Calgary schools plan to drop letter grades in 2014

In Calgary, the largest city in Alberta and Canada’s fifth-largest metropolitan area, letter grades are about to disappear from report cards for children between kindergarten and ninth grade.

The Calgary Board of Education is scheduled to implement the new grading scheme in September 2014, reports the National Post. Teachers will assess students using the terms “exemplary,” “evident,” “emerging” and “support required.”

Other grading changes are afoot as well. Report cards will come out only twice each year, not three to six times, which has been the norm. Nor will the reports contain long, personalized comments.

School officials said the new evaluation system is intended to provide a level of precision that a numeric percentage, say, or an ‘A’ or a ‘C’ cannot.

“If you know as a parent that your child has received 82 percent, it’s very difficult to know what to do to help them,” the board’s education director Ronna Mosher told the Post.

Parents will learn that their children are “evident” or perhaps “emerging” in categories such as “math reasoning” and “communicates effectively through listening and speaking.”

The junking of letter grades will also placate teachers who have been chafing over the time it takes to write lengthy, personalized comments.

“If you’re doing that for every student under your direction, talking about their growing and personal development and citizenship and add in all the other courses, it takes a lot of time,” said Frank Bruseker, president of the Calgary Public Teachers’ Local 38, according to the Post.

The new plan is for teachers to present themselves to students more as coaches than as instructors. At the same time, communication with parents is supposed to become a constant stream of less formal communication throughout the school year.

University of Calgary education professor Jim Field explained that the new grading system is in accord with the latest teaching trends.