Board considers parent-teacher conference changes


Carroll County school officials are proposing changes that would provide more time for parent-teacher conferences as well as increase graduation requirements starting with the 2005-2006 school year.

At last night's school board meeting, Superintendent Charles I. Ecker recommended eliminating one professional development day for teachers to add a parent conference day in the spring. The school calendar provides a conference day only in the fall.

"It's important to have this extra day for parents to meet with teachers" before the end of the school year, Ecker said.

The proposed change would leave teachers with five professional development days, all during the week before students start school.

In addition to those days, elementary school teachers would have seven early dismissal days for planning and professional development time, while middle and high school teachers would have two such days.

Board members expressed concern about eliminating the professional development day that falls in the first semester, but said they could accept the proposal if assured that teachers would receive the professional support they need in the five days before school begins.

Some members also raised concern about having the conference days scheduled too close to the holidays. Ecker's proposal includes a parent-teacher conference day during the week of Thanksgiving and another just before spring break.

"If we believe it's important for parents to meet with teachers, we need to make sure conference time is not connected with the holidays," said board member Laura K. Rhodes.

Rhodes said she favors scheduling the conferences before the end of the marking period, possibly around the time interim reports are done.

"Interims are a good lead-up to parent conferences" and give time for improvement, she said.

The board's student representative, Andy McEvoy, agreed.

"Many parents are not satisfied with the placement of parent conference days because there's not enough time" to improve grades, McEvoy said.

Ecker said he would consider scheduling the conferences two weeks before the end of a marking period.

Two other proposals being suggested would affect graduation requirements for students starting ninth grade in fall 2005.

Under a "financial literacy" requirement, students would have to pass a course in financial literacy, economics, advanced placement economics, accounting or finance academy to graduate. Each is a half-credit course.

"We've been getting a lot of feedback from the business community and parents who say that kids are graduating without the knowledge about finances necessary for the real world," said Steve Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for the school system.

The courses would provide students with instruction on debt management, credit cards, investments and other money-related matters.

Some board members, while supporting the concept of financial literacy, said they worry about adding to graduation requirements.

"I'm not persuaded based on what I've heard tonight" that it's a needed requirement, Stone said.

Johnson said options could be considered about how to implement the teaching on finances.

Another change to the graduation requirements would bring Carroll in line with a state mandate that students pass the four required Maryland High School Assessments tests.

Previously, students were expected only to take the tests, but the state school board voted in the spring to require students to pass the tests to graduate. This change would first affect students starting ninth grade in fall 2005, Johnson said.

The school board is expected to vote on the proposals at its October meeting.

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