-- February 22, 2005

Distinguished Members of the Board of Education:

Good Evening. I am Cindy Kerr, President of the Montgomery County
Council of PTAs and I thank you for the opportunity to speak today again
on behalf of the approximately 140,000 pioneer children riding the MCPS
Grading and Reporting Wagon Train. I return today to say that we are
lost. Our commitment to reaching the final destination has not wavered
but we are not as prepared for the journey as we should have been. Some
of the resources essential to our survival - a firm definition of
mastery; elimination of gross inconsistencies in grading scales and
reassessments; training for each and every teacher being asked to drive
a wagon train and the technology that will support and direct the
wagons- are not yet in place. For this reason, we need to halt. The
time has come to circle the wagons and halt any further progress until
we have had the opportunity to address the essential issues and resolve
them in a way that best protects children's interests and establishes
consistency and equity in the manner in which the wagons proceed.

To be clear, the journey to date has revealed major obstacles at the
middle school and high school levels: (1) grading scales such as the
0,1,2,3,4 scale which compress student grades and which are being
applied inconsistently throughout our schools without equal intervals or
standardized cut offs; (2) reteaching and reassessment procedures that
fly in the face of the underlying purpose of the new grading and
reporting policy and that are inconsistently administered across
different schools and (3) widespread concerns about a drop on
student motivation to complete homework because despite the intent of
the policy and the implementing guidelines some teachers still insist
that homework does not count. In addition to these critical issues
perhaps the most fundamental question has not been answered - what
constitutes mastery? With these essential issues implicated by the
grading and reporting policy still undecided, MCPS should not be moving
ahead with the grade 1 and 2 report cards -- or any new
grading/reporting initiative-- until the foundational issues are
resolved. We must confront these obstacles now. We applaud the one text
process that MCPS has convened. It is a careful deliberate process that
invites stakeholder input but it is slow. Successful implementation
depends upon this process running its course but it is crucial therefore
that we adjust our time frame accordingly. MCCPTA Delegates voted just
last night to . (fill in after DA). Indeed, there should be no further
implementation until the foundational issues have been resolved in the
best interests of our children. We should not follow the letter of the
implementation schedule if it violates the spirit of the policy-namely,
improving teaching and learning in all out schools.

Second, we must learn from the hardship of this year's journey that
no new wagons should be sent out on the trail without adequate road maps
and supplies. The stakes are too high. We urge the Board of Education
to exercise the oversight necessary to ensure that no new initiative or
product related to grading and reporting (and for that matter any new
curriculum) should be rushed to implementation without adequate field
testing or piloting and without adequate vetting among key stakeholders
including parents. Our children may be pioneers but they cannot be
guinea pigs. There should be no rush to implementation
- rapidity is not a higher virtue than accuracy and fairness when it
comes to our kids. This is particularly true given the enormous training
demands imposed by the grading and reporting policy. Grading and
reporting represents a sea change in the culture of MCPS. It is not
enough for MCPS leadership to understand the goals and the strategy for
success-these must be communicated to every teacher in our system. The
policy cannot be implemented out of central office. It is the classroom
teacher who is the goodwill ambassador and who must understand, accept
and feel ownership of the policy and its implementation I order for this
venture to succeed. We have not done enough yet to train our
teachers. Without giving these pioneer wagon drivers a clear sense of
how to implement the new grading and reporting standards, they will run
the wagons astray. Moreover, we must equip them with technology that is
tested and reliable. As MCCPTA, we have concerns about whether adequate
technology has been found and tested that will provide the support
necessary to make grading and reporting effective and meaningful. MCPS
should not rush implementation until the supporting technology is in place.

In closing, we are not asking to derail the mission nor are we
asking to go backwards. We are asking, however, that we stop our forward
motion to allow the time for reflection, learning, developing clear and
consistent implementation guidelines that will protect the best
interests of our pioneers.

Thank you.


Resolution of the MCCPTA Delegates on Grading/Reporting