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Oak Harbor schools switch to trimesters

By MICHELLE BEAHM
Whidbey News-Times Reporter
August 30, 2014 · Updated 3:32 PM
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In the past, elementary students in Oak Harbor were graded on a quarterly basis, but starting this year, the schools will be switching to trimesters.

“Quite honestly, it’s a more common model,” said Oak Harbor Schools Superintendent Lance Gibbon.

District officials said they’re not making the change because it’s more common, but rather to provide better, more constructive feedback to parents about their children.

This year, the school district is starting a new online grading system, launched last year in about 25 classrooms, according to Gibbon.

The new system is “the main driving force behind the move to trimesters,” Gibbon said.

“Trimesters will allow time to transition to the new system,” he said. “However, the new system allows teachers to automatically email interim progress reports to the parents or guardians of their students anytime.

“This will allow for more frequent reporting to parents and makes it much easier for teachers to do so.”

Between report cards at the end of each trimester and parent-teacher conferences, the amount of feedback parents will receive will be increased and can be given early enough to help improve a student’s performance before final grades for the trimester are given.

“A trimester schedule allows more time between grading periods and gives students a chance for more growth before the next report card is sent home,” Gibbon said.

“First quarter reporting does not give enough time to monitor progress in some areas. … Trimesters also give teachers and parents a greater chance of identifying and correcting areas of concern during the grading period.”

Only the elementary schools will be switching to trimesters, though. Gibbon said that they need to remain on a synchronized schedule “because of the course overlap and the fact that many middle school students are taking high school–level classes.”

Steve King, the new assistant superintendent for the district, said he has experience with a change like this.

“We were in a situation where the elementary switched to trimesters,” he said. “And it actually had no negative impact at all.

“I think the switch will be positive overall for parents and kids and families.”

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