2012 is target for report card plan
The DOE now favors a number grade over the traditional A to F
Report cards for Hawaii middle and high schools will feature number grades similar to the familiar grade point average system, replacing traditional letter grades under plans sketched out yesterday by the Department of Education.
However, the "4-3-2-1" grade scale wouldn't be introduced until 2012, much later than originally envisioned.
The department, which last fall introduced new elementary school grades that were attacked by the teachers' union as confusing and poorly thought-out, indicated a go-slowly approach for the upper grade levels.
"Like anything else new, you try it out, make some mistakes and move forward," Assistant Superintendent Kathy Kawaguchi told a Board of Education committee.
The new elementary report card substituted the old A-B-C-D-F system with an alphabet soup of new marks and contains far more detail about student progress than before. The department says the system more accurately measures student achievement in the "standards-based" academic system now in place from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Some principals, teachers and parents have voiced concern that similar changes planned for grades six through 12 could confuse universities and jeopardize college applications.
Colleges dispute that, Kawaguchi said. But the department opted for a number scale approximating a grade point average to minimize potential complications, she added.
"We think it just makes sense," she said.
The 4-3-2-1 grading system was proposed by a DOE report card committee, but its final shape will be determined by focus groups beginning later this month and by future piloting at schools, Kawaguchi said.
The department says grading conventions must be changed to fit an academic system based on "standards," a set of things that all students are expected to know or be able to do at their grade level. Pass-fail grading is replaced by systems measuring student progress toward achieving the standards.
The department originally hoped to introduce a secondary report card within the next few years.
"I think everybody is relieved that (the DOE is) taking their time and not rushing it," board member Denise Matsumoto said.
Kawaguchi said the 2012-13 school year was chosen because that's when this fall's incoming kindergartners will first enter middle school. That will provide a seamless transition because those students -- and their parents -- will have known nothing but standards-based grading to that point.
Kawaguchi also said next fall's elementary school report cards would feature improvements such as thinner paper, addressing teacher complaints that it was difficult to press through its many carbon paper layers.
But it was unlikely that suggested changes to the grading system itself, which teachers and parents say is hard to understand, could be implemented in time, she said. Such changes may have to wait until the following year.
"That's totally unacceptable," said Roger Takabayashi, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
"How hard is it to just clarify the language so the public and parents can understand it?"
Takabayashi also said he was not swayed by the slower approach on middle and high school grading changes.
"Why do we have to be the state that pioneers this thing? Until the whole nation switches to this system, I'm going to be concerned," he said.