Hutchinson: Standards-Based Offers More Insight

The new superintendent sat down with Patch for a live chat.

North Andover Superintendent Dr. Kavin Hutchinson joined us for a live chat Thursday.

The issue most discussed was standards-based grading, a new system of evaluating students which is transitioning into this year.

Here are some of the highlights:


Patch.com: Can you tell us what standards-based grading is?

Kevin Hutchinson: Standards-based grading is a system that reflects what the essential standards are and how students are progressing to meet those standards. For example, if our essential writing standards are written to reflect the Six Traits of writing, one of which is Organization, then the report card will reflect how a student is progressing in the "organization" writing standard. Each standard would have a 4 point rubric (scoring guide that reflects characteristics of each level) with 3 being "proficient."

Patch.com: Do you see that impacting someone's GPA or ability to get into a college or prep school?

Kevin Hutchinson: Absolutely not. It provides much more accurate information about a student's achievement. Most colleges work on a 4 point scale already. A student's overall performance in English could be translated into what the combined average is for all the standards; e.g. 3.75. Colleges DO understand that. Meanwhile what is most important is the the student and parents know specifically what areas of strength and challenge exist instead of the traditional grading which is very inconsistent.

MikeA: Regarding standard-based grading at NAMS and math: I'm sure that the level and ability of students in the same grade vary greatly. Are students grouped by ability? How do exceptional students get challenged if they meet all the standards or is this not a concern?

Beth: Back to standards based grading - you say above that it won't hurt our students ability to be accepted in to colleges and universities - have you asked them? To me the standards based grading takes sort of dumbs down the grading system - if you meet the standard is that an A? - what will encourage students to work harder if they are not going to be given grade recognition. This really concerns me at the high school - it is very competitive to gain entry to top tier schools and I'm not sure how our students will be able to prove their ability with standards based grading.

Kevin Hutchinson: If you really dig into what traditional grading represents you will find that most people cannot tell you precisely how students are doing except in comparison to others (Bell Curve) or what the grade actually means (50% homework for one teacher, 30% for another). S-B grading is much more precise in what is accessed and what proficiency looks like in each standard. Research has clearly shown that this approach actually motivates students much more and they will stretch their learning better when they know exactly where they need to.

Donna: When will the S-B reporting go in to effect at the MS an HS? Will there be informational meetings for the students and parents?

Kevin Hutchinson: NAMS is piloting S-B reporting this year and there have been several informational meetings already. We anticipate that there will be a NAMS S-B report card for 2013-2014. Discussions are moving at NAHS regarding what S-B grading is so I can't say exactly how or how quickly NAHS will move to adopt.

Back-to-School Advice

Tracy: How are you teaching students how to learn? I feel like kids don't know how to study.

Kevin Hutchinson: Great question in light of our 21st century learning skills committee that will report findings in early winter. Studying is different now for students and we need to make adjustments to support their learning.

Patch.com: Students are starting school in a few days. Any words of wisdom you'd like to offer them?

Kevin Hutchinson: Do you remember the excitement you brought to kindergarten and 1st grade? Bring it! Ask questions, treat each other respectfully, know where your strengths are and use those strengths to approach your challenges AND have fun!

MikeA August 31, 2012 at 01:16 PM
In the picking on John Tierney department: He still holds the record, by a very comfortable margin, for the worst Live Chat in Patch history! I will give the Superintendent's Chat a score of "proficient". (If the rubric was more flexible, a "proficient plus plus" would be in order). I got the impression the NAMS rollout of S-B grading is something coming from/being driven by the education establishment (in NA and/or Boston) and not from the parents or the School Committee. They could have done a better job presenting this to parents/taxpayers - we could have heard about it during the last school year instead of just before this school year. Since they're changing the way they grade, they're probably also changing the way they teach ... and this might be a reflection of it being easier to grade the way you teach (i.e. more work to accumulate a bunch of standards based rubric scores into a letter grade). To me its still reading, writing, arithmetic, ... with dashes of social studies, science, ... Not sure why "Big Education" needs these fancy scoring systems. The Superintendent adroitly sidestepped my question about re-opening the elementary school libraries vs. building reserves against the town's $118 million retiree health care liability. He's right that he doesn't make the ultimate budget decisions but I was hoping for a solid defense for elementary school libraries.


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