Board backs off on grading policy plan

Uniform scale needs more thought, it decides

May 09, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Faced with too little information and too tight a deadline before the end of the school year, the county Board of Education decided last night to slow its process of establishing a countywide grading policy, including a proposal to require high school students to earn at least a C before progressing to the next class in carefully sequenced courses such as math and foreign languages.

In the short term, however, the board asked interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker to suggest a way at next month's board meeting to require all six county high schools to use a grading scale that awards A's, B's, C's and D's as passing grades and F's as failure. Ecker will decide whether the requirement should be a new policy or whether it can be included in an existing policy or regulation.

"I have no objection to the superintendent bringing back a recommendation on how to include this," board member C. Scott Stone said. "We are better served to go slow and take our time and be thoughtful about it. But I am concerned about uniformity for the upcoming school year."

Enforcement of a five-tiered grading scale would end North Carroll High School's ability to offer some classes with a no-D grading scale that requires students to earn at least a C or flunk. The school was given an exemption to do so in the fall of 1994 when teachers concluded that their low-performing students had mastered the skill of getting by - and little else.

The no-D policy was seen as a way to motivate lazy students to do better and to help struggling students improve by offering after-school tutoring and allowing students to redo homework, rewrite papers and retake tests to demonstrate they had learned their material.

Since then, some social studies, English and science teachers at North Carroll have joined the ranks of the no-D grading scale.

Ecker and his staff will refine the proposal that would allow students to pass a course with a D, but not progress to the next level of sequenced courses without earning at least a C.

But Gregory Eckles, the system's director of high schools, told the board last night that having school staff track which students got D's in courses that require C's could be difficult.

"If you get a D, students and parents will not look up to see whether that is one of the courses that falls into this category," he said. "With more than 1,000 students in our high schools ... my fear is that many of the students would slip by."

But Stone, whose background is in computer technologies, suggested that the board should not let that problem be an obstacle if the members decide that requiring a C in sequenced courses is a good idea.

"I think we have a problem when we start questioning whether we can improve student achievement because the technology is not in place to monitor whether a student got a D or a C," he said. "There has to be a way of monitoring that ... other than having staff piece through the paperwork by hand."

In other business, the board:

Awarded the county's Teacher of the Year designation to Susan H. Adami, a Hampstead Elementary math teacher and 26-year veteran of Carroll County schools.

Appointed Human Resources Director Stephen Guthrie to the position of assistant superintendent of administration, a job that has been vacant since Vernon F. Smith Jr. retired in June.

Heard a proposal from the Carroll County Student Government Association to establish a uniform student dress code at all of the county's 36 elementary, middle and high schools. The board asked Ecker to consider the proposal and put the students' draft on the school system's Web site at to solicit feedback.

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