Wake school board weighs homework, attendance

School board mulls staff proposal to emphasize test scores over behavior.

Staff WriterAugust 3, 2011 

  • Wake County school administrators praised the effectiveness of having police officers in schools, saying no major changes are needed.

    Russ Smith, Wake's senior director of school security, presented survey data showing strong support from middle school and high school principals for the school resource officer program. He also pointed to data showing a 54 percent drop in violent incidents in Wake's middle schools and high schools over the past six years.

    "This indicates a program that is not broken and is working very well," said Superintendent Tony Tata.

    The school board had voted in June to have Tata review the effectiveness of the school resource officer program.

    Every Wake middle school and high school has an armed law officer.

    While administrators praised the program, Smith said they'll hold an annual meeting with the school resource officers, their supervisors and school officials before the start of the school year to enhance teamwork and cooperation. The first meeting is scheduled Aug. 23.

— How well Wake County students do on exams could soon influence their grades far more than whether they do their work on time, come to class or how much they do their homework.

School board members debated Tuesday a proposal from staff to change the way grades are issued so they'd reflect what students know as opposed to their behavior and work habits. In the process, Wake would standardize the way grades are issued, reducing the impact of homework and late assignments on how students rank academically.

A decision on the proposal was delayed to allow more time for public comment and to the staff to gather more information for the board.

But the discussion showed strong differences of opinion among board members who normally agree with each other on issues - such as student assignment.

"If the kid missed three classes or five classes but still got the A on the test and understands the grades, should he be docked because of that?" said John Tedesco, board vice chairman. "My personal opinion is no."

But some board members worry about the message the changes would send to students.

"Helping to develop the student, the whole student, is an obligation we have," said board chairman Ron Margiotta. "And behavior certainly impacts the students."

The proposed changes include:

Grading classroom behavior separately for middle and high schools - in addition to the A-F academic grading systems already in place.

Reducing how much homework can be counted toward the academic grade - from 15 percent to 10 percent per marking period - in grades 6-12.

Prohibiting teachers from counting homework that's given as practice when figuring academic grades.

Prohibiting K-12 teachers from giving extra credit.

Allowing students up to five days to hand in late assignments with the penalty capped at 10 percent.

Requiring that higher scores on retests replace the original exam grades.

Restoring the use of A-F letter grades on report cards in grades 3-5. This change was recommended by board member Deborah Prickett.

Ruth Steidinger, Wake's senior director of high school programs, said the changes are supported by the secondary school principals. She said they want to reduce inconsistency among grades awarded by teachers.

The changes are the culmination of years of review by administrators.

"It's a values question on (whether) mastery and behavior (should) be tied together or should they be separated," said Superintendent Tony Tata.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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