Board nixes grading practice

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

FRANKLIN—In a 4-0 vote, the Franklin School Board on Tuesday ended a new policy that prohibited teachers from giving a grade lower than 60.

School Board Chairman Bill Scarboro and members Will Councill, Glenn Hopkins and Edna King voted to discontinue the practice, which was implemented by administrators last month without the school board’s approval.

Board members Mona Murphy, Johnetta Nichols and Verta Jackson were absent from the special meeting.

“I was told this would help our graduation rate, but I don’t feel we’re doing enough to motivate students,” King said, noting that all three of the district’s schools had slipped into school improvement and test grades had also slipped.

“It wasn’t just the graduation rate that got us here. It was also student achievement,” she said.

Administrators implemented the new grading practice during a retreat this summer. Board members originally had concerns over the practice being implemented without their consent.

Franklin High School senior Katie Conner said she polled about 30 or 40 of her classmates, including some taking college-credit courses in English and history, and the majority oppose the practice.

She said she only talked to one or two students who favored the practice.

“I, as well as many of my classmates, believe that putting the new grading system into practice would place a metaphorical bar on students’ educations and begin to inhibit both under and overachieving students,” Conner told board members. “This grading scale sets the bar low for higher achieving students, allowing them the idea that if they need to they can simply not turn in work and take a 60 if they are busy and overwhelmed. It also sets the bar low for students who don’t necessarily achieve as much.”

Scarboro said there was not enough empirical evidence to support the practice. He did Internet research on the practice.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t hear enough of it last week,” Scarboro said of data presented by administrators at a work session. “I would like to have more of that information before making a decision like that.”

Scarboro added that he is not opposed to one aspect of the practice, which involves giving students an incomplete on an assignment and letting them make it up.

“It seems to me that’s the tool to use to get students to come on, let’s learn this, let’s master it,” Scarboro said. “It may not be real world, but it’s compassionate…You don’t want to foster procrastination and you don’t want to overuse it.”

Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore asked the board to rescind the practice.

“There is no substitute for hard work,” McLemore said.

Councill said the schools are doing a disservice to students by giving them a grade of 60 when they haven’t shown a 60 percent mastery of the subject matter.

Hopkins said the grading practice is complicating the educational process and he doesn’t want it to be used as a “Band-aid.”

“If this is about the graduation rate then I’d rather be straight up and honest,” Hopkins said. “If the whole thing is about educating our students for life then that’s the way we need to head.”