Parents of many Johnston County students will notice some unfamiliar letters and numbers on their children’s report cards and progress reports this year.
In response to the state’s Read to Achieve law and requests from principals, Johnston County Schools will use a new grading scale for kindergarten, first grade and second grade. School leaders say the change is designed to show how well a student is mastering a subject.
The old grading scale was “S” (satisfactory), “N” (needs improvement) and “U” (unsatisfactory).
The new scale has two categories, one with a letter grade and one with a number grade.
The first category is “core content indicators,” in which the letters “M,” “P,” “B” and “N” represent levels of mastery of a subject. “M” means a student is mastering grade-level standards, “P” indicates a student is progressing toward mastery, “B” means a student is beginning to meet standards, and “N” indicates a student is not progressing toward standards.
The second category is for effort in “enhancement” courses like art, music and physical education, among others. The effort grades are 3, 2 and 1, with 3 meaning a student masters objectives with consistently high quality. A 2 means a student masters most required objectives and does what is required, and 1 mean a student has not mastered objectives and does less than required.
North Carolina’s Read to Achieve law, approved by the General Assembly in 2012, requires that schools monitor a child’s progress toward grade-level standards and regularly report that information to parents.
Dr. Rodney Peterson, the Johnston County schools’ chief academic officer, said several principals asked the school system to update its report cards to show how K-2 students are grasping reading and math content.
“Once we report to the parent, we are obligated to have an intervention plan to offset skill deficits,” Peterson said.
Peterson said principals asked that the school system use the effort grades for non-core classes.
“While you have a kid that may not be the best artist, their effort could be better,” Peterson said.
The new grading scale also assesses work-habit skills. A plus sign, or “+,” will mean a student “demonstrates proficiency” of a work habit, while a star-sign, or “*,” will mean a student “needs improvement of the work habit.”
School leaders say grades are not the only factors considered when deciding whether to promote a K-2 student. Peterson said administrators look at a student’s progress over time, how close a student is to grade-level standards and classroom performance.
“We wouldn’t say that you have to have all P’s or all M’s to be promoted,” Peterson said.
Before introducing the new grading scale countywide, the school system ran a pilot program at South Smithfield Elementary School. In addition, a team of staff, principals and teachers reviewed standards-based report cards and progress reports that other school systems use locally and across the nation, said Patty Whittington, director of elementary education for Johnston County Schools.
Johnston County schools uses a traditional “A-F” scale to evaluate students in grades 3-8. High school students receive numerical grades.
In addition to its reporting requirements, Read to Achieve mandates that students show reading proficiency by the end of the third grade. That means they must pass their end-of-grade tests.
Students who fail their tests can still win promotion to fourth grade by qualifying for one of several “good cause exemptions.” Those exemptions include, among others:
• Students with certain learning disabilities.
• Students who demonstrate reading proficiency through an alternative, state-approved test.
• Students who demonstrate proficiency through a reading portfolio.
Third-graders who don’t qualify for an exemption are asked to attend a summer reading camp, a key component of the Read to Achieve legislation. Students at the camps can take a Read to Achieve test that would qualify them for promotion.