Before the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board took a two-month break, the last meeting was well attended by parents who were concerned about proficiency-based learning.

At the June 25 HUUSD Board meeting parents spoke about their children’s transcripts and how college admissions officers would be able to read them. None of the parents in attendance said that they were concerned with how their children were being taught; it all had to do with how their child’s grades looked on paper.

Last school year freshmen at Harwood were given grades of beginning, emerging, proficient or advanced. However, after issues with their online reporting system and complaints from parents, Harwood has changed to a numerical grading system.

Next year’s freshmen and sophomores will be using proficiency-based standards and on assignments they will be given a score of 1, 2, 3 or 4. At the end of the semester, their final score will include decimal points to allow for more gradation.

At least one parent, Peter Kulis, Waterbury, said this is not enough and he cites the Great Schools Partnership and their exemplar school, Casco Bay High School, as proof that Harwood should allow for decimal gradation at the assignment level, to allow for even further gradation.

Harwood and the Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) have been working with Great Schools Partnership during the transition and Sheila Soule, WWSU director of curriculum and assessment, said that they do not recommend such practices.

In an email to The Valley Reporter, Mark Kostin, associate director of Great Schools Partnership, said, “When it comes to proficiency-based grading and reporting, one of the most important things to know is that grades are merely symbols used to communicate the end result of a teaching and learning process — they are not the process itself.”

Kostin wrote that it matters much more that the children learn what they need to learn.

“Schools have always used a wide variety of grading practices and symbols, so schools just need to make sure they clearly communicate to parents, colleges and others how the grading process works and what the grades mean. We work with schools to determine which approach to grading and reporting is most aligned with their goals and which approach will work best for their students, families and teachers,” Kostin wrote.

Casco Bay, the organization’s exemplar school, uses a 1 to 4 grading system. According to their grading guide, on many assessments, only a 1, 2, 3 or 4 is possible. However there are some assignments that they allow for further gradation between scores, like a 3.25 or a 3.75.