PITTSBURG — Middle school teachers reported success with the standards-based learning grading system at Monday’s Pittsburg USD 250 Board of Education meeting.

At May’s board meeting the board requested Pittsburg Community Middle School Principal Terry Smith and his team, PCMS Assistant Principal Laura Earl and PCMS Assistant Principal Chris King, bring back data showing the results of standards-based learning at the middle school.

Smith and the team brought along a panel of middle school teachers to help answer the board’s questions regarding the grading system.

Smith told the board about staff walk-throughs, which are research based and decide what the best practices are at school.

“Walk-throughs are researched based,” he said. “Otherwise, what experts think we should be doing.

“We have accomplished that goal.”

In May’s board meeting the board asked Smith and his team how they are going to give parents a grade for their student — a confusing matter for parents as standards based grading is not based off of percentages.

Smith said a hybrid grade has been implemented and standards have been created for that.

The hybrid system is based around the standards-based grading numbers instead of percentages — for example a 4.0 would be an A and so on.

Smith said the school will provide opportunities for parents to learn about hybrid grading and give instruction on how to navigate the online grading system before school starts.

Smith, his team and panel of teachers said connectedness was one aspect of the new learning system, which essentially provided an individualized education plan for each student.

“This is to make sure kids have a reason to get up and come to school,” Smith said.

Each student’s progress is documented. Rather than just letter grades, the document pinpoints the areas within each “grade” a student needs to improve on or continue to enrich.

The grading system has four tiers, one being the lowest and four the highest. Previously, parents had concerns about what the top two tiers were doing while the bottom two were catching up — Once reaching the highest tiers, students were not as motivated to stay engaged. Some students were reported to be using cell phones during school.

Smith said students will no longer have the option to coast through. Even if they reach the highest tier, they will be expected to continue enriching themselves — cell phone usage will no longer be a concern.

The teachers explained how the individualized assessment of each student has helped them find what these students need to do while the rest of the class is catching up.

“The teachers know more about the students than they ever had,” Smith said. “This is a big cultural shift.”

A history teacher said if he had a student who was in the higher tier who was interested in a topic, he would then provide materials for that student to pursue knowledge on that topic.

Smith showed the boards the MAP scores and projected growth of the school from 2013 through 2017.

The data showed a decrease of below average scores and an increase in average and above average scores in almost all topics and grade levels.

Not only have the scores improved, less students are in summer school.

“Half of the kids were failing in at least one core subject area,” USD 250 Superintendent Destry Brown said. “It has cured some of that, we have nothing like we used to have — we used to have around 40 now we have about eight students in summer school.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.