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Elementary Report Cards and What's Changing

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Dear South Milwaukee Families,


We are excited to update you on our work to improve our grade reporting system for elementary students. Over the past few years we’ve heard feedback that the current reporting system, while it did a good job of describing student skills related to a subject area, was still confusing and not clear with regard to how students were assessed and graded. 


At the elementary level, we are working toward an evidence-based system that shows student progress toward key skills and knowledge in each grade level. The State has provided academic and workplace-based standards that we use to develop all teaching and learning programs within the district. These standards can be viewed here. Because there is clear guidance on what students need to know and be able to do by the end of a school year, we have moved to a grading system that gives students multiple opportunities to practice, learn and grow. We refer to this as evidence-based or standards-based grading.


How is evidence-based grading different?


Evidence-based grading uses proficiency scales, rather than points and percentages, to assess and report students’ performance and academic growth toward grade level skills outlined in the state standards. 


Evidence-based grading separately communicates the following to students, families, and other schoolwide professionals:

  1. The skills assessed in each subject area

  2. Students proficiency level for each skill

  3. Areas of success and areas for continued growth


Use of proficiency scales:


In evidence-based grading, proficiency scales help to communicate how a student is progressing toward mastering the skills in each content area. Rather than collecting an average percentage of points earned on work completed, evidence-based grading measures progress over time, with the goal of mastering skills and content by the end of a school year. 


Here are SM’s General Proficiency Scale Descriptors that we look for when working with and reporting student progress: 


Grade Label

Below Expectations (BE) 

Approaching Expectations (AE)

Meets Expectations (ME)

Exceeds Expectations (EE)

Evidence collected through student work and assessments

Has major errors and omissions on basic and complex content and skills and:

  • With teacher support, can identify or define some vocabulary, knowledge or skills

  • With significant teacher support can do simple tasks or procedures  

  • With teacher support, beginning to demonstrate understanding of core skills and concepts 

Has accuracy & clarity in more basic content and skills and:

  • Can define, describe, list or do simple tasks with some teacher support.

  • Begins to make explicit connections between ideas and knowledge.

  • With some teacher support, developing a basic understanding of core skills and concepts

Has accuracy & clarity in more complex content and skills: 

  • Can compare/contrast ideas and knowledge.

  • Consistently makes explicit and implicit connections  independently

  • Applies skills and knowledge independently.

  • Consistently demonstrates core skills and concepts

Has accuracy & clarity in basic and complex content and skills and can apply them to new and authentic tasks by

  • Evaluates ideas 

  • Applies knowledge to concepts and ideas outside of what is presented.

  • Independently reflects

  • Consistently demonstrates understanding of complex skills and knowledge in extended contexts 


What is changing on the report cards for 2023-24?  To start the shift to clearer, evidence-based grading around skills and content, this year you’ll see a list of key skills/standards for English Language Arts. Your students will be scored on each of those skills/standards. This replaces the longer narrative comments that used to describe students' progress and areas for growth. 


What is important to keep in mind when reviewing your student’s progress? 

  • Many of the standards and skills are written to achieve mastery by the end of the year. A score of AE or Approaching Expectations is an appropriate score for a majority of the school year. 

  • Depending on the time of year, some skills might receive a score of NA, which means Not Assessed--that means this skill or standard will be taught and learned in a different trimester. 

  • A score EE means Exceeds Expectations. Please know this is not equivalent to a traditional A letter grade. Exceeds Expectations means that the student is regularly working independently and able to apply the skills in new and different ways. While we certainly push all students to achieve high levels, Meets Expectations means that they are applying the skills in a way appropriate for their grade and developmental level. 


How can I monitor and support my child’s progress and growth?

  • Check in with your child’s teacher regularly.

  • Engage in any communications teachers share via SeeSaw or Google Classroom.

  • Ask your student open-ended questions about what they are learning. Using questions that start with “How” or “Why” give kids practice to be able to explain their thinking--this goes a long way to help support and push students toward skill mastery!  


Our goal with reporting student progress is to make it clearer for everyone about how students are growing and learning. If you have any questions about the report card, please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher, building principal or me.


Thank you!




Christie Gajewski 


Christie Gajewski

Director of Instruction 



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