Wake County schools behavior grades put on hold for now

khui@newsobserver.comMarch 25, 2014 

— Wake County school administrators are abandoning for now a plan to change report cards to include separate behavior grades for high school and middle school students.

School administrators said Tuesday that they need to hear more from teachers and parents about how to report the new behavior grades before including them on report cards. But administrators still hope to move ahead with other grading changes for this fall that would make it easier for students to avoid failing in school.

Changes still on the table include having schools develop their own policies for allowing students to get credit for missing or late work, and to recover from getting zero and failing grades on tests and assignments.

“We understand that the execution of this could look a little different from school to school,” Todd Wirt, Wake’s assistant superintendent for academics, told school board members at a policy committee meeting. “However it is our expectation and belief as a district that we should have zero recovery, that grades should not be used in a punitive manner.”

For the past decade, administrators in the state’s largest school system have been trying to change the ways grades are issued. They’ve argued that grades should be a reflection of what the students know, not how they behave. They’ve also said that it’s hard for students to pass after getting a zero grade.

Elementary schools report separate behavior grades for their students.

The proposal for middle schools and high schools was to remove “academic behaviors” from the grades used to report things such as class rank and grade point average. But some board members were concerned that divorcing behavior from grades would send the wrong message. There were also questions about which elements, including tardiness, should be included as an academic behavior.

“I want students to be held accountable for their behavior,” school board member Susan Evans said at Tuesday’s school board policy committee meeting. “That’s part of their learning.”

Wirt said Tuesday that they didn’t want the questions about the behavior grade to hold up other changes.

“While there was quite a bit of work done over the past couple of years, there was no real consensus behind this academic behaviors concept,” he said. “There is a significant amount of work that still needs to be done.”

But as opposed to administrators’ prior proposals, the district wouldn’t be taking such actions as banning zero grades, making 50 the minimum grade, requiring retests when students wanted and limiting the punishment for work handed in late. Teachers had complained about losing autonomy.

Board members prefer that schools develop their own grading policy for decisions such as whether to allow zero grades.

“What we are looking at here is taking us to some middle ground,” Evans said.

The proposal is expected to go before the full school board soon for review, adoption and implementation in the 2014-15 school year.

“This moves us in very important directions,” said school board member Jim Martin, chairman of the policy committee.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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