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Education advocacy group pushes CBE to return to percentage-based grading system

Last Updated Oct 9, 2019 at 4:19 pm MDT


The outcomes-based reporting system replaces the percentage grade point system

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — A children’s education advocacy group is raising concerns about the Calgary Board of Education’s use of an outcomes-based report card which some parents find misleading and confusing.

The outcomes report card for kindergarten to grade nine students uses a scale from 1 to 4 to measure a child’s understanding of learning outcomes.

The scale does not represent a percentage range to indicate the level of learning comprehension and is based on specific criteria or tasks that a child performs. Several years ago it replaced a formal grading structure that used percentages to assess a child’s learning.

When children start high school in grade 10 they transition from the outcomes report card to a percentage-based reporting structure.

“When students then went into grade 10 and came home with their first report card, often parents were very shocked about the kind of grades they were getting,” explained Sarah Bieber with Kids Come First. “For example, my child got threes or even twos in his grade nine report card and I thought twos was meeting grade-level expectations but now he’s not even really passing.”

On its website, CBE said it’s currently in the process of transitioning from the percentage system to an outcomes-based report card.

“In a four-point scale, it’s not about averaging all tasks together to come up with a calculation,” Joanne Pittman, superintendent of school improvement at CBE, explained. “It’s looking at what the evidence is of student achievement and identifying clear criteria that are outlined in our program of studies to ensure that we’ve reflected where the student is at.”

While this system was intended to provide clarity on students’ learning level, Bieber says it’s having precisely the opposite effect, leaving parents confused about where their child is at.

“There were a lot more shocking situations that occurred for parents that really indicates that the 1 to 4 system isn’t giving them the feedback that they want,” Bieber argued.

Meanwhile, Pittman says the system was brought in as a more holistic approach to measuring student learning.

“When we only focus on grades what is missing is evidence of what else a child is able to do and demonstrate on a regular basis,” Pittman said. “So if the only communication with a school is around a report card I would absolutely concur that would not be enough.”

While Bieber acknowledges that the percentage system wasn’t perfect, she thinks a return to the system would be beneficial for parents.

“I think with the percentage system it was a little bit more specific and it set parents up a little bit better for understanding what marks were going to look like in high school,” she said.

“In turn, setting them up better to know what their child needs to do to prepare for university.”

Pittman says CBE is planning to develop further supports for families and for schools around understanding student learning and achievement.