Letter: Change in school grading policy is troubling

Posted 12/13/22

To the editor:

My name is Kelly McKenney Golden, and I am a licensed mental health counselor and have been working in public schools for over 20 years. I have actively worked in schools as a …

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Letter: Change in school grading policy is troubling


To the editor:

My name is Kelly McKenney Golden, and I am a licensed mental health counselor and have been working in public schools for over 20 years. I have actively worked in schools as a regular education classroom teacher, as an administrator, and currently as a social emotional support staff. 

My son, age six, is enrolled in Grade 1 at Melville Elementary in Portsmouth. This past Friday report cards went out to Melville Elementary students, and I am certain, as I have spoken to a number of parents thus far, that many families were shocked, confused, and dismayed, as the school administration decided to change the grading policy. The policy was changed at both elementary schools. The change to the policy is provided in quotations below as shared in the Melville Community Message Newsletter that went out on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.

“The grades earned by your child reflect their current mastery of end-of-grade level standards. For example, if your child is in second grade they are being assessed on the standard that is expected of a student exiting second grade. If your child receives a 4, this means that they are currently performing above grade level for that particular end-of-grade level standard. Earning a 3 indicates that your child is currently meeting the end-of-grade level standard. If your child is working towards meeting the standard, then they will receive a 2. It is common for most students to receive 2’s during the first trimester now that we are switching to reporting out on end-of-year standards. Receiving a 1 means that your child is a year or more behind the standard. An N/A means that this standard has not yet been taught.”

This change in the grading policy is troubling to me for several reasons. First and foremost, I want to know and understand how my child is doing currently in all academic areas, so I know how to best support him at home. When I queried the Principal Danielle Laurie about the change in the grading policy, she stated “There were inconsistencies between how our teachers were grading.” 

While I understand the need for consistency in grading and evaluation across classrooms and grade levels, I am not sure if changing the grading policy to measure against the end of year standard is the answer. By doing so, families never know where their child is performing in the moment and making measurable progress. How can families know how to best support their child if the assessment is not scaffolded and benchmarked? 

In addition, what about students who need more specialized instruction? How does this grading policy impact the MTSS or RtI process? How does this impact students with 504 plans or IEPs? If the administration wants to have continuity with grading, my recommendation would be more professional development on its importance with the teaching staff, as that appears to be the area that truly needs targeted instruction. 

As an educator for my entire career, I am very surprised how this change in the grading policy was rolled out. Parents were merely notified in a newsletter, when parent teacher conferences took place at the end of October with no mention of this change. Schools are always trying to engage parents and families to work collaboratively with the school based team to support the success of all students. This lack of foresight and communication clearly does not seem to be the way.

Kelly McKenney Golden

141 Locust Ave.


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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.