FARMINGTON — Parents of Farmington students shared their confusion and frustration with school district officials on Thursday afternoon at a meeting designed to answer questions about the Farmington Municipal School District's new grading policy.
The meeting was part of an ongoing series of events hosted by the district's curriculum team on the first Thursday of each month to answer questions from parents about their children's education.
"We wanted to hear parent concerns and questions, and we wanted to be able to answer them with the facts about the system," said Robert Emerson, the district's assistant superintendent of educational services and data management. "There is a lot of misinformation and miscommunication. That's what came out of the meeting for me. We need to do a better job as a district in communicating what we're doing to parents."
About 20 parents on Thursday filled the board room at the school's administration building for two hours to ask questions about the district's change to a standards-based grading system.
Standards-based grading is a system designed to report students' proficiency on a number of learning goals for subjects like math and English.
Also included in the new system is a transition from the traditional A-F grading system to a grading system that operates on a scale of 0 to 4 for elementary and middle school students. The numbers represent students' understanding of simple and complex learning goals for each subject.
Parent Matthew Clugston said he came to the meeting because he didn't understand the grading system.
"What it all boils down to — from beginning of this meeting to the end of this meeting — was communication," Clugston said. "How is the district communicating this program and all the little intricacies of the program and how does that get to the parent and the kid?"
Parents at the meeting asked how the new system is better than the A-F grading system they are accustomed to and why the district chose to pursue the new system.
Julie Mitchell, the district's coordinator of curriculum, said the change was made to improve the quality of students' education. She said the current system wasn't working.
"When you look at the statistics right now, as a district, we only have 50 percent of our kids proficient in reading," Mitchell said. "Our district was proactive and said, 'Let's gather the research and find out what is working, what is getting better results.'"
Kim Nguyen, a parent, said she has had issues with the standards-based grading system for two years. She first spoke a district board of education meeting last year to voice her concerns about the system.
Nguyen collected about 500 signatures on a petition to protest the new grading system and presented copies to the board members at the Feb. 27 meeting.
"I would love to see it going away," Nguyen said. "It's confusing to teachers and parents. They have no idea what a 2 or 3 means. It's so ambiguous."
Nguyen said she has seen her third-grade son, Ethan, lose interest in school as the standards-based grading system took effect.
"He just become so unmotivated. He didn't want to do anything," Nguyen said. "He said he wanted to become home-schooled. That really concerned me as a parent."
District officials said they plan to post parents' questions and answers to them on the district's website.
"When you are talking with parents, their main concern is their child, and we all understand that. We have to worry about how it affects all children," Emerson said. "We needed this input from parents to make the system better for all kids."