Lowest grade Franklin students can get is 60

Published 11:54 am Saturday, September 17, 2011

FRANKLIN—City school board members complained Thursday that a new grading scale setting 60 as the lowest grade a student can earn was implemented without their consent.

The practice of giving students no grade lower than a 60, which is a failing grade, was implemented this year during a retreat for administrators in August and is meant to ensure that students aren’t as heavily impacted by one low grade within a single grading cycle.

“We have students who have passed (state benchmark) tests and get 20s, 30s and 40s in class,” said Beverly Rabil, associate director of instruction. “This was a way to give students a chance.”

Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle sees it as a way to help reduce the dropout rate.

“If students get behind, they stop attending,” Belle said Friday. “The bottom line is we made a decision that’s in the best interest of the students.”

The grading scale for city schools is 100-93 is an “A,” 85-92 “B,” 77-84 “C,” 70-76 “D,” and 69 and below, an “F.”

Board Member Glenn Hopkins said during Thursday night’s school board meeting the new practice rewards the students who don’t try and it is unfair to those who do, but struggle.

Donald Spengeman, principal at S.P. Morton Elementary, said the practice would help a student who works hard, but struggles because that student would have a tougher time passing during a grading cycle after scoring a low grade, like a 20, rather than the higher grade of 60.

“I think we shouldn’t throw away something for the small percentage who don’t try,” Spengeman said.

Board member Johnetta Nichols supports what the administration is doing.

“I support and understand the reason behind it,” Nichols said. “We’re not rewarding anyone with an ‘F.’”

Board Chairman Bill Scarboro said he wants more information.

“I’d like to hear more from administrators and Dr. Belle about the logic behind that type of practice,” Scarboro said Friday. “I want to talk to everybody and get all the information I can before I make a decision.”

Other board members were not as concerned by the practice, but were more concerned that it had been implemented without their consent.

“The decision was made and none of us made the decision,” said Board Member Will Councill. “I’m not going to say we need to stop this practice tonight. I would like to hear the pros and cons of the practice before a decision is made.”

Scarboro said he would withhold judgment on administrators implementing the practice without board approval.

Belle told the board that the grading practice was to be discussed and was on the agenda for a board member retreat last month, but the board didn’t get through the agenda and had not scheduled another retreat.

Scarboro said a discussion about the practice did not appear on the retreat agenda, but added that it could’ve been part of one of the remaining items that wasn’t discussed due to time constraints.

“It wasn’t a salient item on the agenda, but it very well could’ve been something that would be discussed,” Scarboro said.

The board agreed to discuss this matter further during a called meeting 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3.