten through fifth-grade schools is “flawed and doesn’t give parents enough information on their child’s academic standing.” Standards Based reporting has been phased in over the past several years in the city school district. Banner photo, ARLEAH DIFEBBO
"ABC's, not 123's:" This is the crux of what the Parents for Fair Grade Reports are demanding from Cleveland City Board of Education members.

Several representatives of the parents' group were present at the board's regular meeting Monday night as spokespersons Michelle McRee and Rachel Southall voiced concern regarding the Standards Based Grading System used in elementary schools.

"The parents I represent do not feel the system has been properly implemented. A three-tiered grading system is too broad and gives parents less information," said McRee.

The parents' group also submitted a 15-page typed report to each board member which included their stance on the new grading system currently used in grades kindergarten through fifth, a resolution, Web site information on other school systems' use of the Standard Based Grading system and a petition of more than 108 parents signatures to revert to the "traditional grading system."

Standards Based reporting grades elementary children with a 1, 2 or 3, with 3 being the highest score and means a student has "mastered" a subject.

If converted from a percentage grade, a 3 would be equal to a score of 80 to 100, a 2 would be a 50 to 75, and a 1 would be below a 50.

The system uses assessments throughout each nine-week grading period given by the teacher to each student to determine what level of mastery they have achieved in a subject.

Used in school districts around the nation, the system was started in Cleveland City Schools about five years ago when it was piloted at Arnold and Blythe-Bower Elementary schools.

"This was something that was teacher initiated," said board member Dawn Robinson. "The teachers saw this national trend and came to us for permission to try it. They wanted to see if it would improve their students' reading and math scores. It has worked. Those schools' reading and math scores have greatly improved. And, the board decided that if it worked so well at those schools, we should be uniform and slowly phase it in at all our elementary schools," said Robinson.

"We voted on that a few years ago. We didn't just drop this on our schools," she said.

Since then, Robinson said Standards Based grading has been phased in over the past few years and, as of this past fall, is currently being used in all kindergarten through fifth grade city schools.

"Getting a B or C in math doesn't tell me what my child needs to work on and doesn't need to work on in math. Is it long division or multiplication tables that I need to work on with him?" said Robinson.

"When they get to middle and high school, that school can see exactly where that child needs to be much more with Standards Based reporting than with the old grading system," she said.

McRee and Southall said the members of Parents for Fair Grade Reporting feel Standards Based reporting, as written in their resolution, should "provide both educators and parents with more information. The Cleveland City School system uses a less informative variation of standards based reporting ... neglected several key steps necessary for the successful implementation of a standards based reporting system ... did not involved parents in the planning, creation or implementation ... is not implemented consistently from teacher to teacher or school to school ... makes it more difficult for both parents and students to understand students' true academic performance ... does not give parents enough information to guide their child's education ... and, does not give students enough information about their academic standing."

"These assessments are too narrow and vary from teacher to teacher and school to school," said McRee.

"Also, there is no indication of whether learning skills, homework, projects and tests are being incorporated into reporting mastery. Is mastery determined solely based on the administered assessments? Our children report an equal level of confusion. This has contributed to apathy in completing assignments, studying for tests and excelling on major projects," said McRee.

"This will cripple our students to be competitive in high school to get scholarships. They need to know how to move up on a six point scale," she said.

Other parents spoke of their dissatisfaction during the meeting: "One time, my child brought home a paper which had a 50 and a number 2 written on it. She also brought home a paper that had a 75 and a 2 written on it. How is a 50 and a 75 the same grade?" asked Jenni White.

Southall said some parents are so upset about the grading system they have removed their children from the city schools and enrolled them in private schools.

McRee said the teachers at the schools "have not been adequately and uniformly trained in the implementation of the current system."

However, Robinson strongly disagreed with the parents' group assertion that the teachers had not been "adequately trained."

"The teachers have been thoroughly trained, but this is also new for some of them and you have to allow for a learning curve," said Robinson.

The board voted to form a committee comprised of board members, Director of Schools Dr. Rick Denning and at least one parent from each school in the district.

"We need time to study the parents' group proposal," said board chairman Peggy Pesterfield.

She echoed Robinson's opinion that Standards Based grading is working, but "may need to be tweaked some."

Anytime you try new things, you will have problems that need to be adjusted. It's always important to strive to make things better," said Pesterfield.

Southall, speaking on the board's decision at the meeting, said, "I am encouraged, but I don't think (the board) understands the level of dissatisfaction with this group of parents."

In fact, Parents for Fair Grade Reporting wrote in their submitted resolution that "The Cleveland City School board should require teachers to report on measure academic standard and an average percentage for each subject area ... the board should adopt these changes in policy in spring 2009, so they can be fully implemented starting in school year 2009-2010."

Straight from the paper. Unreal. This doesn't give the children the incentive to do well in school.

Right now, I am disgusted with the school system. To close over the winds, to close over cold days, because they want to save in the heating bill, to close over rains. Why bother?