AUGUSTA — The city’s school board approved a completely standards-based grading system for public elementary school students on Wednesday.

The unanimous vote from the Augusta Board of Education will establish a 1-to-4 grading model for students in kindergarten through grade six starting in the next school year, replacing a hybrid system established in 2008 that has been called confusing for parents and teachers.

“I think that, in general, it’s a more accurate reflection of what’s happening in the classroom,” said Kimberly Martin, the school board chairwoman, of the new system.

In the old system, students in kindergarten through third grade got letter grades of E, M, P, and N to measure their understanding of skills and concepts in subject areas. For those in grades four through six, the letter grades were combined with more traditional numerical grades such as 70s, 80s, and 90s. The letters in the old system measure whether students exceed, meet, partially meet or don’t meet certain standards.

In the new system, 1 is the lowest grade and 4 is the highest, with a 3 meaning that a student meets a standard.

Donna Madore, Augusta’s assistant superintendent, said teachers have been asking for a new system for more than two years largely because the mixed system “creates confusion” about what they should grade with letters and what they should grade with numbers. Also, students aren’t marked down for late or missing assignments in the current standards-based system, but it does affect their numerical grade. Madore said missing or late work will be measured on another part of a student’s report card.

The city’s expansion of the standards-based system is part of a national reform movement. Maine law set a goal for the systems to be implemented statewide by 2017. Augusta’s adoption of the last grading system in 2008 was a compromise. At that time school officials adopted a completely standards-based system for students in grades kindergarten through third grade, but criticism from parents led them to adopt the dual system in the higher elementary school grades.

Nobody spoke against the changes at Wednesday’s meeting at City Center, which Madore attributed to a level of comfort with the current system. Before the new grading model takes effect, she said the district plans to hold informational meetings for the public and send mailers to parents.

For now, Madore said, middle and high school students will continue to get traditional numerical grades, but that probably will change in the long term, although there’s a lot of work to do to get there.

“This is a good start. It gets parents familiar with the process, and we will eventually move there,” she said. “When? I don’t know, but at some point, we will.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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