End of second quarter letter

Dear Parents,

It’s that time of year again!

We have ended the second quarter of school - our school year is half over - and it is time for report cards to be distributed.  Second quarter report cards are always an important assessment period, as students usually hit their “learning stride” around the middle to end of 2nd quarter and we can really see them at their best.

For students who are learning, growing and reaching their potential, the mid-year goal becomes helping them to sustain their efforts through the balance of the school year.  

And for students who are experiencing difficulties with their learning, this is a prime time for parents, teachers and students to work together on a plan to address those difficulties - while there is still plenty of time left in the school year to see improvement.

Most parents have a pretty firm grasp of how to interpret a traditional report card, as we all experienced receiving report cards in our youth; however, the addition of reporting student progress on subject area standards is relatively new for most of today’s parents, and they can be a bit confusing.

One of the most common questions that teachers and principals receive at report card time is, “How can my child make a 94 in Math (or any other subject area), and make a “2” on the majority of their Math standards?”  This is a fair question and the answer lies in understanding that grades (numerical or letter) reflect a child’s progress within a specific period of time (quarter), while standards are assessed over a period of the entire school year.  

A standard reflects a specific skill in a subject area that is introduced and taught at some point in the school year - and often, throughout the school year.  Standards are specific to each grade level, and serve as a foundation for the next grade level, so it is important that students attain a degree of mastery of the skills contained in the standard in order to be “on grade level”.  Standards are ranked from 1 - 4, and the goal is for a student to achieve a level 3 or higher, which is the “proficient” level or higher by the end of the school year.

Common sense tells us that not every skill can be learned - or even introduced - in the first quarter of the school year, and for that reason, standards that have not been introduced by report card time either don’t appear on the report card or the assessment is left blank.  It would not be fair to a student to assess them for a skill that has not been introduced! Rest assured that teachers have an instructional plan that will introduce the standard at the appropriate time, and then you will see an assessment score for that standard.

Other standards are introduced earlier in the year, and more instruction to further develop that skill takes place throughout the school year.  Depending upon the complexity of the standard (skill), the student may receive a “2” in the first quarter on a skill, which means the skill is new and the student is developing the skill.  This may be exactly where the student should be at report card time, and in this case, a “2” is not a meant to be a negative assessment.  As the standard continues to be taught throughout the school year, and the student continues to achieve mastery, you will see their score improve to a “3”, or even a “4”.

So how exactly does a student score a 94 in Math and still score a “2” on a Math standard?

If your child’s teacher has introduced a new standard and your child has successfully completed what they have been asked to do during the quarter - good grades on classwork, homework, quizzes and tests - they could receive a 94, which reflects their mastery of what they have been taught within that quarter.  Your child did well that quarter and received a 94 for their efforts - good job!

But standards are not “quarter based”, they are “school-year based”, and there is more work to be done - more instruction to carry out - before your child can be expected to reach proficiency or higher score (3 or 4) on that Math standard.  Your child’s teacher has a plan for how this standard will be further developed and as long as your child continues to keep up their efforts, we can expect that they will reach the proficiency level by the end of the school year.

Do teachers ever give a score of 4 (the highest level) for a standard early in the school year?  

Absolutely, they do.  If a student demonstrates the highest level of mastery on a standard right from the moment it is introduced, then the teacher will reflect that in their assessment score.  Scoring on standards reflects exactly where a student falls in relation to mastery of the score at any given point. It is not something they “earn”, it is something they “demonstrate”.  

So how is a parent to know when to be concerned about standards assessment scores?  In general, a score of 2, 3 or 4 is no cause for alarm, unless you hear directly from the teacher otherwise.  A score of 1 generally means that the skill has been introduced and your child may be struggling with this skill (though that is not always the case).  If your child has several scores of “1”, you may want to reach out to your child’s teacher to get more information about where the teacher expects your child to score at this time.  If there is a problem, you can discuss ways to address the problem, and if there isn’t a problem, it will put your mind at ease.

In the field of education, assessment measures are in a bit of a state of flux, and the Archdiocese of New York is no exception.  Having quarterly grades and standards assessment is a bit of a hybrid and can be confusing, but the goal is provide you with information about your child so that we can keep your child on track towards reaching their full potential and achieving mastery.  It may be a “too much information”, but it is all generated to help your child succeed.

And that is what we all want, indeed.


Kelly Burke