Kennewick students could see a new grading system based only on academic work and that allows them to redo assignments and tests for credit under possible amendments to Kennewick School District policy.
Kennewick School Board members discussed the possible changes to the district's grades policy Wednesday night.
Board members voiced some reservations about some of the changes, which are derived from aspects of a standards-based system already in place in three of the district's four middle schools.
However, they said a consistent and understandable grading system needs to be applied across the district to ensure students are on a level playing field.
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"We have a lot of things that need to be fixed in our system," said board Chairwoman Dawn Adams.
The board began discussing grading systems and philosophies last month. In addition to a transparent grading system, board members have said they don't want to punish students for not immediately grasping what they are taught.
Superintendent Dave Bond gave a presentation on the book A Repair Kit For Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades by Ken O'Connor. The book details several categories that shouldn't be a part of grading because they discourage students and don't measure academic performance. For example, O'Connor contends attendance, extra credit, cheating and incomplete work shouldn't be considered as part of a student's grade but should be assessed separately.
Bond said O'Connor's recommendations are controversial, especially among teachers, but Adams and board member Ben Messinger said the book opened their eyes.
Not that the board agreed with all of the book's recommendations. Adams, Messinger and board member Brian Brooks said they would want letter grades to continue, as they are necessary to calculate grade-point averages, which students use to apply for a variety of activities and opportunities, such as scholarships. O'Connor proposes a 0-4 scale system because traditional grading systems are inadequate.
Brooks and Messinger also said they would be cautious about any policy that didn't punish cheating or plagiarism.
"I just feel like there needs to be some consequences to the grade," Brooks said.
Board members acknowledged complaints about standards-based systems in place at Horse Heaven Hills, Highlands and Park middle schools. Teachers have complained of students not being motivated to do their work and parents upset about the grading system. Board members held a closed-door grievance hearing Wednesday about the system with members of the Kennewick Education Association before the retreat.
"Things I'm hearing as hurdles do have solutions," Messinger said.
Principals from the three middle schools said there are struggles in implementing the new grading systems but they are better at illustrating how students are learning and what they know.
"We all look for the quick answer, a single symbol to tell us something," said Susan Denslow, who retired as principal of Horse Heaven Hills at the end of the 2011-12 school year. "It's not that easy to boil it down to a symbol or number on a piece of paper."
Teacher Nancy Smith, who taught U.S. history and civics at Horse Heaven Hills, however, said O'Connor is a consultant, not a researcher, and criticized the system. She said the district needs to convene a committee on the matter and she would have scored Bond's presentation as a 1 on Horse Heaven Hills' 0-4 scale.
"I think this was a beginning level of learning," she said. "There have been too many conflicts on this."
The district will follow up with board members Heather Kintzley and Ron Mabry, who were absent from the meeting, before moving forward. Bond said he would bring a policy proposal to the board sometime in July.
The board's ruling from the grievance hearing is due to the teachers' union in 15 business days, said district spokeswoman Lorraine Cooper. The union then would have 30 business days to appeal if it disagrees with the ruling and the matter would be referred to an arbitrator.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; email@example.com