Revamped report cards at Muddy Brook Elementary School to produce deeper look


GREAT BARRINGTON -- Parents will have a deeper understanding of their child's school progress when Muddy Brook Elementary School sends home report cards in January.

In a significant redesign, Principal Thad Dingman said the report card will be more focused on identifying students' strengths to encourage progress. The report card will also better reflect criteria in the newly adopted Common Core Curriculum.

Muddy Brook Elementary School will be sending home the new report cards this Friday.

"It's a much fuller representation of what they are doing and what they have done," Dingman said.

The redesigned report card will include more criteria to identify strengths. Students no longer will be evaluated on a number scale 1 to 4, but rather on whether they exceed, meet, or are progressing toward standards.

Effort in the core subjects and specific skills outlined in the Common Core Curriculum will also be identified.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort organized by the nation's governors and education commissioners. The curriculum, implemented statewide in the last school year, is designed to ensure students graduating from high school are prepared to enter two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.

The report card is modeled after what's used in schools in Lexington and Dartmouth. The change was prompted in part because teachers said they couldn't grade what they were teaching with the current report card design, Dingman said.

The redesign is significant because it provides a breakdown of important skills, which allows teachers and administrators a better sense of what skills need to be improved and where students are at. Dingman said he wasn't aware of another school in Berkshire County with a similar design.

The redesign reflects a top-to-bottom review of the school's curriculum at each grade level, Dingman said. The school staff "drilled down into the standards and each core subject" to find out what skills matter in transitioning between grade levels -- and those skills are outlined in the report card.

The re-design took an estimated 40 to 60 hours of discussion, Dingman said. The review began in May and was looked over by parent teams through October.

"We're proud of the work and we are taking a big risk by jumping out in front of things on this and we hope it will be great for kids and our community," Dingman said.

PTA President Susan Higa, who is also on the School Council, reviewed the new report card and described it as more "comprehensive."

"I think there is a lot of information and it's not something that you'll glance over," Higa said. "That being said, you're not reading a book."

Monument Valley Regional Middle School, and eventually, Monument Mountain High School could also adopt a newly formatted report card, Dingman said.

"You're seeing big changes in testing and how [students] are being scored and assessed," Dingman said. "I can't see how that wouldn't be trickled into the high school."

Every subject, including graded elements of pro-social behavior, is now aligned to tie into the next grade level, Dingman said. From conversations with other schools, Dingman said the attention to students strengths and progress opened up other arenas of discussion.

"This work was a catalyst for other work about culture and being progress-and-strength based.


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