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?

Praise is out

Schools are rejecting self-esteem boosting, reports the Washington Post. It turns out that pumping up students’ self-esteem through easy, unearned praise doesn’t improve their achievement.

As schools ratchet up academic standards for all students, new buzzwords are “persistence,” “risk-taking” and “resilience” — each implying more sweat and strain than fuzzy, warm feelings.

“We used to think we could hand children self-esteem on a platter,” Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck said. “That has backfired.”

. . . children praised for trying hard or taking risks tend to enjoy challenges and find greater success. Children also perform better in the long term when they believe that their intellect is not a birthright but something that grows and develops as they learn new things.

Brain imaging shows “connections between nerve cells in the cortex multiply and grow stronger as people learn and practice new skills.”  Montgomery County (Maryland) schools now teach children that they’re developing their brains when they struggle to learn something new. Teachers also try to provide specific feedback on how students can improve instead of a vague “Good job!”

Praise should be used to encourage students to take risks and learn from failure, Dweck said. “Does the teacher say: ‘Who’s having a fantastic struggle? Show me your struggle.’ That is something that should be rewarded.”