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Parents Oppose Standards Based Grading System


The Park City School Board heard from about 20 people during their meeting last night. (Tuesday night) As we’ve reported, parents continue to express concerns about the standards-based grading pilot program implemented at Ecker Hill Middle School this year. Standards-based learning is in place in the elementary schools and has been for a long time. Nearly all the parents said they oppose expanding the grading system into the junior high and high school.

In her update, Superintendent Jill Gildea talked about transitioning the school district to standards-based grading. She said she’s implemented the system in top schools around the country and she empathy for how hard it is to make the change. But she reminded the school board that the best schools in the nation have made changes and now use this learning and grading method. She said the classes in the high school that have clear targets and are using standards-based scoring are doing better in AP classes.

"The idea is that a zero to 100 scale that we’re used to traditionally, is really not the way of the future. And, this is where the school sites are in the process of identifying the key priorities that each course should have in place. So, it’s really teacher-based work in understanding what the kids have to master. But, through aligned systems, our teachers and our students do better.”

Due to the large of people who wanted to give input, the board limited comments to two minutes. Parents said they were worried about their Ecker Hill middle school students feeling unmotivated, confused, anxious and depressed.

Julie Engle has a daughter at Ecker. She said the pilot program is not being implemented well.

My daughter still cannot tell you at Ecker, after a full year of this discussion, how to get a four. She would go for a four. The kids do not understand. I do not understand and I’m open to understanding it. But the way this has been done and implemented to the community, it does not feel transparent. You know this parent group that is helping. I knew nothing about that. There are nine parents on it. I don’t know anything about it. I would love to be in on some of these discussions. Because I would love to help control how this information is getting implemented and disseminated to the community. So, there are people all over who are not resistant to change or fearful of change but who really are afraid that this is going to be another one of those things implemented in the Park City School District that then absolutely blows up and disappears.”

Meg Leaf began her comments listing the names of 12 additional parents who share her concerns.

“And right now, I’m dealing with a kid who is depressed, not motivated in school, literally doesn’t know what he is doing in school. Can’t answer our questions. The teachers, some of them have goals that I don’t understand let alone a seventh grader. So, this is not working.”

Parents with kids in high school said it’s not in their student’s best interest to adopt the program when colleges still value GPA, class ranking and grades.

Ken Canada has three kids in the school district and urged the school board to abandon the plan to put it in the high school.

“But charging forward with standard based grading potentially affecting the tremendous success you have developed at our high school I think is an error. I have no problem with standards based grading being implemented and starting from the K up but to go in and say, oh here, to my sophomore son, you have never experienced this before but next year at the high school, we’re going with it, OK. Please stop. Please stop doing things that creates chaos for our children.”

Park City Board of Education President, Andrew Caplan said the implementation is not the problem. He said professional development for teachers, consistency on grading and technology implementation are the main concerns.

“You know, the consistent feedback we’re getting is that, especially the high achieving kids want to continue to feel challenged to achieve that perfection, or that A, or the four, or however it’s being recognized. It‘s a lot easier to do that when you’re on a one hundred point scale, a traditional scale when you’re looking for mastery. So, you know, we need to work as a group, including students, parents, educators, to really come to a consensus on what this is going to look like going forward and how it should be implemented.”

Caplan says the parent committee selected to work on implementing the grading system district wide, will start to publish meeting schedules, so anyone interested can attend. He said they will post minutes from past meetings as well.

The entire board of education meeting, including all the public input, can be found on pcschools.us