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Press release: Grading system

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education. (File photograph)

The Department of Education is confident that teachers in the Bermuda Public School System are qualified to assess what has been learned by students each day. We appreciate the hard work our teachers do for our students, and wish to thank them for understanding the critical obligation to inform parents about student academic progress.

The Department of Education has consistently communicated to principals, teachers and the Bermuda Union of Teachers that we are not yet a Standards-Based Education System. We are a traditional system that has begun the process of transitioning to a Standards-Based Education System. While we transition, we have put an interim grading system in place for the 2018-2019 school year.

The BUT indicated that our teachers require more training to implement Standards-Based Grading practices. In October 2018, the Standards-Based Grading Committee was empanelled and has developed a four-year plan to transition the System. Initial training started in January 2019 for all primary and middle school principals, teachers and staff. Another training session was held in February 2019. The January session reintroduced the tenets of Standards-Based Grading and the February session introduced learning intentions and success criteria.

Given where we are with the transition to a Standards-Based Education System, we cannot expect teachers to implement Standards-Based Grading. It is with this understanding and with the understanding that most teachers in our classrooms are using traditional grading practices that all teachers at the primary and middle level have been asked to convert percentages, a traditional grading practice, to a scale of 0 to 4. To clarify, to convert from percentages to a scale of 0 to 4 is not a Standards-Based grading practice. This is an interim measure we are using as we transition to becoming a Standards-Based Education system. This is an acceptable practice that is used by many jurisdictions, including jurisdictions that use PowerSchool.

We reached out to our overseas consultant who was made aware of the conversion table from percentages to a 0 to 4 scale, and they indicated that we should continue with what we are presently doing, with the understanding that it is only an interim measure until the end of this school year.

On Friday, March 8, 2019, the Department of Education and the BUT released a joint statement indicating that we would work together to ensure parents had report cards in hand by Friday, 15 March, 2019. We entered this joint-agreement in good faith. The BUT had asked for an extension of the deadline for progress reports from 8 March to 15 March, 2019. The Department of Education honoured that request and extended the date to 15 March, 2019.

To achieve the goal of ensuring parents were provided with report cards on 15 March, 2019, the BUT indicated that teachers had retained hard copies of grades and that teachers would need time to input the grades. The Department of Education honoured this request. Principals were officially asked and gave teachers time to input grades during the week leading up to 15 March, 2019.

The BUT also indicated that some teachers would need to be shown how to input grades. Principals, teachers and the Department of Education PowerSchool Administrator worked together to provide that support and teachers at all schools were able to update their grade books and input grades.

The Department of Education honoured the requests for support that were identified by the BUT. Also, the Department of Education assigned IT Technicians to schools in the event of any hardware challenges with PowerSchool.

The Department of Education can also confirm that PowerSchool, the data management system that is used to store students’ grades, is and has been operational to receive grades since September 2018. The Department of Education can also confirm that grades have been placed in PowerSchool, by some teachers, between September 2018 and March 2019.

Teachers in the Bermuda Public School System have a duty to ensure that students and parents are provided with information about their progress. Parents were provided with academic and social skills progress reports on Friday, March 15, 2019. We thank principals and teachers for ensuring report cards were provided to our students and parents. We trust our teachers to provide parents with an accurate assessment of their child’s progress.

*Press statement from Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education.