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Report card grades for ESL students

Overview

Level 1 ESL students (i.e. students in grades 6-8 ESL1 or grades 9-12 Intermediate ESL) are to receive semester report grades according to criteria, proposed by the ESL department and endorsed by the curriculum committee in May 2000. The criteria are outlined below:

 There is a more differentiated explanation of this basic system in the paragraphs below.
* Please be aware that the student's first semester here at FIS may not necessarily be the first semester of the school year. 

Teachers will be given a list of the no-grade students at the beginning of the first term, and near the beginning of each reporting period.

Explanation of the system

If a child starts at FIS with a low proficiency in English, he or she is placed in a level 1 ESL class. During their first semester in the school level 1 students have a non-gradable status. This means that they are not assessed in the same way as native speakers and therefore do not receive a 7-1 grade at the end of the term in certain subjects. Instead, parents are informed on their child's progress according to the categories: P (Pass) or F (Fail), together, of course, with the usual comprehensive written reports outlining achievement, areas to focus on, work ethic, etc.

It is recommended that the homework assignments and tests that level 1 students do during their first term are be graded according to the same objective criteria that the subject teachers apply to work done by all the students. The grade, however, can be bracketed to signify that it does not count towards an end-of-term report card grade. This takes into consideration the fact that, in many cases, work turned in by the ESL student has been done with a great deal of extra assistance - from the ESL teacher, from parents, from other students, or from a private tutor. It does, however, enable the student and his or her parents to make a realistic assessment of the quality of work that is required in order to achieve good grades.

Criteria for the (P)ass or (F)ail grade

ESL1 students on the non-gradable status will achieve a Pass in their courses if they make an effort to do the assigned work by themselves; if they concentrate in class and ask for help when needed, and if they show some understanding of the work in progress. They will be awarded a Fail grade if they make no effort, do not concentrate in class, show no understanding of the work and do not ask for help.

The purpose of the non-grade system

The purpose of this grading system, in fact, is to de-emphasize the importance of grades for level 1 ESL students in their first months at FIS. We wish to move the initial focus of students and their parents from product to process. [More on this.]

A further significant goal is to reduce the stress that a grading system places on both the students and their teachers. Students do not have to worry that they will bring home a report full of the inevitable low grades, disappointing their parents. Their teachers do not need to worry about assessment adaptations for level 1 ESL students and what constitutes a fair grade for students who may not have understood or independently produced very much in their first months in the class.

The subjects affected by the system

The system applies to all subjects where a certain proficiency in English is a condition for success; for example: the sciences, the humanities, D&T, drama, computing.

Teachers may nevertheless award the usual number grade to ESL1 or Intermediate students in these classes provided that the student's work merits a good grade based on the same criteria as applied in calculating the grades of the other students. It is undesirable to inflate grades for these ESL students based on their efforts. It is also undesirable to give them a low grade; in such a case, the Pass/Fail grade should be awarded.

* The non-grade system does not apply to German and PE, where the ESL student can be graded fairly according to the criteria used to assess all students.

Special cases

** In exceptional cases the ESL department may advise the continuation of the Pass/Fail policy beyond the second semester.

The assessment of other ESL students

Level 2 or 3 ESL students (i.e. students in grades 6-8 ESL2, grades 9-12 Advanced or Transitional) are to be assessed by the same criteria as applied to the native speakers in their classes. Teachers, however, may wish to adopt a sympathetic approach to the awarding of grades and other feedback to such students. [See below] Read more advice on the assessment of level 2/3 ESL students


Sympathetic assessment

Sympathetic is a useful concept to understand the special treatment that can be afforded to ESL students in terms of grading and assessment. It means for example that students are given credit for demonstrating understanding even if their ability to express their understanding in clear and accurate English is limited. It means that they are not graded down for grammar and spelling mistakes (unless these are an integral and clearly stated part of the assignment.) It means further that students have the chance to give an oral explanation of answers that they were not able to write down very clearly. It also means that they may be allowed longer to do their assignments or given the chance to redo homework and retake tests.

The sympathetic assessment process often involves assistance from the ESL teacher to ensure that the student understands the task and is complying with the subject teacher's instructions. ESL teachers can ensure that students are able to concentrate on the essential tasks of subject tests by preteaching vocabulary that is likely to be unknown but which does not form an integral part of the test.

For level 1 students sympathetic treatment could include the right to provide some of the work in their own language (which is translated for the teacher by a more proficient native-speaking peer).


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