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Grades: Some Changes Coming

Churchill parents were among more than 400 who press school board on grading policy.

Sometimes, the system works.

In January, the Montgomery County Board of Education proposed a revised policy on grading students across the county.

After receiving a record number of public comments about the proposed changes, the board decided to leave some things just as they are, for now. More than 400 comments came in, focusing on final exams and attendance policy, among other things.

The board only discussed three of the 11 proposed changes. As a result of the late hour, the board decided to take up the other eight, less controversial issues at another meeting.

The board decided by a 6-1 (Cox) margin that the weight of the final exam for high school students will remain at 25 percent, not go to 30 percent as had been proposed. Of proposed changes, the change in the weight of the final exam was the most controversial.

“The board should be commended for that,” said Pat Brown, a Churchill parent who came to speak out against the proposed increase. Brown and many other parents were happy that their voices were heard.

“The board decided to listen to the parents,” said Ginger Macomber, another Churchill parent.

The proposal had been to raise the weight of the final exam in order to prepare students for the “high stakes” exams such as the high school assessment tests. While the first proposal had been to raise the weight in all classes, a revised proposal called for raising it in only the five classes in which HSA’s are administered — Algebra I, Biology, English 9, Geometry and NSL Government.

“The theory is to prepare these children on at least these five exams,” said Superintendent Jerry Weast.

“I don’t think that 30 percent is going to boost those kids performance on the HSAs,” said Board President Pat O’Neill (District 3).

The other argument is that the final exam should become a predictor for performance on the high school assessment tests. “You’re going to have that relation if its 25 or 30 percent,” O’Neill said.

Only Vice President Sharon Cox (At Large) dissented. “The most persuasive argument was the benefit to the system,” Cox said.

The school board will monitor scores for two years and then discuss the possibility of increasing the weight again after more data is available.

Go to class. The “loss of credit” for five unexcused absences will remain in effect until a separate attendance policy can be developed. This measure also passed by a 6-1 vote (Felton). The proposal had been to remove the policy of not giving credit to a student who has five or more unexcused absences and to develop a new policy. Now, the policy will be left in effect until a separate attendance policy is drafted.

Reginald Felton (District 5) said the current policy favors some students.

“More engaged parents will ensure that their [children’s] absences are excused,” said Felton.

It was noted that after students go through an appeal process, it is very rare for them to actually lose credit.

Board members voted unanimously to require students who take a high school class in middle school to place the class on their transcripts. Previously, students had the option of whether or not to have it appear. Students will be allowed to re-take the class once they reach high school, and the higher of the two grades will appear. “I think we found a compromise that works for the parents,” Weast said.