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Letter to Somers Point Schools Parents

 

November 2017

Dear Families:

This year, in the Somers Point School District, report cards will be issued three times.  If a student is having difficulty meeting established New Jersey Standards, teachers will contact you prior to report cards being sent home.  The Somers Point School District has established grade-level learning targets based upon the New Jersey Student Learning Standards.  The purpose of the Standards-Based Report Cards in grades K – 6 is to communicate student progress toward achieving these end-of-year learning targets.  A standards-based report card:

  • Provides a clear message to parents about which skills and concepts students know and are able to demonstrate in relation to established state standards
  • Helps teachers and students focus on identified end-of-year expectations from the very beginning of the year, giving students a direction for their learning
  • Aligns instruction, assessment, and grading with standards
  • Creates a higher level of consistency and continuity in assessing among teachers and across grade levels

You should have already received information regarding Parent-Teacher Conferences December 12 – 15, 2017.  This year, report cards will be distributed during the Parent-Teacher Conference, so please make sure to sign up for a conference if you have not done so already.

 

Why are we hearing so much about standards?

Teaching and learning should be aligned with the New Jersey Student Learning Standards.  Our curriculum (what we teach) is developed, and our textbooks and materials (what we use to teach) are selected with standards as the guiding influence.

Success for schools in New Jersey is determined by their students’ performance on annual assessments (PARCC).  These “measures of success” are published annually and include schools’ and districts’ progress toward meeting the New Jersey Student Learning Standards.

 

What is a standards-based assessment?

Standards-based assessment is based on the belief that every child can learn, given adequate instruction and opportunity for practice.  It allows teachers to accurately communicate achievement of learning targets or benchmarks to students and parents, as well as providing information to plan for instruction. 

The New Jersey Student Learning Standards inform teachers, parents, and students what skills and content students should learn at varying points in their educational experience.  Developing assessments and report cards based upon the New Jersey Student Learning Standards measures how well students are acquiring skills and knowledge relative to those established standards.  Standards-based assessment is used to help every student understand where he or she is in relation to meeting standards so they can improve.

By aligning curriculum, assessment and student report cards to standards, teachers measure student learning against consistent, established criteria.  This is different from traditional assessment and reporting, which gives a single letter or number grade for broad subject categories.  A standards-based report card puts the emphasis on learning, rather than on a comparison between and among students.

 

What is the difference between traditional assessment and standards-based assessment?

Traditional assessment uses averaging of student work over time, and other student characteristics, such as work habits, attendance, homework and effort.  Standards-based assessment focuses solely on a student’s academic achievement and continued mounting evidence that indicates a true measure of the student’s attainment of learning targets (such as the ability to write a paragraph, or add and subtract whole numbers).  Extraneous factors like work habits, attendance, homework, and effort are assessed and reported separately on the College and Career Readiness Skills section of the report card.

In standards-based assessments, reporting is based more upon the progress toward mastery of learning targets or standards than “traditional” assessment.  Subject areas are broken down further into big ideas and learning targets that students need to learn or master.  Each target is assessed.  Scores from activities that are provided solely for practice are not reflected.  The influence of positive and consistent work habits on student learning is reported separately from achievement, within “College and Career-Readiness Skills”.

On traditional report cards, students receive one grade for reading, one for math, one for science, and so on.  On a standards-based report card, subjects are dividing into standards bands that students are responsible for learning.  Students receive a separate mark for each standards band.

The marks on a standards-based report card are different from traditional letter grades.  Letter grades are often calculated by combining how well the student met his/her particular teacher’s expectations, how he/she performed on assignments and tests, and how much effort the teacher believes was put forth.  Letter grades do not tell parents which skills their children have mastered or whether they are working below, at, or above grade level.

Standards-based report cards will provide more consistency between teachers over the years than traditional report cards, because all students are evaluated on the same grade-appropriate skills.  Parents can see exactly which standards their child has mastered.

 

Do the performance descriptors on the report card correlate with letter grades?

No, the following performance descriptors are used to indicate a student’s progress in meeting academic learning standards:

Exceeding Standards

The student consistently demonstrates an understanding and application of skills and concepts beyond what was taught in class.  The student may benefit from work that is differentiated or of greater rigor.

Meeting Standards

The student demonstrates consistent understanding and application of skills and concepts taught in class.  The student is consistently on target for meeting established end-of-year, grade-level learning targets.  It is not anticipated that students will receive “Meeting Standards” in all areas of the report card early in the school year as many skills and concepts are revisited over the course of a year to support consistent understanding and application.

Approaching Standards

The student demonstrates partial understanding of skills and concepts taught in class.  The student may require more exposure or practice to fully demonstrate consistent understanding and application.  A mark of “Approaching Standards” is expected and often occurs when a new concept or skill is introduced. 

Not Yet

The student consistently requires assistance to demonstrate understanding and/or application of skills and concepts taught in class.  The student may benefit from work that is adapted or from differentiated instruction in order to demonstrate better understanding or application of skills and concepts.

Teachers will use the following key to assign scores representing student progress:

 

ES

MS

AS

NY

Exceeding Standards

Meeting Standards

Approaching Standards

Not Yet

Frequency of behavior  - demonstrates mastery all or most of the time

Frequency of behavior  - demonstrates mastery most of the time

Frequency of behavior  - demonstrates mastery some of the time

Frequency of behavior  -demonstrates mastery seldom or never

Requires no support to demonstrate understanding

Requires no or limited support to demonstrate understanding

Requires moderate support to demonstrate understanding

Requires considerable support but rarely demonstrates learning

Demonstrates a thorough understanding of the content taught

Demonstrates a general understanding of the content taught

Demonstrates a partial understanding of the content taught

Demonstrates limited to no understanding of the content taught

Makes no errors or omissions when demonstrating concepts or processes

Makes a few errors or omissions when demonstrating concepts or processes

Makes some errors or omissions when demonstrating concepts or processes

Makes frequent errors or omissions when demonstrating concepts or processes

 

How does standards-based assessing affect student motivation?

When students can clearly see the learning targets/purpose for each activity and connect the outcome of those activities to actions that are within their control, motivation improves.  In other words, when students can see that the level and amount of work they contribute to a learning activity is directly related to the outcome, they will be empowered and encouraged to work hard.

 

How does a standards-based report card improve teaching and learning?

Knowing where the students are in their progress toward meeting standards-based learning objectives is crucial for planning and carrying out classroom instruction.  Teachers teach to the needs of each student. Standards-based assessment gives teachers more information about each student’s progress in meeting the level of proficiency required by each standard.  In addition, teachers share the standards with students and parents, helping them to better understand the learning that needs to take place.

If you have any questions about standards-based assessment and grading, or the new report cards in grades K – 6, please reach out to the curriculum office at (609) 927-2053 X3103.

 

Thank you,

Kim Tucker

Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction/ Principal, New York Avenue School