Wake County teachers prohibited from punitive grading practices

khui@newsobserver.comMay 8, 2014 

— Wake County teachers will be told not to make it too difficult for students to pass if they make “isolated” mistakes, but how to achieve that goal is being left up to individual schools.

Wake County school administrators presented draft guidelines Thursday for carrying out a newly revised grading policy that’s supposed to help students who are at risk of failing. But instead of explicitly banning zeros or limiting the punishment for late work, the new guidelines say each school is to develop its own grading plan covering homework, missed work, retesting and extra credit.

“We want to be cautious about having an overly dictatorial grading policy,” school board member Jim Martin said at the board’s student-achievement committee meeting.

The new guidelines represent a compromise between community members who say allowing teachers to give zero grades is too punitive and others who say that rewarding students for work not done is inappropriate. The board revised the grading policy on Tuesday to say schools should develop a “grade recovery plan.”

The goal of the guidelines is to base grades on whether students have mastered the material.

“The district grading guidelines prohibit teachers from using grading practices that are punitive in nature which make it difficult, if not impossible, to recover from isolated incidents of non-compliance (e.g. a missed homework assignment or one low grade on a test during a marking period).” according to the new guidelines.

But the means to avoid being punitive has changed.

In November, administrators presented guidelines with approaches such as making 50 the lowest score for work not handed in and capping the punishment for late work at 10 percent. Some teachers had complained those changes took away too much of their autonomy.

The new guidelines say that students will be expected to make up missed work. But the guidelines say that schools will develop their own procedures and the grade penalty that will be used for missing or late work.

Martin suggested including wording saying that schools can give students a grade of “incomplete” on their report cards if the majority of their work is not done. He said that if the work isn’t completed in a reasonable amount of time the grade can be changed to an F.

The guidelines also say teachers are supposed to provide opportunities for “grade recovery.” But instead of the district’s dictating how it would happen, each school would develop its own procedures for allowing students who did poorly the first time to be retested.

“We want kids to be successful,” Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, told the board.

The guidelines also spell out that extra credit is allowed, something that had been eliminated in prior drafts. But the new guidelines say that extra credit must be academically based. It would prohibit awarding extra credit for actions such as bringing boxes of tissue paper to schools.

Administrators will continue to revise the guidelines. Martin, who has called banning zeros a gimmick, said he’s far happier with the current guidelines.

“It’s a collaborative effort between the board and staff,” he said. “It captures what we’d like to see happen.”

Hui: 919-829-4534

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