Parents with kindergarten students in York County can look forward to a new report card system aimed to improve the assessment of developmental learning.
Previously, the division had been using a report card that looked at overall content areas, while the new report card would be standards-based, according to a presentation from the district.
What that means is that the report cards are broken down not only with the standards of learning from the Virginia Department of Education but they go further into sub-standards that allow teachers to provide unique feedback for each child.
“This can provide individualized feedback for parents to have a closer look at progress throughout the school year,” said Stehpanie Guy, chief academic officer for the district.
A pilot program began at Bethel Manor Elementary School at the beginning of the school year and the feedback from parents and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive, said Candi Skinner, director of elementary instruction.
The new report card will break down categories, such as reading on grade level, into a variety of different subgroups, such as “identify and produce words that rhyme” and “Match consonant, short vowel, and initial consonant digraph sounds to appropriate letter.”
Leah Shy, an adjunct instructor in education at the College of William & Mary, said having that type of division of instructional categories is a significant improvement on the report card the county was previously distributing.
Shy said the key is making sure the report card is not an influence of instruction in the classroom, but the other way around.
“It shouldn’t steer instruction,” Shy said. “It should be what comes after. This type of report card, I think, is designed to do that hopefully.”
The original design for the pilot report card had less sub-standards under each category, but the feedback from teachers and parents showed a desire for more space for comments and for an even more individualized assessment.
The idea for the new assessment approach began several years ago with the implementation of a new literacy model in the division. The pilot program started at Bethel Manor elementary after the school’s principal, David Reitz, volunteered the school. One of the benefits of starting at Bethel Manor, though, is that the school is a 100 percent military population.
Part of the benefit of the new report cards is that, since York County has a large military population, it could be tested on students who might come and go from the school but still need some sort of universal assessment approach.
Skinner said standards-based report cards are being used more frequently throughout the United States, so having this approach in a military community gives the parents of kindergarten students a better idea of their child’s developing abilities even if they’re coming from another location.
Additionally, the report cards will now be going out quarterly, as opposed to going out at the interim and quarter marks.
“That speaks to the level of specificity in the report card,” Guy said. “If you’re looking at it every 4.5 weeks, with all the standards and sub standards, it would be difficult to assess those.”
The new report card changes the terminology slightly as well. Guy said it’s not necessarily that the card changes the terms but rather delves into them in more detail.
Once the report card starts at all the elementary schools in the district in the fall, Shy said the next important step is seeing how they influence classroom instruction.
“Because of how this reporting system has a piece of accountability for students and teachers, it can be an instrument of steering what is happening,” Shy said. “But a well-designed report card system can help share that alignment between the classroom and home.”