As usual, there was a lot of paperwork passed out. There was:
- a memo from Carla about the Steering Committee for High School Reform; Proposal to Changes to School Board Policies D46.01 andC15.02 (grading)
- the survey about these changes
- a draft of changes to the Board policies (which came from staff)
- 3 years worth of AP and IB information for the high schools that have it (very interesting but I haven't read it all
Mr. Tolley said that the survey had been done and the Steering Committee created in order to align high school procedures. The district was out of compliance with a state law on attendance and corrected that last fall. The district was also out of compliance with Board policy on failing grades ("E") grades and had been using "N". That, too, has been corrected.
There were 5 recommendations from the Steering Committee. The first was to use an 11-point grading system for high school. (A, A-, B+, B, B-,C+, C, C-, D+, D and E). I'm not going to go through all the reasoning here (and I'll try to find these at the website and post them). The overall idea is that (1) other districts use this and (2) students will work harder for what might be perceived as more attainable grade increments.
One issue with this - and here I almost laughed - is...district technology. Even if it gets voted in, it could take time because our technology isn't up to snuff and priorities would have to be established. (This issue came up in another area of discussion at this meeting.) When are we, as a district, ever going to be able to do something just for academics before cost and/or ability to enact? It just seems sad.
Obviously no A+ or D- but 11-point is the most used scale. Director Carr believes this will help our students have parity with students in other districts.
Second recommendation; eliminate the 2.0 grade point average for graduation. Interestingly, the survey showed students/parents/non-staff against this but the principals/staff were for it. The rationale is "the level of rigor in high schools is strong, and is one the rise, through increased WASL expectations, current development of end-of-course exams and OSPI-developed classroom-based assessments, expansion of AP/IB courses and participation, PSAT testing for all students and other initiatives." Basically, we have the rigor so we don't need an enforced grade point average.
- No other district in the state has this requirement.
- The return of the "E" grade contributes to increased rigor.
- OSPI may raise graduation credit requirements which will increase rigor significantly. (You raise the requirements and this is more rigor? I'd say you'd have to wait and see what areas they raise and what happens in the school before you can blanket statement say it means more rigor.)
They are very worried about the public relations needed should this be done. Cheryl noted that Linda Shaw, education reporter at the Times who was there, shouldn't write that they are "lowering" the bar. I didn't catch Linda's reaction but I'm sure she appreciated being told what to write.
Third recommendation; eliminate the 2.0 GPA for athletes. This one was discussion a lot because if you eliminate it for students who aren't athletes, why have it there for athletes? Interestingly, Carla had been at a meeting with the head of the WIAA (not sure of exact name but it's the Washington state group that oversees high school sports). This guy was saying how great Seattle was for having a GPA for athletes (no other district does) and he wishes other districts would do it! And yet, we're likely to get rid of it.
Harium seems worried about student-athletes not being students first. Sherry said student-athletes could get 4 Ds and an F and still be able to compete and that seemed wrong to her. Cheryl is very much for this rec because athletics helps keeps kids in school. She said it wasn't that many kids (although the chart said between 10-15% of kids participate in high school sports). Again, on the survey students/parents were against but staff was for it.
Fourth recommendation: high school credit for 8th grade course work. Sherry and Harium said this needed to be changed to credit for middle school work as some students start before 8th grade.
Sherry brought up an important point about equity because the requirement includes that the course must be taught by a teacher who is endorsed to teach the course at a high school level. (The other requirements are that the superintendent has to say it is equivalent to the high school course and that students have to formally apply to have the grade and credit placed onto their high school transcript within 5 weeks of their freshman year.) Sherry wondered if that would be true for all middle schools. Carla said the usual, we'll work on it and try to support the teachers as we did for AP courses.
If it were implemented, it would not be retroactive. There was discussion about why students had to apply it towards their high school credits/grades rather than just having it reflected via computer. The idea is that maybe a student may not want it there if they don't like the grade they received.
The 5th rec is about having a weighted grading scale for AP/IB/Honors courses. This had a lot of discussion because basically your GPA would look better but it would last once you applied to higher ed because they would only use a 4-point scale and ignore the add-on points. What is driving this rec is to try to lure more kids to these higher level courses that would be a benefit to their transcript not in the form of a higher GPA but because of the status they carry to colleges/universities (plus the higher-level work the student would be trying).
It seemed like the Board members would support all of these except for the 2.0 GPA for athletes. There was some discussion of tying athletic participation to attendance as another way to keep athletes in class (Cheryl also suggested citizenship points. Good luck with that one.)