School board, students meet face to face Weighted grading emerges as key issue in first-ever dialogue

'It was so relaxed'

System sets up panel to study the idea

will meet next month

April 15, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

At the urging of student leaders, the county school system has formed a committee to look at weighted grading -- a system in which grades in tougher classes count for more points.

Weighted grading was among several issues that students brought to the table in a first-ever meeting yesterday that put the five Carroll County Board of Education members face to face with eight Student Government Association members.

Linnea Pagulayan, a Westminster High School senior and student representative to the school board, said after the three-hour meeting that she never dreamed the dialogue would be so satisfying -- and go on so long.

"It was so relaxed," said Linnea, who admitted to running around frantically yesterday morning to prepare for the meeting. Her fellow student leaders were "scared" of the board at first, but during the meeting opened up and easily joined the discussion.

Linnea, no stranger to the school board she meets with once a month, had worried that students would get only about 20 minutes to make their case on five issues.

"I just thought it would be 'We know you want this and we have a committee and we'll meet with you later,' " Linnea said.

Linnea had raised the students' concern about weighted grades in March, and at yesterday's meeting, she learned from Assistant Superintendent Gary Dunkleberger that a committee will meet in early May to begin exploring the idea. The committee will include three students, three teachers, three counselors, a principal and five parents.

Students such as Shannon Merlo, a Westminster High senior who attended the meeting yesterday, would like to see a system that gives four points, instead of three, for a "B" in an

advanced-level class, and five points for an "A," instead of four. Students pointed out similar policies in Frederick and Baltimore counties.

Shannon has taken the most challenging classes she could, classes that usually had the word "advanced" before them, such as advanced literature and composition, advanced American history, calculus, physics, French IV and Spanish V.

And because an "A" is harder to earn in those classes, she saw her class rank slip below those who had chosen easier paths.

"I've gone from the top 10 percent of my class to the top 20 !! percent," said Shannon, a senior. It didn't stop her from getting accepted to the Air Force Academy, but she and other students say that many scholarships will only take applicants who are in the top 5 percent or 10 percent of their classes.

School board President C. Scott Stone said monetary scholarships shouldn't be the reason to change to weighted grades: It should be to reward students such as Shannon with standing that reflects their hard work.

"I agree with you, for different reasons," Stone said.

Dunkleberger said weighted grades is a complex issue, and the difficult decision will be deciding where to draw the line on courses that qualify for the pumped-up points.

Other issues the students and board discussed include:

Education about safer sex: Students say abstinence is the best policy to teach, but that students still deserve to know about preventing diseases and pregnancy if they are sexually active.

"It's ideal to say, 'If you stress abstinence they won't have sex,' but the reality is, they still are," said Shannon.

Students also were concerned that ninth-grade health is the last time that students get sex education classes.

Board members defended the policy of teaching abstinence but agreed to include student comment on choosing sex education materials and encouraged students to plan health symposiums at their schools that give upperclassmen more information.

Eligibility for athletic and extracurricular involvement: The Student Government Association recommends a policy that is more strict than school officials are likely to recommend this summer.

So far, a committee is leaning toward a policy that says students cannot participate in extracurricular activities if they fail a course. Students now may fail no more than one course. Student leaders recommend that another requirement be a minimum grade point average of 2.0, but the committee is leaning away from a minimum grade point average.

Proposed state high school tests: The students don't support using the tests as a high school diploma requirement. They support their use only for countywide and school-based decision-making.

Smoking: Students are smoking in restrooms at all the high schools and getting away with it most of the time, the teens said. They asked the school board to support stronger endorsement of the smoke-free schools policy.

Na'tasha Brooks, a senior at Francis Scott Key High School, said students hide cigarettes in the toilet paper rolls.

Laurie Bounds, also of Francis Scott Key, said students crowd six at a time into handicap-access stalls to smoke between classes.

School board members urged students to report smoking, although Linnea and others said that it was not likely that an administrator would punish a smoker unless a staff member saw it.

Pub Date: 4/15/97

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