Neosho R-5 administrators and staff will work toward developing a standards-based testing system during the upcoming 2014-2015 school year.

Dan Decker, superintendent, said that the district will look at changing the age-old grading system of awarding an A, B, C, D or F.

“You turn in homework and take tests, but you really don’t know where kids are in the learning process,” he said.

He said the standards-based system entails standards that students must meet to move on or to get credit, and as they move on, parents will know where they are in their learning.

“To master a standard, there’ll be benchmarks that the student has to meet along the way, whether that’s in the form of a quiz or homework or whatever,” Decker said. “The parents will be able to see what their students does and doesn’t know.”
With the current grade system, he noted that parents wondering why their student got a B may get the answer that certain assignments were not completed or that they did poorly on a test, which didn’t tell them anything about what the student knew or didn’t know.

“Hopefully, the goal of this new system is, if a parents comes in and asks a teacher, ‘Why does my son or daughter have this grade?’ they can say they didn’t meet all of the requirements to meet this standard, so they fell short in this area, or this area or this area. These are things that we need to work on,” Decker said.

He said the new system would allow teachers to see what individual students are learning or not learning, so when they do after-school tutoring or other remedial activities, they can hone in on specific weaknesses that need to be addressed.

“I think that’s going to be a big undertaking for the district,” Decker said. “It’s something we’re going to work together on — and the community and the parents — so that we all understand the direction that we are going. It is a different change in mindset than what school has been in the past.”

Decker said the goal is to begin the process to work with teachers, students and administrators to build some common language during the first semester, and to then conduct some type of pilot program in the fourth quarter.

“Where it’s not every subject, it might be one subject, you know, in each grade level,” he said. “But that would give parents the opportunity to see what that would look like and have that conversation with staff.”

Decker said that would provide the opportunity to analyze the new process next summer, see how much the community has bought in, and determine areas that need work before progressing.

“I think it is going to be imperative that we take our time and make sure that we’ve got everybody on the same page before we move ahead,” he said.