Oak Creek - Although parents, teachers and administrators met for a special session to discuss the proposed grading scale changes, no action will be made to change the grading scale this year.
District administrators had proposed creating a uniform grading scale for the middle and high schools and standardizing rules about how things like missed assignments, test retaking and attendance are handled. The proposal sparked a plethora of emotions on both sides of the aisle.
Parents and teachers debated the issues at a special meeting Oct. 22 that was attended by more than 30 parents and teachers.
While most parents at the meeting tended to have concerns about the proposed changes, and the faculty present mostly agreed with the changes, neither group was uniform in its stances. Some parents applauded the district's decision to allow students to do more work to make up a zero grade, while some teachers panned the idea of allowing students to make up missing homework.
The School Board, however, has little control over teaching practices and will not mandate changes to the grading scale. The board members said it is far too late in the school year to change the scale and that teachers have the ultimate say as to their methods. The board can make recommendations only.
There are a number of issues under debate.
Retaking of tests
Administrators want to allow students the chance to demonstrate that they've learned a subject, even after the test is taken. Under the proposal, the students would have to complete remediation work with the teacher before retaking a test. Administrators believe it is unfair to students to deny them the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of a subject after they've put in effort to relearn it.
Michael Read, Oak Creek High School principal, said, "If we close off a retake knowing they have more knowledge than they did when we took the test, we would be altering their grade with knowledge by not allowing them to demonstrate their ability."
Some parents believe allowing kids to retake tests lets them be lazy and doesn't prepare them for employment after high school, where employers need assignments completed on time. Another issue brought up against test remediation was the burden put on teachers to work with each student before they can retake a test. The remediation's vulnerability to students cheating was brought up as well.
De-emphasis of homework
The proposal's push for a reduced emphasis on homework has concerned some parents. They said that if homework counts less toward a student's overall grade, the lack of consequences for not doing the work could hurt the development of a strong work ethic. Others said that counting homework in the overall grade helps students who simply struggle with the pressure of test-taking.
The proposal's backers said homework should be used mainly for practice purposes and that grades should be reflective of the amount of material learned. Large projects that require research and long periods of work would not fall under the homework category, district officials said.
Separation of behavior and grades
According to administrators, attendance and behavior are not reflective of learning and should be dealt with separately. They added that grading is not a reward system, but a measure of achievement.
Some parents wanted the school to take a harder approach. They argued that having poor behavior in professional situations would have real consequences and that that is a lesson that should be learned early on in student life.
Grading scale changes
The middle school and high school currently have two grading models. The district has looked at melding the two since March, 2005. The goal was to ease the transition from middle school to high school, due to the high school having a significantly more stringent system. After discussion and parental influence, administrators have decided that the grading scale should not be the same.
Parents of middle school students had argued that the proposed scale was too harsh, compared to what is used in other districts. Parents of middle school students had argued that the scale was too harsh on students, comparing other districts to Oak Creek. The lack of a 10-point scale - the 10 percentage points 100 percent to 91 percent being an A, and so on - also was brought up as a concern. The proposed scale was not equidistant between grades, resulting in some parents calling the proposed scale confusing.
There was little opposition to the proposal that teachers and students meet daily to discuss student achievement. Another policy that saw little argument was the proposal to have teachers meet daily to develop consistency in their curriculums. The district's reasoning behind the teacher meetings was to ensure that students have similar experiences from classroom to classroom.
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