ES or N? DEM or PRG?

Instead of A’s, B’s, C’s or D’s , Montgomery County, Maryland students in first through third grades will get ES, P, I or N on their report cards, explains the Washington Post. ES means “exceptional,” P means “demonstrating proficiency,” I means “in progress,” and N means “not yet making progress or making minimal progress” toward meeting standards. DEM (demonstrating), PRG (progressing) or N (not yet evident) will be given for  “effort,” “intellectual risk taking” and “originality.”

Parents are confused by the “standards-based” grading system, reports the Post. No kidding!

Students will earn an ES, P, etc. in each of several categories in each subject area. “For example, social studies is divided into “measurement topics” of civics, culture, economics, geography and history,” reports the Post.

(GreatSchools’ Samantha Brown) Olivieri said more schools across the country are moving toward standards-based report cards to align with the adoption of Common Core standards, which focus on critical thinking and other higher-order skills students are expected to have in the “real world.”

“It’s not just about what letter we’re using or the grading systems,” Olivieri said. “It’s about the information inspiring action from parents to support their kids.”

Montgomery County plans to expand the new grades to fourth and fifth grade. Other districts are following suit.

But some parents think it’s the same old system with different letters, reports the Post.

Alicia White’s daughter is a third-grader at Dr. Sally K. Ride Elementary School. . . . “For her spelling test, my daughter came home with an I, and to me, I saw it and just [said], ‘That’s a C,’?” White said.

Another parent calls the new report cards “squishy” and say parents don’t know how to use the reports to help their children do better.

Teachers will have to spend more time grading in all the sub-categories, not to mention deciding who gets a DEM, PRG or N in “intellectual risk-taking” and “originality.” (How does one evaluate a first grader’s intellectual risk-taking?) Parents will have to spend more time analyzing the report card — or , at least, translating into A, B, C, D and F grades. Is it worth it?

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  1. Deirdre Mundy says:

    This isn’t new.. it’s a return to old. When we moved to MOCO when I was in 5th grade, the 3rd and unders got O,S, and N. (Outstanding, Satisfactory, and Not Satisfactory.)

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      (That was in.,.. 1988. Because I remember the Bush inaugaration stuff…)

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      When my oldest was in elementary school they used E (excellent), S+(satisfactory plus), S (satisfactory), NS (not satisfactory), NR (not developmentally ready).

  2. Deirdre Mundy says:

    BTW–do you realize your ads include term paper mills?

  3. What I want to know is, was this designed more as an “improvement” (i.e., it gives parents more information) or more as a way of getting around the “stigmatizing and hurtful” grades of D or F?

    When I was a small child, they did the O, S, and N grades, but by fifth grade we switched over to letter grades. (And then in high school, I was graded on a 1 to 7 scale, where 1 was abject failure, 2 was slightly-less-abject failure, 3 was like a C-, 4 was “okay but not great”, 5 was probably similar to a B, and 6 and 7 were “honors” and “high honors,” respectively. I have never seen another school that used that system.)

  4. We used the E-S-N grading system when I attended elementary school in the early 70’s, but by the time I reached 6th grade, it was A, B, C, D, or F from that point on.

    More politically correct BS me thinks, but since students are put on notice that their classwork starts to count in 8th grade, the use of letter grades isn’t likely to go away here any time soon. 🙂

  5. D's Squirrel Food says:

    Parents have been confused about grading for decades. What does it mean if your child has a B in language arts? Well, it could mean a whole lot of things, depending on how grading is structured. It could be that the child has completed most of her assignments. It could be that she has completed all of them, and they are of decent quality. Maybe they just participate well in class.

    Standards based grading is an attempt to actually communicate what a child has learned. It offers far more detail than parents are used to, which is apparently a bad thing for folks who just want to see a letter and know if their child is “doing well” or not. Other things that have traditionally been factored into the student’s overall grade such as attendance, assignment completion, and behavior should be reported separately.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      In that case, the system should be explicit: “This grade does not include assignment completion, class participation, or behavior.” Then, there had better be grades for assignment completion, class participation, and behavior–and there must be negative consequences if those latter grades are not good.

      Many schools now give letter or number grades, and then some sort of “outstanding,” “satisfactory,” and “needs improvement” in effort and conduct. These latter grades don’t go on transcripts and aren’t used in figuring GPA or class rank. I gather that most teachers and parents don’t take them very seriously.

      • D's Squirrel Food says:


        I mostly agree with you. I am mostly advocating for SBG in K-8, whereas I think you’re coming from a high school point of view. I don’t think GPA or class rank is relevant until high school. It does seem to me that students and their parents care mostly about the letter grade received, regardless of how the student achieves it. I do wish that more families would focus on their child learning the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to become an educated adult.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          And I think I mostly agree with you 🙂 I am indeed coming from a high school point of view. But at any point in schooling, grades without consequences are a weak tool.

          I would love to see an honest discussion of what “skills, knowledge, and dispositions [are] necessary to become an educated adult.” Then we could think about basing K-? on them.

          • Wow, grading. My thtguhos on this could, like Katie’s, fill a whole blog! It’s a difficult and subjective thing, to be sure, and one of the trickiest, universally-loathed parts of teaching. Writing is not possible to evaluate on a linear scale just think of all the variabilities in language, style, argument, investment, and creativity that go into each essay you write and so it poses a particularly difficult challenge to grade. One of the best writing assignments I ever heard of is the 50 word argument: Write an elegant and persuasive argument in less than 50 words. It’s hard, and requires a lot of careful revision. And yet, it takes very little time to read, so it’s a good investment for a teacher with a lot of students. It takes a lot of time to teach writing well, I think, but it’s possible to still teach it well with more limited time; it just takes smarter rather than harder work.

      • lightly seasoned says:

        Oh, I used to think that was the case until I switched the numerical order of our conduct grades and put below expectations instead of above expectations. I spent HOURS explaining my error to all the parents.

        Our elementaries have gone to this sort of system; I can’t imagine how long it takes them to do grades now.

  6. When I was in Catholic school 20-some years ago, they had a completely whacked out grading system — it was 1-5, but the numbers were not ranked in order. I recall that “2” was the very best one, and I don’t recall the rest, but I do know that it was nuts.

  7. The A-B-C-D-F system will always be around. Children learning on the USS Enterprise-D will likely still use it. It’s one of the ultimate examples of the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”