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More schools could remove grades

A pilot project eliminating letter grades from elementary school report cards is expanding in B.C.’s largest school district.

About 25 Surrey schools have expressed interest in adopting the alternative report cards, which started at five schools last fall.

In place of grades, students at participating schools get more in-depth descriptive feedback outlining their strengths and recommending strategies to help them overcome weaknesses.

But not all parents are giving the system a pass, including mom Ginu Pereiera.

“A grade to me is a motivating factor for a child to do well in school. If a child got a B this term he would be striving, trying his best to get an A next term,” she said.

Georges Vanier Elementary was among the first to adopt the system, which principal Antonio Vendramin believes is helping kids become more self-directed.

“Letter grades I think motivate students to get letter grades,” Vendramin said. “We want kids to focus on being effective learners.”

Traditional grades usually start from Grade 4 onward, and Vendramin said labelling children that early can have harmful effects throughout their educational careers.

Students can still be categorized as “exceeding,” “meeting,” or “not yet meeting” expectations in the pilot project.

The Surrey school district said Georges Vanier is currently the only school where all grades are taking part. The others have selected between one and four grades to participate.

The move could make Surrey a trendsetter – the Vancouver School Board said it’s watching the pilot project with interest.

“It’s something that Vancouver would look at,” associate superintendent Maureen Ciarniello said, adding that officials would “have to talk with our community.”

Some Vancouver classrooms are already changing how students are evaluated, asking kids to assign themselves a grade and explain their reasoning. The final grade is ultimately decided by teachers, however.

The Surrey school district is expected to confirm later this month how many more schools are signing on to the pilot project, which will only last until the end of the school year.

The results will then be reviewed over the summer before the district determines how to proceed in the fall.

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