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Removing letter grades?

Five Surrey schools are taking part in a pilot project that removes letter grades from all elementary students’ report cards.

The traditional grades, which are usually given out from Grade 4 onward, are being replaced by more in-depth descriptive feedback that outlines kids’ strengths and recommends strategies to help them overcome weaknesses.

Georges Vanier Elementary principal Antonio Vendramin said he fully embraces the move as a way to help children become more self-directed.

“We need learners to be reflective and to really understand themselves,” he said. “I think inherently that letter grades undermine that.”

Vendramin said parents also can get into a habit of skimming their children’s report cards for grades without paying enough attention to the comments left by teachers.

“The focus is on the one little box,” he said. “There’s not a lot of further conversation about the learning. ‘So you got a B. OK, why didn’t you get an A?’ That’s the conversation.”

The school met with the Parent Advisory Council and held open forums to discuss the plan before it was implemented, and officials believe most parents are on board with the move.

It appears other Surrey principals are as well, with 29 more elementary schools set to join the pilot project in the second term. Depending on the outcome, the system could eventually be adopted district-wide.

Vendramin said he’s not concerned that the lack of letter grades will leave students unprepared for the realities of high school grading.

“If we can get them to be better learners then they could start receiving letter grades in Grade 8 and I’m not too worried about that,” he said.

A similar reporting system was adopted earlier this year by the Ridge Meadows school district.

The new system give teachers the option of replacing letter grades with a conference between the student and parents.

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