Little consensus was reached — but a considerable desire for changes indicated — during a three-hour long county school board discussion Thursday on the grading policy for county high schools.
Despite a recommendation from staff to keep high school grading as is, with letter grades being assigned on a 10-point percentage scale, Board of Education members noted divided thoughts from teachers as an indication that some change should be made.
"The people proposing changes are a pretty substantial majority, more than 50 percent," said Brian Meshkin. "There's a dissatisfaction with the current system, and there's a desire to change it."
When the policy committee surveyed 523 high school teachers, presenting them with three options — keep the 10-point scale, move to plus/minus letter grades or only use percentage points when grading — the group was split into thirds on what was preferred.
"If we have two-thirds of teachers who feel we could provide more accurate grading of student achievement, that would be more fair," said board Chairwoman Sandra French. "It does impress (on me) that the current system is inadequate."
What the change should be remains up for debate, however. The committee set up to review the high school grading policy has been in existence for nearly a year, and Thursday's work session had been delayed for several months.
Originally, an updated policy had been expected to be approved and put into effect for July 1. Since any adopted changes would now have to wait until next July to take effect, board members decided not to rush any decision. Instead, they asked the committee to come back with more data and more input from teachers and students.
Only students at two meetings of the Howard County Association of Student Councils were surveyed during the committee's data collection process.
"I think we need to tease out some of these issues," said Superintendent Renee Foose. "I think (the data collection used) flawed methodology on some levels. ... We need a cross-sampling from all high school students, and more staff."
A grade-point average, Foose said, has a long-term effect on a student, and a longer time frame to develop the policy is needed.
"We don't want students measuring self-worth based on ill-informed information," she said. "We could have some unintended consequences if we don't look at this thoroughly."