March 8, 2021
Dear PS 321 Families:
As you know, March is the time we complete report cards and hold parent-teacher conferences. Parents will have access to report cards on March 17, through their child’s NYC Schools Accounts (email Deb Orr if you have not activated your account). Zoom parent teacher conferences will be held on the evening of Thursday, March 18 and the afternoon of Friday, March 19 (and in some cases at other times as well). Dismissal will be at 11:20 on March 19 for grades 3-5 and 11:30 for grades K-2.
I wanted to update you on some decisions we have made about our grading policy for March and June. In Kindergarten, we will continue to give you narrative reports. There is no change here. Teachers will describe how your children are doing both academically and socially. In 1st and 2nd grade, as we have for the past two years, we will continue using a two-point grading system. Although originally this was represented by a 2 for those not yet meeting standard and a 3 for those meeting or exceeding standard, the DOE has changed its policy and any grades of 1 or 2 now have to be listed as N, meaning “Needs Improvement.” So, 1st and 2nd graders will receive either a 3 or an N on the STARS report card.
The main change that we are making is for grades 3, 4, and 5. In December, we used the same two-point grading system that we used for 1st and 2nd grade—2 for those not yet meeting standard and 3 for those meeting or exceeding standard. At that time we had told you that we planned to return to the four-point grading system for these grades in March and June. We have revised that decision. First of all, as per the previous paragraph, the DOE has mandated that no 1s or 2s will be given and that anyone not meeting standard would receive an N. So, that left us with a possible three-point grading system—N, 3, 4.
In a document, “Grading Policy Guidance for Remote and Blended Learning Models (2020-2021),” the DOE instructed that “Schools must review their grading policies and practices and make adjustments that acknowledge the impact of remote and blended learning on the ways in which students complete their assigned work.” As we had discussions about grading policy in our grade meetings, there was a strong feeling that given the unique nature of this year, and our deep commitment to equity, we should keep the two-point grading system for all grades for the entire year. There was unanimous agreement among the third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers that this was the best policy for the current school year.
I want to explain our thinking. As you are well aware, children who are all-remote are learning at home 100% of the time. Children who are in our hybrid program are leaning at home 50% of the time. Although both our hybrid and all-remote teachers are working exceptionally hard and effectively to deliver high quality instruction either in the building or on Zoom, students are working asynchronously a good amount of time. Due to a variety of factors, they have varying degrees of support when they are not in teacher-directed lessons. In some cases, parents have been able to set up pods and hire tutors or to have a parent at home full time focused on assisting their children. While some students have a great deal of adult support to do the work that they turn in, others do not and are working independently.
This makes it very challenging to fairly grade work done at home. We do not want to penalize any child because of his or her particular circumstances during this pandemic.
Our teachers know their students very well at this point in the year. During the parent-teacher conferences, they will talk about how students are progressing in various areas. This will also be clear in the comments on the report cards, as well as in reading levels which will be on report cards for grades 1-5. We will include a comment from the school on the STARS report cards indicating that a 3 is the highest grade a child can receive and means that the child is either meeting or exceeding standards.
If you have any questions about our grading policy, I will answer them at the PTA meeting we have scheduled for this Wednesday, March 10 at 5pm.
As always, thanks for being remarkable partners in your children’s education!
Liz Philips, Principal