BY: Citizens Count
Last year, elementary schools in Concord switched from traditional letter grades to a report card system that measures competencies: whether a student has mastered a particular skill.
For example, instead of getting an “A” in math, parents would see whether their child understands how to understand fractions, find the area of a square, multiply or divide whole numbers.
To learn about other debates and controversies related to school curriculum in New Hampshire, visit our issue page.
In a curriculum that’s based on competencies, instead of averaging out performance into a single letter grade, students can take or retake tests as many times as they need to, in order to show that they’ve mastered a skill. They don’t move on to the next area of learning until they’ve first shown they are competent in the ones that come before.
Supporters of this approach argue that it brings the focus back to where it should be: on the importance of learning. They point out that when you simply provide an average grade for a class, students can move on even if there are areas of the curriculum they still don’t really understand, creating gaps in knowledge that can limit them down the road.
The problem with competency-based grading
Though Concord’s elementary schools have adopted grading based on competencies, the district’s high schools are still providing students with an old-fashioned letter grade.
That’s because parents are concerned that losing letter grades, or the 100-point system for scoring performance in a class, would make college admissions more challenging. They question how colleges will evaluate less traditional grading systems when considering applications.
Other parents are concerned that grading by competency is still too new a system, and don’t want their children to be used as ‘guinea pigs’.
Would you support a switch to competency-based grading in your school? Why or why not? Join the discussion and weigh in.