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Bigfork school could see grading changes

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Aug 28 2013 08:16:24 PM MDT
Updated On: Aug 28 2013 08:50:24 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Bigfork Elementary and Middle School Principal Matt Jensen tells NBC Montana he wants to change the way students in grades 6-8 are graded.

Instead of the traditional 'A' through 'F' grading system, students would receive a grade of Novice, Nearing Proficient, Proficient, and Advanced Proficient.

NBC Montana learned that along with these marks would come a detailed report or summary of how the student is performing in that subject, written up by their teachers.

"What we really want to do and what our heart is about, is giving them more detailed information about specific skills that their student has in each content area," Jensen said.

Jensen says there won't be any changes overnight.  He's proposing to the school board that they ease the system in so that parents, teachers and students all get acclimated to the new style of grading.

"We want them to partner with us.  We want to work with them and make sure they fully understand what we're doing," said Jensen.

Not everyone agrees with the new standard-based grading plan. We spoke to parents in Bigfork to get their opinion, and that found most of them don't support the new grading system.

"The grading system now actually makes them achieve goals,” said middle school parent Ginger Hathaway.  “Go that extra mile to get that A- or B+, to go above just the standard."

We found that Bigfork isn't the first school in the valley to adopt this system. We spoke directly with school officials in the Flathead, and found that Kalispell transitioned to standard-based grading for Kindergarten to 8th grade last year.

"I think it is good feedback,” Kalispell School Superintendent Darlene Schottle said.  “It's not always an easy switch to make because it's not something that people are used to."

Jensen says he hopes to slowly begin the new grading system in the third trimester of this school year, starting with just reading and math subjects, and slowly adding the remainder of the curriculum over the next few years.