A partial return to letter grades in elementary school and a discussion of revising how grades are issued in middle school and high school will form part of today's Wake County school board discussion.
As noted in today's article, staff will present to the board a number of changes they want to make in a draft R&P on grading policies. It would go along with revisions they want the board to make to the grading policy.
The secondary school changes would mirror efforts begun in 2001 at elementary schools to separate out what could be considered classroom behavior from the academic grades. But the changes may be going too far for some parents and board members.
Among the changes in the R&P:
* Changing the way middle school and high school grades are awarded to record academic and behavioral grades separately. Report cards would now have a separate behavioral grading section.
* Reducing how much homework can be counted for the academic grade – from 15 percent to 10 percent per marking period – in grades 6-12.
* "Homework for practice" can't be included in the academic grade. But "homework for evaluation" can be used.
* Prohibiting K-12 teachers from handing out extra credit.
* Requiring teachers to allow students to have up to five days to hand in late assignments with the penalty capped at 10 percent.
* Requiring that higher scores on retests replace the original exam grades.
* Restoring the use of A-F letter grades on report cards in grades 3-5.
All but the restoration of letter grades in grades 3-5 were recommended by staff. Spearheaded by board member Deborah Prickett, the board asked staff to go back to letter grades for upper elementary grades. She cited how Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools use traditional letter grades, a level system and a separate behavioral grading system for grades 3-5.
There appears to be broad board support for using letter grades in elementary schools. But the level of support for the other changes isn't as certain.
School board chairman Ron Margiotta said he and other board members are hearing from a lot of parents who don't want the changes to be made to middle school and high school grading practices. They're concerned about the message that would be sent about work habits.
"Parents believe you should be held accountable for your actions,” Margiotta said. “If you handed in your assignments late or mouthed off to your employer, there would be consequences.”
But staff says that the grades should reflect mastery of material and not these other factors. They also say that the changes will ensure that grades are awarded consistently.
Click here for a handout the board received in July.
Click here for the proposed policy revision and R&P that the board will get today. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the R&P, which is vague about what it considers to be classroom behavior.
Could it mean something like what the various middle schools have been piloting?
For instance, Zebulon Middle went to a A, B, C and I grading system. An I, or incomplete, is a 76 and below. Students who get an I will keep redoing the test or assignment until they can get a 77 or higher.
"Grading practices we will simply not allow any student to 'fail' a class," according to Zebulon Middle's website.
Or will it look more like what's done at Lufkin Road Middle. For instance, students who are caught cheating the first time don't get a zero. Instead, they're allowed to take an alternative assignment where they can get a score as high as 80.