Standards Based reporting: clear communication about each child's learning
The job of a report card is to clearly, fairly and objectively communicate how a child is doing in school. Standards-based report cards help students better understand what is expected of them in each subject area, provide teachers with a more specific tool to report what each child should know and be able to do during each grading period, and give parents a more detailed understanding of the academic expectations in each content area.
The standards-based report card puts more emphasis on learning and less on comparisons among students because students are evaluated against standards rather than against each other. As a district, we have worked hard to align our curriculum and instruction to state and federal standards for what children should know and be able to do. Standards Based Report Cards are a natural evolution in this work, and will help all of us work more effectively toward sustained academic improvement.
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Standards Based Report Card FAQs
Standards-based reporting: clear communication about each child's learning
1. What is a standards-based report card?
The job of a report card is to clearly, fairly and objectively communicate how a child is doing in school. A standards-based report card (SBRC) tells specifically how a child is doing in school and what needs improvement. All teachers in a grade level measure student learning against set criteria. This is different from a traditional report card which gives a single letter or number grade for broad subject categories. A standards-based report card puts the emphasis on learning, rather than on comparisons among students. A traditional grade labels a child’s performance and often includes such things as extra credit, work habits, and attitude; a standards-based report card gives concrete information the teacher and you can use to assist your child, and separates academic performance from work habits and personal characteristics.
2. Where do the “standards” come from?
State and national learning standards have been created over the years by educators. The Illinois standards were adopted in 1997 in seven core areas for what children should know and be able to do. The Illinois Student Achievement Test (ISAT) that public school children take each March assesses all students against these standards. Since the standards were adopted, districts statewide have been aligning curriculum and instruction to them. This provides consistency and accountability around learning in Illinois schools. Standards are not the only things children learn, but they are essential “musts.” In 2010, Illinois adopted the new Common Core Standards and we are now beginning work to incorporate these into our curriculum. We expect Illinois to assess student achievement against the Common Core in 2014-2015.
3. Why is D41 changing to a standards-based report card?
For years, parents, teachers, administrators and the Board of Education felt that our reporting practices were out-dated, inconsistent and did not communicate clearly about learning. A group of teachers volunteered to field test the new report card in 2009-2010. In 2010-2011, the new report card was implemented district-wide. The information on the report card will help D41 make the best use of all its instructional supports—specialists, aides and the classroom teacher will all use this information to help each child succeed. The expectations and criteria for progress are consistent at grade level regardless of a child's classroom or school. And, it provides specific information that parents and teachers can use to foster improvement.
4. How was this decided?
The Board of Education directed the district to create a meaningful reporting system. A report card committee of teachers and administrators examined the research, reviewed the reporting practices of other high-achieving districts, and surveyed our parents regarding their desires for a report card. The committee experimented with several formats and systems before creating a new report card that aligns with our curriculum, reflects our philosophy, and communicates student achievement in a way that teachers, parents and students can understand and use to foster improvement.
5. What do other districts use?
There is a wide variety of reporting instruments in use in our area and across the country. Many districts have adopted a standards-based approach; some in our area are Lombard District 44, Community Consolidated District 93, Wilmette District 39, and others. The trend is toward standards-based reporting, partly due to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which requires all students to master standards in reading and math by 2014.
6. What else should I know about the reporting system?
The standard-based report card is a natural evolution of our work in aligning our curriculum to standards. Marking periods have gone from quarters to trimesters. Most SBRC systems use trimesters because it provides a longer time to assess progress toward standards. Teachers use an online gradebook called Pinnacle, which includes
7. I’ve heard that some SBRCs are hard to understand.
It will no doubt take some practice to get used to interpreting this more complex report card, but it’s not difficult. There are some other pieces that will round out the picture, such as the rubrics teachers will use to evaluate progress toward standards and narrative explanations that teachers have the option to include. The report card is not the only way parents learn about their child’s performance in school. There are parent teacher conferences, and teachers are always willing to set a time up to discuss your child at conference time or throughout the year. The Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test in reading and math is given at least twice a year and provides comparative information about your child’s progress against their peers in D41 and nationally. The annual ISAT tests provide individual results and compares school grade-level performance against the district and the whole state. Throughout the year, your child’s work is sent home and provides information on progress.
8. We reward our children for good grades. How will I motivate my children if there are no grades?
There is no question that grades are a simpler system and easier to connect with rewards like money or treats. One strength of SBRC is that children can clearly see the specific things they need to do to meet or exceed standards, and learning becomes more intrinsically motivating. SBRC allows children to become gradually more responsible and independent in setting and meeting their learning goals. As your family becomes accustomed to the new report card, you will find that your conversations around learning become more meaningful and motivating.
9. Does this affect special education students?
We know that all children can learn and succeed, and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law expects that all children will meet standards in reading and math by 2014, including special education students. The SBRC will make it easier for all students to know what success in school looks like and to target learning needs. This is no different for special education students. The better information we have about student learning, the more improvement we can make together.