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Claremont Looks At School Grading

Claremont — The committee formed to review and recommend ways to improve the standard-based grading system implemented two years ago in the SAU presented recommendations to the School Board Wednesday evening. The over-arching goal, committee members said, was to improve the clarity of the system and communication, especially with parents.

The grading system, which replaced the traditional letter grades with terms such as proficient, proficient plus and proficient with distinction, came under criticism by a number of parents at a School Board meeting in February. Soon after, a committee, made up of faculty, parents, administrators and students, was formed and undertook a thorough review.

The committee report said members emphasized clear definitions of levels of proficiency, the collection and reporting of student performance over time and consistent standards and assessments across grade levels.

“We are really committed to being consistent with what we communicate to parents,” said committee member and teacher Ellie Feleen.

Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin opened Wednesday’s presentation by discussing the goal of the process.

“We want to provide clarity and consistency in grading practices,” McGoodwin said. “This is not going to be an overnight process. ... We now have a foundation to improve the standards-based grading system.”

The committee also said it is imperative that everyone is better informed about the grading system and there is clear communication to parents, teachers and students.

“The lack of communication, that is what has been killing us in this process,” said Cory LeClair, school improvement coordinator for the SAU.

After the presentation, board member John Napsey said he thought the attention to communication was “a major step forward.”

Several committee members participated in the presentation, which divided recommendations between what can be done immediately, what could be done by January and longer term considerations.

The School Board was in support of the committee’s work and promised to continue that support going forward. But one concern was whether teachers would have enough time to devote to implementing some of the recommendations.

“There needs to be more time for teachers to work on this,” said School Board member Becky Ferland, noting there is only one professional development day on the school calendar next year.

McGoodwin thought teachers could “carve out” specific time during the day and that may prove more productive than an entire day.

“Supporting teachers is the biggest thing we need,” said board member Brian Rapp. “If we don’t give them what they need, there will be resistance.

“We fumbled bringing this forward. Now we understand what we need to do. We will do all we can to support you and keep this going.”

The committee’s complete presentation is available on the SAU 6 web site.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.