Lexington 1 grade changes don’t calm anxiety

tflach@thestate.comOctober 30, 2013 

— Some parents of Lexington 1 students remain unhappy with a new grading plan despite revisions Wednesday designed to alleviate anxiety.

“It’s just a little Band-Aid,” said lawyer Amy Cofield of Lexington, a former teacher who is a spokeswoman for opponents of the plan. “It’s clear they (school officials) recognize things are not working and they need to fix it.”

Changes were outlined in letters sent to families Wednesday with reports cards for about half of Lexington 1’s 23,000 students. Changes include:

• Dropping the lowest grade on major tests, projects and presentations since classes began in August, a step that could transform C’s and D’s into A’s and B’s. In addition, teachers will give three or four such performance measures – depending on the subject – in each grading period, instead of relying on as few as one.

• Reinstating homework, quizzes, behavior, classroom participation and other work as factors in determining grades, but the 15 percent cap toward the grade seems low to some parents.

• Limiting students who fail major tests to one or two retakes per period as a way to improve grades, an idea some parents say encourages scholastic laziness and others say lacks guidelines on what lessons are included.

All seven middle schools and many classes at five high schools started using the new grading plan this fall after it was tested for two years at some schools. Elementary school pupils are not affected.

In the letter, superintendent Karen Woodward said a new way of mastering material is necessary for students “to be successful in college, the workplace, the military or other post-secondary experiences.”

The grading change is a challenge, with Lexington 1 officials ready to “make modifications as we refine the learning process,” her letter said.

Dropping the lowest score seems contrary to a goal of reducing grade inflation but it may ease concern that the new approach threatens college admission and scholarships, Cofield said..

Other revisions are so minimal that “I don’t think it will satisfy many people,” she said. Two of her children are affected by the grading change.

Other parents call the revision a small, inadequate step forward.

“I’m not adverse to change, but this still has problems,” said Huntley Crouch of Lexington, mother of two middle-schoolers. “We don’t need to use it until it can be shown to be successful and then it should be rolled in gradually.”

The revisions came after Lexington 1 school board members urged a new look at a grading plan that upset dozens of parents.

School officials settled on the changes after discussions with parents, students and teachers.

Reports cards were delayed two days for students affected while Lexington 1 put the revisions into place.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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