PLEASANT HILL, Iowa – Southeast Polk Community Schools is integrating new tools to better monitor students' learning progress in core classes district-wide.
The district is using a proficiency scale that is broken down into four categories. A four means a student is exceeding, three is proficient, two is a student is progressing, and one means they are not understanding the material.
Southeast Polk Community Schools Curriculum and Instruction Executive Director Jo Ellen Latham said they looked at other districts and data before deciding to switch to this grading scale.
“Students are usually on a progression of learning. Using a proficiency scale helps a teacher and a student see here is where a student is, and then plan instruction and feedback to get them to the next level. It gives students more ownership over their learning and it gives teachers better opportunities to give feedback to gets students to the next step,” Latham said.
Each student will receive a score on the scale that can be viewed online on canvas.
Latham said you will be able to find an overall average for how the student is doing, and it will convert into a letter grade.
With a score, students will receive comments about what they can work on to excel in their learning and get the next level score.
“If I see I get an 87, that does not tell me anything on what I can do to get better. It says you got an 87, but if I get a proficiency scale that says your introduction and your body of your paragraph were very well developed but you still need to work on your conclusion, then I know specifically what I need to do next to get a better score on that particular paper,” Latham said.
Latham said that this is a different approach for students, teachers, and parents to look at the work being done.
“If I have a common proficiency scale for third-grade writing, then I can work with my third-grade team and I can say most of my kids are at a three but I still have these at a two what have you been doing to help your students to get to a three. It really supports collaboration, it supports more uniform learning opportunities for students so that you are going to have the same grade experiences no matter what classroom you’re in,” Latham said.
Latham said this is not replacing letter grades, it is tracking students' progress in a new way.
Des Moines Public Schools uses a similar concept called Standards-Referenced Grading. Waukee Community Schools also uses a similar concept called Progress Report Rubrics. West Des Moines Community Schools use Pupil Progress reports for kindergarten through sixth grade.