Overhaul of grade policy set for vote

School board says it will approve plan

Anne Arundel

April 03, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

For the third time in four months, the Anne Arundel school board will take up today a plan to overhaul the grading system used in 117 county schools.

And this time, board members said, they're ready to approve it.

The plan spells out how much homework teachers are to assign, how valedictorians are to be selected and how much weight to give final exams in high school. On that point, the plan calls for semester and final exams to count for 20 percent of a final course grade.

Students and teachers had lobbied for the 20 percent weight after a school system committee initially proposed that exams count for 30 percent.

"We think it's more important to look at students based on the work they put into 18 weeks of each semester, rather than two hours of an exam," said Shavonne Shorter, an Old Mill High School sophomore and second vice president of the county's student council association.

The school board agreed, and was poised to approve the grading proposal in January. But two board members blocked approval, saying they agreed with the substance of the plan but objected to its presentation.

The details of the proposal were spelled out in 19 pages of administrative regulations, which are under the superintendent's control. The policy part of the plan - which would fall under the board's control - was a half-page long.

"The policy should have teeth in it, and it didn't," said board member Paul Rudolph, who voted against the plan in January but now supports it because many details were moved into the policy language.

Board member Joseph Foster, who also voted against the plan, said he is prepared to support it.

"There's been too much disparity in the way grades have been implemented," he said. "We need to have more consistency across the system."

The plan calls for pupils in middle school to spend one hour per night on homework and says it should count for 10 percent to 15 percent of their final grade. High-schoolers would spend two hours per night on homework, and it would count for 15 percent to 20 percent of their final grade.

High school students would take two-hour semester and final exams under the plan, and eighth-graders would take one-hour semester and final exams.

The plan says that children in prekindergarten through second grade will not receive letter grades on their report cards. Instead, they would be rated as "consistently demonstrating" skills, "developing" skills or "needing improvement" in each subject.

High school grade-point averages would be calculated to the thousandth point and rounded to hundredths, which could mean co-valedictorians at some high schools.

Under the plan, letter grades would correspond with 10-point increments on a 100-point scale. An A would be equal to 90 percent to 100 percent, a B would be equal to 80 percent to 89 percent, and so on.

If approved, the plan would take effect in the fall.

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