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Oak Creek School District adopts new grading scale after split discussion

March 12, 2013

Oak Creek - After months of discussion dating back to summer of 2012 including a special session and two split votes, the Oak Creek School District has a new grading scale for middle and high schools.

The decision came after two motions for grading scales were proposed. The first motion to adopt a grading scale that would put failing grades at 64 percent and have an equidistant 3 percent margin, was called option five and proposed by board member Sheryl Cerniglia and died in a three-to-two vote. The second motion, proposed by board member Mark Verhalen would support option six with a failing grade of 62 percent and moved the A range to 94-97 percent, won in a three-to-two vote.

The adopted scale would be implemented in both the high and middle schools for the 2013 - 2014 school year and was one of six scales proposed. The scales not voted on included: adopting the high school scale, adopting the middle school scale, keeping the status quo and a blended, non-equidistant scale for both schools.

Groundwork for grading scales

The discussions were opened up after a comment by Board President Frank Carini. He said, "A comment a month and a half ago kind of bothered me about not spending enough time in a committee with formulating these grading scales. I would totally disagree with that comment. I couldn't thank the team enough for doing what they're doing. I want to thank them. I want to thank Mark (Verhalen) and (Superintendent) Sara (Burmeister) for coming up with this outside the box."

Both Verhalen and Cerniglia said they had put extensive time into their proposals. Verhalen said that he sat down for a whole night and met with Burmeister before coming to his option. Cerniglia said she had put in her work, calling over five colleges and asking them about their policy on high school student's GPA.

The board also compared the district's current high school grading scale with eight suburban Milwaukee communities, including Wauwatosa, Franklin and Greendale.

The decision also comes after feedback from parents forced the board to table their original plans for adopting a new scale last summer. Many parents were concerned that the district did not have enough oversight of the consequences of their proposed scales. The board continued the discussions on the scale and created a special session on Oct. 22 to get feedback from parents and college administrators on the ramifications of the changes.

Split decisions, reasoning

Both sides championed their decisions with Verhalen believing that his scale was a good compromise between the high and middle schools and Cerniglia believing hers would challenge students by raising the failing grade from 69 to 64 percent.

On the new WKCE tests, Cerniglia said, "They are making it tougher to get proficient levels and demanding that teachers, administrators and students to challenge themselves. By lowering our grading scale, we are going in the opposite direction and that could be confusing for students too."

Option five was supported by Board Member Kathleen Borchardt, but met opposition from Board President Frank Carini and Vice President Paul Mason.

Although option six's passing percentage is lower than option five at 62 percent, both are higher than the high school's current 59 percent. Option six has an across-the-board 2 percent lower scale than option five but is 1 to 2 percent higher than the current scale.

Speaking on Oak Creek's current lower failing grades compared to neighboring communities, Verhalen said, "Oak Creek is setting the bar higher for everyone else and there were one or two that were higher than us. Most of the schools were a little lower and this puts Oak Creek at a similar position but it still stresses what we want to put out which is excellence in education."

The board will also be proposing a resolution that the state adopts a national grading scale on an as-of-yet unknown date.

Current grading scale

Middle SchoolHigh School
A+99 - 100A+99-100
A93-98A95-98
A-90-92A-93-94
B+88-89B+91-92
B83-87B87-90
B-80-82B-85-86
C+78-79C+83-84
C73-77C79-82
C-70-72C-77-78
D+68-69D+75-76
D63-67D72-74
D-60-62D-70-71
F0-59F0-69

Cerniglia's proposal (option 5)

A+98-100
A95-97
A-92-94
B+89-91
B86-88
B-83-85
C+80-82
C77-79
C-74-76
D+71-63
D68-70
D-65-67
F0-64

Verhalen's proposal (Option 6)

A+98-100
A94-97
A-90-93
B+87-89
B84-86
B-81-83
C+78-80
C75-77
C-72-74
D+69-71
D66-68
D-63-65
F0-62

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