G-A school officials take a look at grading system

PAT FRIDGEN

During the school board worksession last Thursday, Bob Crider, Director of Educational Operations, revealed recommendations of the Grading System Committee. The team evaluated alternatives to the district's system of assessing student progress. Over the past year he, Angie Singer, Chad Stover, Jen Guerin, Janelle Wagner, Gerald Crable, Jeremy Barnes, Julie Franchi, Ed Rife, Adrian Martin and Marci Stover met four times. They analyzed systems of other schools performing as well or better than Greencastle, participated in a webinar with an expert in the field, and studied 'The Power of I', also known as incompletes. Crider said incompletes were valid because they required students to actually do the work.

Currently, the grading standard is A: 92-100; B: 83-91; C: 74-82; D: 67-73; and F: 66 and below. The affiliated grade point average numbers are 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0.

Crider advocated schools adopt the plus and minus system, with the following standards: A: 95-100; A-: 92-94; B+: 89-91; B: 86-88; B-: 83-85; C+: 80-82; C: 77-79; C-: 74-76; D+: 71-73; D: 68-70; D-: 65-67; and F: 64 and below. The GPA numbers would start at 4.0 and drop 0.3 for each letter grade, ending at .7 for D-. Weighted classes, such as those taken at the college level, would be one full number higher across the board. Adding the pluses and minuses, he said, "would give credit where credit was due."

Crider said the new system would allow consistent expectations for students grades 3 through 12, and start next fall, with teachers trained in the interim.

Board member William Thorne was concerned that keeping the lowest "A" at 92 meant students were graded harder than those in other schools, and they would be at a disadvantage when applying to colleges. He wanted the number set at 90.

Eric Holtzman agreed. He noted that Washington County students earned an "A" if their work was at 90 percent, while a Greencastle student would get a "B", and they would be competing against each other in college applications.

Crider responded, "If we lower the number, we lower our standards."

Holtzman said the colleges didn't care. Thorne said especially at top tier schools, the GPA was important.

Paul Politis saw no need to change anything. "If you've worked to get into college, you'll get in."

Crider said he would pull up data on area and elite colleges to compare what they looked at for enrollment qualifications.

Two opinions

Shai David, a mathematics teacher at the high school, offered another option during public comment. He objected to the fact that no parents or students were on the committee. The input came from teachers and administrators from each building on campus.

He said neither the current or proposed policies aligned with Penn State Mont Alto, Hagerstown Community College or Kaplan University. A student taking calculus from David at G-AHS would get a lower grade than one who took the same class from the college, despite scoring the same percent. He was also concerned that students who did not enroll in the Early to College programs were stymied, due to the weight factor.

"The new grading scale needs to compensate for this discrepancy so students who take courses in the high school are not punished for doing what they are supposed to - being high school students," he wrote in a prepared statement.

He presented another possibility for recording grades, including awarding an "A+", and a minimum of 90 for an A-, resulting in 60 for the lowest D-. This made the GPA figures slightly higher than the committee's recomendation.

He asked the board to get feedback from the community on all the proposals.

Jake Statler, student board member, shared his experience as a senior. He thought the classes at Mont Alto were easier than the Advanced Placement classes in the high school. He put in less time and work on his courses, and his GPA "was shooting through the roof." He favored some sort of fairness element.