By Lucy Long
I had the distinct privilege to participate in a SchoolCity sponsored “Lunch and Learn” event in Libertyville, Illinois outside of the Chicago area. Our guest speaker was Dr. Lisa Cerauli, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for District 73, Hawthorne. Hawthorne has been rolling out and refining their report card system that reflects Standards-Based reporting since 2007. They’ve managed to provide their staff, their parents and their community with a report card that more clearly reflects their student’s mastery of the curricular standards they are expected to master for their grade level.
This is a fundamental shift from report cards teachers, parents and students have been used to, to a criterion-based system where the students are being compared to standards, rather than to other kids and subjective values such as getting an “A” or “C” in a subject. It’s providing improved communication between teachers, students and their parents. It’s also focused the teachers more fully on the standards and they feel they know their students’ academic strengths and weaknesses more accurately.
The journey hasn’t always been easy. Making a transition from traditional reports cards to the standards based report card requires a dedication to not just the philosophy of standards-based learning and reporting, but also to the time, training, and expenses required to make the switch. Dr. Cerauli's presentation fully described the intentional roll-out process that has taken them nearly a decade to refine. It involved multiple community outreach sessions and publications, a staged rollout of events and execution of a standards-based report card. They began with focusing first on grade K, 3 and 6. In the second year, they expanded to grades, 1, 4 and 7, and then completed the rollout the following year with grades 2, 5 and 8. Compromises had to be made. Parents and teachers alike were unwilling to completely abandon the traditional grade descriptors for middle school. It illustrates that transition to standards-based report cards, which takes both dedication and communication.
Dr.Cerauli's presentation opened up insightful conversations and questions from attendees from other districts in the north and western counties outside Chicago. Educators seem ready to move towards standards-based report cards, and the research strongly supports it as a better way to measure student’s achievement. Doing so, however, requires in-depth planning, commitment, reflection and community outreach. Hawthorne’s successful implementation, the lessons learned and the best practices they’ve identified are a great way to help your district prepare for this positive journey.