RSU5 – PBE Grading Updates

So, for those of you following things in our district, and around the state, I wanted to share the latest info we have.

I wish to encourage people to make it to this year’s final board meeting on June 13th. That would definitely help us confirm what I have to share below, as we can mention these points during public comment (to get them on public record).

This past week a couple of us visited with the RSU5 Superintendent, Becky Foley, and the RSU5 Board Chairman, Michelle Ritcheson. There had been a rash of emails lately, trying to clarify where everything stands, to/from parents and RSU5 staff, teachers, admins and it became apparent that frustrations were escalating. But when looking at what seemed to be happening, I think a lot of it boiled down to communications issues.

I felt the discussion was really productive and helped clear up a lot of concerns and helped us get some solid answers. I’ll share these answers below. And I have reached out to Becky and Michelle with my summary below to make sure that my understanding is accurate, so I do think we’re all on the same page.

Where we are as of today:

  • The teachers/staff have figured out how they plan to convert 1-4 for this year’s 9th graders back to a 0-100 system for reported grades (for transcripts and such). They should be communicating this to kids affected, and I think there may be discussions with kids who have concerns about how their scores get converted.
  • The teachers will be working during the summer on how to continue to use PBE methods (that many do support — in part, if not in whole) with a 0-100 grading system — for all 9-12 graders going forward. This is what they refer to has the “hybrid” system.
  • The teachers will have more input (there’s a committee of 10 or so people with a large chunk of them being teachers) — they will help figure out how to teach and grade the classes so there’s consistency between teachers, and the ability to identify and record when students have achieved proficiency — in order to substantiate, to the state, that a student is proficient in whatever the core areas will be.
  • There will be a workshop about proficiency — likely the first board meeting in September (they don’t feel there will be much on the agenda because the meetings are pretty light at that time of year). This avoids conflicts with vacations and other school prep work happening in August. With everything happening at the end of the school year, they didn’t feel there was time now. Also, with it happening at the beginning of the school year (and not the 3rd semester [sic – “quarter”]), if there are grievous concerns with whatever the teachers set up in the summer, there will be time to address it before the first semester [sic – “quarter”] is over.
  • The 9th grade new student meeting will happen on August 27th — but Becky will request that Jen [Gulko – FHS Principal] have the info about how things will be graded (as a general outline — not the specifics in each class) shared BEFORE that meeting, so parents who attend on the 27th can review the info ahead of time and be ready with questions they can ask at that meeting. Similar to how the board shares the agenda and supporting docs a week before a meeting happens so people can review them before coming to the meeting.
  • Becky will work on getting a newsletter together — specifically about where things stand right now (similar to the info in this email) and links to where more info can be found. Likely to go out shortly after the next board meeting on the 13th (because the IKAB grading policy [this link may change when it’s updated on the site] should pass the 2nd read and become the official new policy at that meeting — and can be linked in that newsletter).
  • Going forward — likely at the beginning of the school year — they plan to have a central location on the RSU5 website for all the updates like these that are tied to proficiency. To not only make things easier to find, but to make sure there’s one source of info and that the latest info can be found there. Many parents have no idea about any of this. And even for those of us who know what’s happening, info is hard to find, if it exists, on their site.
  • While the board had initially talked about returning to 1-4 grading for the high school at some undefined time in the future (when they first agreed to roll it back on 4/11), it appears that is not the current plan. The attempt to insert a date/deadline in the IKAB policy seems to have had the reverse effect and now they appear to be saying there is NO (current) plan to move back to 1-4. That the 0-100 is no longer a “temporary” measure. Becky and Michelle were clear to point out that things change in education and educational theory all the time and, as an example, maybe down the road every school and every college may be doing/expecting 1-4 grading, and that parents and RSU5 may decide to go back to it then. But, as of right now, there is no goal/intent to move back to 1-4 grading for the high school report cards or transcripts. Also, they did say that individual assessments in classes “may” still have assessments/tests/reports that reflect the 1-4 grades — if the teachers feel it’s the best way to do those specific things in their classes. But report cards and transcripts will not show those scores — they will show 0-100. And the Habits of Work will still appear as a separate section on a transcript.

So, what we need to make sure to do going forward is to make sure we’re engaged with the board. While emails to the board and/or to members are fine, please keep in mind, that until they get the site set up to share status updates (where things are, what’s happening going forward, etc.), we’re always at risk that info received by one might be missing info, misinterpreted or that there’s simply a misunderstanding by one party in the email — that is not shared across the board or staff.

Hopefully, we can move forward, starting with the same understanding and be thankful that, unlike many other districts in the state, our board is not only willing to listen to our concerns, but to thoughtfully consider what we’re saying and work toward addressing them. I don’t doubt there will still be people who will disagree (on pretty much any future topic that the board addresses) — but I’ve been proud of our district’s ability to not let this get ugly and to hear what others are saying. In the end, I don’t doubt that everyone has the same goal, regardless of their position — trying to make things better for our kids.

Thanks to everyone who jumped in this year and talked with the board and others to clarify what was happening and what we hoped could happen. Assuming all goes well on Wednesday, I even plan to remove the petition link from the website, as I think we’re no longer in need of it. 🙂

Please help get the word out to others: