Narrative Evaluations and Developmental Rubrics in Lower School
There is significant agreement among educational researchers that report cards with simple letter grades do not foster, nor even accurately reflect, student learning. In fact, there is evidence that bad grades can contribute to a cycle of defeat in elementary-school-aged children. Young children don’t always have a firm grasp on concepts of cause and effect or the meaning of letter grades, much less the ability to grasp how grades are calculated. Therefore, teachers at Friends School use a detailed process to give parents/guardians a more accurate understanding of their early elementary student’s progress. A few weeks after the end of each semester, parent/guardians will receive this detailed assessment. These reports track the student’s developmental progress on a wide variety of capabilities. They also include a narrative assessment characterizing the student’s social adjustment and overall development as a learner. At any time during the semester, if a teacher or a parent/guardian has a concern about a student’s progress at school, either party may initiate a conference to address the issue.
Letter Grades Introduced in 6th Grade
Sixth graders are maturing cognitively and are more able to understand the cause and effect relationship between hard work and good grades. They also begin to compare their performance to that of peers and to set goals and standards for themselves. For these reasons, we find that adding letter grades to detailed narratives gives parent/guardians and students the best of both worlds; a basis for comparison with peers and teacher expectations, and a detailed analysis of areas of excellence and needed growth. Therefore, in addition to portfolios and narrative evaluations, sixth graders make the transition into receiving letter grades. During the first nine-week period, teachers guide them to understand the rationale for grades and to identify the requirements and the numeric values that will comprise their grades. They will receive their first “practice” grades at the end of the first nine weeks and will reflect upon, and discuss, their work, and brainstorm strategies for improving grades in the future. A combination of letter grades, portfolios, and narrative evaluations will be used to evaluate their progress for the remainder of the year.
Middle School Grade Reports
At the end of the first and third quarters, Middle School students receive both letter grades and a simple performance rubric. At the end of the second and fourth quarters, students receive both letter grades and detailed narrative evaluations in each core subject area. Also, in order to keep parent/guardians informed about academic difficulties, about halfway through each quarter, teachers write and distribute warning reports for students who are earning a “C-” or less in any core subject. This warning report will contain an account of the student’s performance thus far, and specific suggestions for how that student can improve. At the end of each quarter, parent/guardians and students receive grade reports. These reports include a course description for the four core subjects and cumulative course grades. The grade report addresses students’ academic achievements, social adjustment, attitudes, productivity and class contributions. A final year-end grade report is sent home in June. Year-end reports are forwarded, with standardized test scores and health records, to the student’s next school when we receive a records request form from the registrar.