“Needs Improvement” could be the teacher’s note on the current report cards given to elementary school students in Frederick County Public Schools.
A committee of parents, teachers and school administrators is currently working to develop a new report card for the elementary students that incorporates the new Common Core State Standards and also make it a better way of communicating what their children are achieving at school, said Michele Baisey, teacher specialist for early childhood education with the county school system.
The common core is an initiative among the states aimed at ensuring that students nationwide are being prepared to meet the same expectations in all subjects. Under the common core, students will focus more on nonfiction texts and be exposed to more rigorous math lessons early on.
Maryland adopted the standards in 2010, and county educators had to develop new curriculum matching those expectations.
While the county is implementing that curriculum, educators are also preparing for new state tests — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC — which are aligned with the common core and will replace the existing Maryland School Assessments in 2014-15.
The school system has asked for feedback from parents and others about what should be included in the new report card and how parents use them to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their children at school, Baisey said.
“We’ve made improvements to report cards in the past, maybe four or five years ago,” Frederick Board of Education Vice President Joy Schaefer said.
The report cards confused some parents because there were a lot more details and symbols that the parents couldn’t always find the key to interpret them, she said.
In elementary school, report card outcomes are listed as Outstanding, Satisfactory, and Needs Improvement, Schaefer said.
The board has not yet seen the drafts for the new report cards yet, she said.
Many school systems nationwide are going through a similar process to change their report cards, said Christy Tirrell-Corbin, director of Early Childhood Education and College of Education Honors Program at the University of Maryland, College Park.
As school systems move to the core curriculum for standardized tests, they have to make changes in how they issue report cards to keep track of the achievements of students, otherwise they won’t know if they are learning the materials to pass the tests, Tirrell-Corbin said.
Without changing the report cards, students might be getting good grades, but then not be prepared for the tests, Tirrell-Corbin said.
“Are the grades and report cards good predictors of standardized test scores?” she said.
The current report card does not align well with the common core standards being implemented, Baisey said.
The implementation of common core just began last year in the pre-kindergarten through second grade in mathematics and next year in language art standards and for children in third through fifth grades for math, Baisey said.
“The report card just hadn’t kept up with the math changes, and that is related to our feedback from parents in understanding the report card and understanding how their children are performing,” Baisey said. “We need this to be an education tool that parents easily understand so they know how their child is performing at any given time.”
Frederick County’s committee is looking at how other counties and states are doing their report cards to keep up with the curriculum changes, she said.
Many parents with children at different grade levels find the different report card styles used in the county system cause a lot of confusion, she said.
“If you have a kindergartener, a second-grader and a fifth-grader, you essentially have to decipher three separate report cards,” Baisey said.
The next committee meeting is scheduled 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 11 at the school system’s Staff Development Center in Walkersville. A draft of the report card will be presented to the public on April 16 from 7-8 p.m. at the center.