BELMONT — Members of the freshman class at Belmont High School is the first that will see competency-based grades on their report cards this year.
The number grades compare to those seen in colleges and is based on a 4.0 scale. Rather than a "A" or a "B" parents will see a "4", which means a student has exceeded proficiency in that particular subject. A "3" represents proficiency and "complex knowledge" and is roughly equivalent to the former "B" grade.
Competency-based grades correspond with competency-based learning that focuses on mastery of a subject rather than "seat time", says Julia Freeland who writes for competencyworks.org.
"It's really reflective of what you know versus what you did or did not do," said Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Maria Dreyer.
According to Freeland, in 2005 New Hampshire eliminated the Carnegie Unit or the 100-year-old standard that each student must have 120 hours of "seat time" for each subject taught at the secondary level. This translates into one hour per day for 24 weeks.
With Shaker's change comes a change in teaching styles that will frequently assess each student for individual learning, create competency-based learning pathways and use the grading system outlined above to reflect what students have mastered.
She said parents will have access to all of the standards expected of their children and will be able to track their progress in real time as opposed to waiting until the end of a semester and seeing a "C-" in a core class. "C-" is not proficient.
Dreyer said competency-based education gets away from the one-size-fits-all system and allow a student to flourish if that's what he or she is capable of or conversely, to get extra attention and assistance early in the process so he or she can achieve proficiency.
"It's kind of like the way of the world," she said, noting she recently met an exchange student from Thailand who is learning in a competency-based system.
Dreyer said parents can look at typical technical manuals for electronics and other items and see that their children will have to be proficient in algebra and have mastered high-levels of reading comprehension just to function in their future adult lives.
"We're preparing our kids for jobs that we don't even know about," she said, using a former physics student of hers who wasn't passing her class with the level of proficiency he needed as an example.
"He got it, he just needed it taught a different way," she said.
Now, said Dreyer, her former student is a one of the people who determines where a cell tower needs to be placed — or the intersection of physics and politics.
"Fifteen years ago, we wouldn't have thought of that job"
She said society doesn't know what jobs are in our future but an education that provides proficiency in the skills students will need to access needed information and understand it when they see it is the goal of a competency-based education.
"The Internet has changed teaching forever," she said, adding that teachers used to teach facts but now the facts are available to anyone with a computer and the internet.
"We need to be teaching complex thinking," she said.
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